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How to prepare for university

Guest posts

Faculty: Science and Engineering
School: Computing and Information Science
Category: Computing and digital technology

25 May 2023

Starting university and wondering about the best things to take with you for lectures and day-to-day student life? Computer science student Eden shares five must-haves (and nice-to-haves).

As a mature student with more than a decade out of education going into a computer science degree, I found preparing for university to be a bit daunting, and I over-purchased! Here are some of the things that I found useful, and some things that I did not.

Computer Science student Eden Peacock


Useful things to buy for university

  1. Pens and notebooks! Seems a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t bring them. Studies have shown that hand-writing notes in class helps improve retention, so don’t skip these.
  2. USB stick. Writing up that assignment on your laptop, but forgotten to bring the charger with you? Keeping a copy of your work on a USB stick means that you can use one of the computers on campus to keep up with your deadlines.
  3. Sticky page markers. Whether you use textbooks or not (most of the textbooks you’ll use are available as e-books for free through the University library), sticky page markers are great for... marking pages. I use them in my notes to separate topics and to highlight things I need to go back to.
  4. Re-useable coffee cup/water bottle. It's environmentally friendly and means your drink won’t go cold when you are focused on your work. Plus, working in the computer labs means that I need to always have a lid on my drink, so the paper cups just won’t cut it.
  5. A laptop. This might be a big expense, but having the ability to work on your assignments, take notes, or watch lecture videos wherever you are is a game changer. Just make sure that it meets the requirements for your course. Do you just need a word processor and internet browser, or do you need to run Unreal Engine?

Less useful: do what suits you

  1. Ring binders. While handwriting your notes is awesome for retention, storing them away immediately in ring binders is not. Consider typing them up afterwards instead, this is great for finding if you need any further research on a topic, and going over them again ALSO helps with retention!  
  2. A planner. This is personal preference, however I found that a planner didn’t help me to organise what I needed to do or keep track of things. Using Canvas, which is ARU's learning management system for students, to keep an eye on due work and deadlines (you get notifications as well!) is far more useful.  
  3. A printer. Anything you need to print can be done at the University, however as ARU is going paperless, you’ll find any of the resources you need online anyway (another place that laptop is useful) and submissions are done online as well. 
  4. A backpack. Okay, sort of. I use my backpack all the time, but make sure it suits your needs first! I bought a laptop backpack, however I don’t very often take my laptop into university so it's quite cumbersome. If you just need a notebook and a pen, you probably wont even need one.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, of course, but if you’re missing anything you’ll know within the first teaching weeks anyway so do try not to worry about it too much. Have fun!

By Eden Peacock
Computer science student

Getting ready to start university

Starting university this year?

As well as buying some of the essential study materials Eden mentions above, there are a few other things you can do to get prepared. Check our web pages on things to do before you get here, Welcome Week for new students, and starting your course.


The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.