What not to take
When you leave home for the first time, packing can easily turn into a trip down memory lane and if you're not careful, you might decide to pack it all - even the dog-eared soft toy you haven't seen since you were five. Soon you'll have five suitcases, with saucepans, folders and all the trainers you've ever owned spilling out. Bearing in mind that most student rooms are the size of a large cupboard, that just isn't going to be practical.
Kitchen utensils and stationery can be bought in your university town and it's much better to wait and see what your housemates bring before you head to the shops. Shared kitchens all too often end up with five kettles and no toaster, or dozens of knives and forks but no plates. It is also better to wait to buy books, which can often be bought more cheaply at university book fairs than at book shops in your home town.
"Just take the stuff that makes you feel comfortable," suggests Will Elsby, a first-year biology and German student at St Andrews. For him, that meant bringing his posters and photos "because they make me feel at home." For many students, all they need is a fat sound system and a library of CDs. However, with i-Pods and MP3 players it may be easier to store your entire music collection on a pocket-size player, which is much handier to cart around. All you need to liven things up is a good pair of speakers.
When to pack
When it comes to packing, people tend to fall into extremes: the ultra-organised start packing weeks ahead, while the hopelessly laid-back throw whatever's lying on their bedroom floor into a few plastic bags the morning they're due to leave. Over-plan or under-plan and you'll end up either living out of a suitcase for the last month at home, or arriving without any of the bare essentials. Arriving without a change of underwear and bar of soap will be mortifying after a few days!
It's best to start thinking about packing two or three weeks before you leave, making sure you have at least one decent suitcase, a rucksack and some cardboard boxes handy. "I spent my last couple of weeks thinking about what I was using and whether I needed to take it with me," says Sophie Reiser, a first-year cinematography, photography and TV studies student at Leeds University. "I didn't want to take everything I owned so I made a short list of the things that were really important - like my teddy, who I really couldn't leave behind." She found the system worked. So, as long as you put some real thought into what you're going to need, you won't have to pack up until the last few days.
Every university has its computer labs, but if you want to avoid waiting for hours for a free computer as your deadline creeps ever closer, it's best to get yourself a cheap laptop. Unless you're taking a design course, you'll probably only need a basic, low-memory computer for word-processing, but you'll certainly be popular if it can also handle CD-Roms and DVDs. Just make sure you get some work done as your housemates clamour to watch films and play the latest games.
If the entire block's using your laptop as an entertainment console, you'll be putting your essays and class notes at risk. To make sure your work isn't deleted accidentally or destroyed by a virus, you should make copies of all your work. A memory stick is ideal.
If you do invest in a computer, you'll be able to play all your music through it. If not, it's a good idea to invest in an MP3 player. And to avoid annoying your neighbours, (who might prefer James Blunt to pumping drum 'n' bass) you might want to buy some headphones too.
With all that essential equipment, you'll be well on your way to making some great memories. Just don't forget to record them on your digital camera!
www.apple.com/uk/education offers student discounts on iPods, speakers, headphones, digital cameras and MacBooks.
Sign up for a free 30-day trial with Which? at www.trial.which.co.uk for independent advice on a range of technical goodsReuse content