So - you’re starting university soon!
Well, you’re going to need somewhere to live. Finding accommodation for students is a relatively straightforward process if you know what your options are and what to look out for.
1. Halls of Residence
Halls of residence are typically where most new university students will choose to spend their first academic year living and interacting with other students. There are a number of different halls of residence options available to you, including university accommodation and private options.
Before you start dreaming up your perfect student digs (e.g. double bed, ensuite, private kitchen, countryside views..) take some time to figure out what you can actually afford. University accommodation is typically cheaper than private accommodation, so begin your search on your chosen university’s website if you’re interested in saving money.
Rooms in halls of residence typically start at around £60 per week, but can also range anywhere between £150 - £300+ per week in London or with private providers. You may have to make some compromises (like opting for shared bathrooms) to save money depending on your university.
Check out 'Inside Britain’s Most Expensive Student Accommodation' for a peek at how the other half live!
Make sure you factor in the length of time you will be living in halls when looking at prices - £95 per week may not sound like much, but when you take into consideration the fact that you will be paying for anywhere between 30 and 40 weeks, that turns into a lot of money (£3,800, to be exact). Find out how much your Maintenance Loan is going to be, and calculate how much money you’ll have leftover after rent to avoid any nasty surprises (e.g. being poor).
It is also important to think about location - how far away are the halls from campus/university buildings? Is walking an option, or would you have to think about budgeting for buses/trains? What are the transport links like? Halls further away from your university are usually cheaper, but this may not be true in bigger cities like London.
When applying for halls, most universities will require that you narrow down your halls of residence options to around 5 and provide details of your preferred living situation (e.g. single sex, mixed, ensuite…). They will do their best to place you in your first choice, but you may end up with a place in one of your other choices instead. Check with your firm choice university to find out about the halls of residence application process and do your best to apply for halls as soon as you are able to.
Why Halls of Residence?
Halls of residence are a great option for your first university accommodation experience because costs like electricity, water, gas and internet are typically included in the price of rent. Universities also usually have a dedicated security team patrolling and looking out for students safety. You will also be surrounded by other people in exactly the same situation as you - a sure-fire way to make some new friends and enjoy all aspects of the university experience!
Catered / Self-Catering Halls of Residence
If you absolutely dread the thought of cooking for yourself, catered halls are a suitable option. However, self-catering halls are typically cheaper, and you will have the freedom to eat whatever and whenever you want rather than fitting your life around a fixed meal time schedule; you will also develop valuable cooking skills. For more information about catered halls, have a look at 'The Pros and Cons of Living in Catered Halls'.
Companies like Unite Students and Pure Student Living offer private accommodation for students. They typically charge more than university halls of residence, but you are more likely to have all the desirable amenities that university halls don’t usually provide as standard (e.g. double beds, private kitchens). If you have a little more money to spend, do some research into private halls providers in your chosen university town/city if university accommodation isn’t tickling your fancy.
2. Shared Housing
In the event that you fail to secure a place at Halls of Residence (or would prefer not to live in halls), shared housing in residential areas near your university is another accommodation option.
Shared House / Flat
Some university student unions and websites like SpareRoom will have listings of rooms available to rent within shared houses/flats in a given area. Depending on what you choose to go for (e.g double or single room), this could work out either more or less expensive than halls of residence. It is worth taking into consideration the fact that gas and utilities usually aren’t included in the price of rent, and the rent contract may exceed the amount of time you would need to stay at the property.
Lodging involves an occupant choosing to rent a room in a house that is occupied by the owner. Rent will be at the owner’s discretion and is likely to include gas and utilities, and it could be a bit more of a flexible arrangement in terms of moving in/out dates.