All around the country now, Mums (and Dads) of teenagers who are heading off to University for the first time, are having a quiet panic. There’s a lot to deal with. This might be the first time their son or daughter has spent time away from home, and the thought of the separation can be mildly traumatic for both parents and children alike.

Often, the distraction of gathering together all the ‘stuff’ that they ‘might’ need for Uni is a good thing, and let’s face it the list can be long, and endless.

But what do you really need, and what is surplus to requirements? Only a first-year student, who has been there, and done that, would know really so here are some top tips from 19-year-old Joe, who is just back from his first year at University, and has loved every minute of it.

” For some reason, I took too many extension leads, I only needed one. In reality, all University student rooms are very small and compact. They are practical and serviceable, definitely not luxurious, but you can personalise them.

I took a large new rug, which was far too big for the room, and the room was carpeted anyway, then I had to store the rug, which took up loads of space, and then, of course, I had to drag the too big rug, back home again!

Clothes were a nightmare. I overestimated how many clothes to take, but also underestimated the amount of space I would have to hang them.

I forgot that I would only really be away from home for around 10 weeks, September to Christmas, but I took a huge selection of summer clothes when I left in September because it was warm, PLUS a load of warm winter clothes. But I really only should have taken ‘in season’ clothes, and swopped stuff over when I went home mid-term.

The things I didn’t take, that I needed were quite random, but once I’d got them, they made all the difference.

The tap water in my University accommodation tasted horrible. All hot, and cold drinks had this strong metallic taste, so I bought a jug water filter, and it was a huge improvement. We all need that comforting early morning cuppa right, especially before heading off again to the coal face of Uni life!   Take a water filter with you!

Another weird item that made a lot of difference, was Command strips so that I could put my own stamp on my room, without the risk of leaving marks on the walls and losing my deposit. 

Once I’d got posters up, and a mirror, it began to feel more homely and less bare and cold.  Remember to take some pics of the fam; you forget how annoying the little bro can be when there are hundreds of miles between you. That cheeky grin can be a pleasant reminder. 

This last one is odd but made the most difference I guess.  Get a doorstop. 

During the first couple of weeks at University, there’s no denying, that life is hard. Everything is new and unfamiliar. You are basically living with strangers, but there is camaraderie. Everyone is in the same boat, you have good days and bad days, and people do get close to breaking point. So always have the door to your room open, it means people can drift in and out, and have a chat without feeling awkward, or being specifically invited. You can call people in under some pretext if you’ve noticed they are struggling.  Yes of course you can close the door too when you feel you need some privacy.

And finally some top tips from Joe for any 1st-year University student

Shopping:  Aldi and Lidl are your friends and the cheapest options for poor students.  Tesco is great, but grab yourself a Tesco card to save more money – or pinch your Mum’s. 

Cooking:  As long as you know the basics, it’s easy. Invest in two things. An Airfryer and a Sandwich Toaster. They are invaluable and will be worth their weight in munchie gold. 

Freezers:  Make proper use of the freezer. If you buy yellow sticker food, just shove it in the freezer so you don’t waste the sell-by date.   Avoid takeaways if you can. They seem like a good idea when you are starving hungry and want a quick fix. But £10+ for just a chicken curry and rice, that you can buy in Aldi for a couple of quid, just isn’t a good plan.

Washing: Washing is a pain in the arse! So make a specific day to get everything done. No point in doing little washes. Wait till you’ve worn most of your clothes and then do one BIG wash. Otherwise, you are waiting too many hours for it to finish, and empty/fill it with more washing, over and over.  It has to be done, you don’t want to look grubby, but make it work for you.  A study day is the best day for washing. 

Drinking: Drinks in any popular student nightspots can be expensive. So before a night out, enjoy your favorite beers and wines at home, and get in the ‘spirit’, before you head out.


Don’t send your boys and girls off to University for the first year, without at least SOME basic cooking skills. At least teach them the difference between boil, fry, bake, and roast, and to cook a basic meat ragu for Spag Bol and pasta dishes. Show them how to roast a chicken, times, weights, etc. and how to make a cooked breakfast.  Those are the basics.

I want a boiled egg for breakfast said no student ever.  I want a dirty fry-up, said every student at some point!

As Joe says, a sandwich toaster and air fryer have been his ‘go-to’ appliances so some handy lessons in using them too won’t go amiss.

The other thing teenagers must know how to do is to wash their clothes correctly. Nobody wants their new white T-shirt turned a greyer shade of white by a rogue black sock. Show them how to separate whites from coloureds, wash at low temperatures, and how much powder and conditioner to use. They should be ironing their own clothes during the month before they leave for University.

Teach by example, don’t let your teenager leave home without these skills. It’s unfair on them and will only add to any initial stress they might already be feeling at being away from you, and their family.