Packing guide for the first-year university student

Packing guide for the first-year university student

Getty Images Author: Jackie Middleton


Packing guide for the first-year university student

Kids moving to residence? Help them get ready with these tips on what every first-year university student should pack.

Moving into residence is a huge milestone for a first-year university student. Don't let the excitement of living away from home spark stress about packing. Get top marks with our expert packing guide.

Before you pack anything…

Your university will have a list of what's provided in residence. To avoid unnecessary packing, check their list to see what you should and shouldn't pack. Chances are, you can leave your kettle and ironing board at home.

Chauncey Kennedy, director of residence life at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., says students don't have to bring all their belongings right away. "Parents want to make sure their student has everything on move-in day, but it's best to wait and see what the room is like and how you live in it, then figure out what you might need." Chris Alleyne, the assistant director of residence engagement at Western University in London, Ont., agrees. "If you're going home for Thanksgiving, don't bring everything with you on moving day." When you return, you can bring your winter clothes, skates or items you forgot earlier.

The must-haves

Bed linens, an alarm clock, and bath towels are necessities that you'll use every day. An easy-to-carry laundry basket, clothes hangers and comfy bedding also top Kennedy's list. "Sleep is an important part of a student's success, so bring pillows that you really like," he says.

Alleyne also recommends headphones—"if your roommate is sleeping and you need to stay up late studying, they can be helpful"—as well as flip-flops for the shower and a caddy to cart your toiletries between your room and the shared washroom. Hanging storage devices for the closet can also make smart use of limited space.

A first-aid kit, laundry detergent, a desk lamp and an umbrella are also musts.

Décor and creature comforts

Pack your favourite books, photos, and posters to personalize your living space. "People bring accent pillows and plants to make their room feel more like home and less institutional," says Alleyne. "And you're never too old to bring a stuffed animal."

Boost your comfort with a cushioned mattress pad, a bathrobe, favourite toiletries and a few pieces of dishware. "People sometimes eat when dining halls aren't open, so having plates, utensils and glassware that can be easily cleaned in a dish pan in the bathroom is helpful," says Kennedy. Some students also bring mini fridges for after-hours snacks.


Along from your usual wardrobe of study-friendly clothes, you'll want to bring some nicer outfits. Many first-year students forget to pack semi-formal or formal wear. Both Kennedy and Alleyne recommend that students bring along a suit or cocktail dress for fancy occasions that occur during the year.

Extra underwear is also a must. "Students say they'll do laundry regularly, but there are times when it doesn't happen."

Tech, electronics and appliances

Pack USB sticks, extension cords and power bars, and a hairdryer. Locks for your laptop—one for your room and one that travels with you—are important, and some students bring their own printers and wireless routers. "A lot of students are putting wireless routers in their rooms so they can sit on their bed and watch Netflix on their iPad and make their laptop more portable," says Kennedy.

He also suggests packing a fan. "Older buildings don't always have air conditioning," he says. And don't forget to update your laptop's anti-virus software. You might be forbidden from joining your university's network if your protection isn't up-to-date. 

Check out these five easy recipes for first year students.


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Packing guide for the first-year university student