Tech students need for their first year – as told by graduates

The move to uni is a big transition. Recent grads tell us what can help make it as smooth as possible.

20 Jul 2020

We asked two graduates, Ben and Jemma, to give us their top tech tips for settling in to uni life...

A reliable laptop

  • “The main thing you need for your first year at uni is a good laptop,” says Ben, who studied graphic design. “I thought I could just use the old laptop I’d had for years, but it couldn’t handle all my design software. Needless to say, it didn’t last the year.”

It doesn’t matter if they’re studying English, chemistry or art – they’ll need a laptop that’s powerful enough to handle everything thrown at it.

See which laptop is best for their uni course

A lightweight laptop is also a good call, according to History grad Jemma.

  • “I’d no idea how much I’d be carrying it around,” she explains. “I spent so much time going from lectures to the library and back, so I needed one light enough to chuck in my bag.”

Many laptops have solid state drives (SSDs), which means they can pack a lot of power and storage into a lightweight design. Plus, they boot up nice and quick – great for catching all the essentials in class.

Still unsure which is right? Here are 5 questions to ask before buying a laptop for uni

Hard drive

Laptop accessories

There are certain things that’ll make life much easier for any first-year student as they settle in to uni life.

An external hard-drive will allow them to back up all their most important projects, large and small, as well as store heaps of first-year photos – just like big, techy photo albums. And a high-quality webcam allows them to keep in contact with everyone they need to – be it family back at home, lectures online or classmates for a group project.

  • “One of the best things my dad bought me was my little printer,” says Jemma. “It was just a simple one because all I needed to print was essays, but it made all the difference not having to line up in the library right before a deadline.”

Whatever your budget and whatever their course, you’re sure to find the perfect printer for their needs.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but a home printer quite simply cuts the faff - whether they need to print, scan, photocopy or do all three. Plus, some can even be controlled by a smartphone.


Home comforts

The move into halls is exciting – but it can be daunting too. There are some things which can make their dorm a home away from home.

  • “I had no idea how busy I’d be,” says Ben. “I didn’t always have the time to cook proper meals…the toaster was my best friend in first year.”

Such is the way for many students. With all the socialising, uni events and – ahem – a few lectures thrown in, a quick cheese on toast is the perfect remedy. The question is, one slice or two? Or three, or four?

Choose the right toaster for your child to take to uni

Good, reliable kettle

You might also want to consider investing in a good, reliable kettle students need to keep the caffeine flowing during their busy first year.

Kit out their student kitchen with these gadgets

Need more help deciding which kitchen essentials your child will need for uni? See the most important buys here


Good-time gadgets

University is some of the best years of their life, so make sure it’s not all work and no play. Downtime can be loads more fun with the right tech.

Portable wireless speaker

  • “One of my roommates brought speakers, so we always had some kind of party going on at ours,” says Jemma. “It makes such a difference when the sound’s good – plus, you could control the music from your phone. So anyone that wanted to could play DJ for the night."

For great sound to get the ultimate halls party started, send them off to uni with a Bluetooth wireless speaker.


  • “It’s not exactly essential, but I really wanted a projector,” says Ben. “A guy in our building had one and his house was always full of people watching movies or sports...big games just weren’t the same on a small screen!”

Bring the cinema to their uni digs without breaking the bank.

A projector doesn’t count as a must­­-have, but it is a definite nice-to-have. And it’s sure to help them make pals in the first few weeks.

Dark room viewing, long shot capacity, crystal clear visuals…it’s all here. The best part? Many of them are light and portable, so you can set them up just about anywhere. Just make sure there’s plenty of wall space!