• Abbie Tibbott

Packing your bag for campus: A student's guide

You made it! You’re finally enrolled at your chosen university, you had a great first week, and now you’re wondering how to function as an actual student. It’s true that a lot of your first semester will be trial and error, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t at least try to set yourself up for success. Whether you live on campus or out in the wider community, you’re still going to be making the daily commute for some of your lectures, or to study in the library. I thought I’d compile a short list of things to bring with you while you’re finding your feet at university.

I’d recommend choosing a bag specifically for your university life, as then you don’t have to keep emptying it to use it for other things. I prefer a backpack as it keeps my laptop in an upright position and leaves my hands free to open doors instead of awkwardly shoving them open with my body. A hand free for a cup of coffee is also never a bad thing! Try and find something that zips up properly and is wipe-clean or waterproof too.


1. Snacks

Essential, end of. But honestly, buying food on campus (unless you have a catered meal plan) can get pretty expensive if you do it every day. Bringing some lunch with you from home will stop you from impulse buying meal deals every day of the week, and will allow you some control over what you’re eating. If you’re just heading out for a lecture, stick a snack in your bag for those awkward in between-meals-hunger-moments. A lot of universities have become cashless, so remove the temptation to use your card by bringing hot drinks from home, or coming to campus with a reusable cup. They’re much better for the environment, and some universities will reward you for using them.

2. Chargers

Now, if you’ve got a laptop that can comfortably multitask for ten hours without the need for a recharge, I’d say you can skip this one. The reality is that more affordable (and perfectly useful) laptops can’t hold out for that long, and the last thing you need is your device dying mid-lecture. Being able to plug your laptop in for a quick charge saves any work getting lost too, and campuses are full of plug sockets for students to use. Don’t be afraid to scout out a seminar room for plug sockets before you sit down, as it saves having to thread your charger across the room.

3. Notebooks

I do all my work digitally, but I still carry a small, lined notebook with me when I head onto campus. Why? Well, you never know when you’ll need some paper is the basic answer. Sometimes I’ll want to map out some ideas or make a to-do list, so having some paper is very handy. I also carry my planner to make sure that I know where I’m supposed to be. If you prefer to take notes by hand, you may devise a system where you use different notebooks for each session or use refill pads and transfer them into bigger folders. Regardless, making sure you’ve got a bit of spare paper with you means that you don’t have to splash out on expensive branded notebooks that might be sold on campus. If you’re in the UK, I’d highly recommend Wilko’s as a place to find affordable office supplies.

4. A pen

Ditch the massive pencil cases. They’re bulky and full of stuff you’ll probably never need while you’re on campus. If you’re a fan of Instagrammable (is that a word?) notes, chances are that you’ll write them up at home anyway. I wasted a lot of effort carrying a pencil case around with me in my first year, so now I keep one in my room instead. Also, pick up as many free pens as you can while you’re at university, you’ll save a lot of money that way!

5. Spare clothes

Lecture theatres can get cold, seminar rooms can be stuffy, and the British winter is approaching, so make sure that you’re prepared for everything! I find that the temperature on my campus varies from building to building, and there’s nothing worse than trying to get some work done while you’re freezing cold. Popping a cardigan or hoodie in your bag is always a good idea, especially if you’re going to be walking home after dark.

6. Keys

There’s always that one flat mate that keeps locking themselves out, and don’t be them! Whether you’ve got a physical key or an access card, keep them altogether on a keyring. Plastic card holders are cheap to buy, and it will save you time digging around in the bottom of your bag in the dark. Losing your keys will mean that you’ll have to pay for replacements, so treat them like you would your keys for your home address. Flat mate constantly needing to be let in? Don’t be afraid to mute the group chat and turn your location off for when you can’t be bothered to deal with them. They’ll soon get the message.

Fun fact: This was my view when I walked to campus the other day. Sometimes there's a random bit of wilderness in the middle of campus universities.


I hope this list gave you a few ideas of the essentials for when you’re spending time on campus. If you live nearby, you can of course pop home for anything that you’ve forgotten, but I live a fifteen-minute walk away, so it’s worth making sure I have everything the first time. As you get settled into a routine, university life will become much easier and packing a bag will be second nature.

Happy studying!