To be Catered or Self-Cater? That is the question.

Applying to University means making a lot of decisions - a big one of those being whether you choose to live in catered halls or not. As if choosing which Uni to go to wasn’t hard enough! We’ve come up with some pros and cons on catered halls to help you make your decision.

PRO - You don’t have to cook

The most obvious advantage of living in catered halls is not having to cook; cooking can be time consuming and often stressful. Living in catered halls not only means avoiding the hordes of people at your local supermarket, but being able to take a longer nap when you might have been preparing a meal. There’ll be no trips to A&E for cooking related injuries and no onion induced tears. But, most importantly, you’ll never have to experience the crushing devastation that comes with the realisation that you’ve forgotten to buy a vital ingredient for your planned dinner. Spag bol without spaghetti just isn’t the same.

Student cooking fail

CON - It’s now or never

If you don’t cook now, will you ever learn? Cooking is an important life skill, and university is the perfect time to brush up on it. There are thousands of quick and easy recipes online for students if you need a little help.

At the start of University you are free to take the trial and error approach and won't be judged for any cooking catastrophes that may result (burnt pans, burnt food, setting off the fire alarm etc…). If you do opt for self-catered halls here are some things you definitely SHOULDN'T do:

  • Turn a toaster on its side to act as grill to make cheese on toast
  • Put pasta in a kettle – it does not speed up the process
  • Use a shopping trolley as a make-shift BBQ

(Trust us, we know...)

Learning to Cook at University

CON - You will rarely eat breakfast

Set meal times are good for routine, but not so good after a heavy night at the Student Union. It’s the most important meal of the day and not one to be missed. In most catered halls, breakfast falls between 7.30am and 9.30am meaning the majority of students rarely get to experience the breakfast menu. On the plus side, by the time you wake up it will probably be time for lunch.

Hungover at Uni and missing Breakfast

Con - Paying for meals you’ve missed

University can be hectic at times, especially in your first year. This isn't as much of a problem in self-catered halls as you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want. However, in catered halls, your commitments could clash with meal times. You could have a lecture close to lunch time, or sporting activities during dinner. Therefore, it’s important to consider that occasionally you will have to buy food. Some Universities do allow you to eat at an alternative time under certain circumstances, so this is something worth checking out before making your decision.

Missing meals at Uni in Catered Halls


If you’ve never produced a home cooked meal in your life, the chances are that something will go wrong in one of your first attempts. Eating in catered halls will help you dodge the nasty bullet that is food poisoning (or so we would hope…). Also, your parents will be safe in the knowledge that you won’t be living purely on takeaways.

Student cooking giving people food poisoning


Group meals on mass can make catered halls feel remarkably similar to school canteens. Even the food is likely to trigger flashbacks of your school meals (for better, or for worse...). Choosing where to sit can be awkward at times, and you’re bound to find yourself desperately looking for your friends when you get there. Despite this, it can help you meet new people when you move in, and on the whole, makes mealtimes more sociable. In non-catered flats, people are more likely to eat at different times – you could go without days without seeing some of your flatmates!

University Catered Halls, you can't sit with us

CON - You still have to pay for snacks

If you’re a serial snacker, then catered halls may not be for you. Brunch is offered at some Universities at around 11am, but you will still have to buy any extra snacks if you want them.

Eating lots of snacks at University

CON - Kitchens are a great communal area

Although catered halls often have large communal areas which can create more of a community feel, sharing a kitchen with a smaller amount of people enables you to establish closer friendships early on in the year. When it comes down to it, both types of halls are great for socialising - it just depends on whether you’d prefer sharing a living space with a smaller or larger amount of people.

It's also important to note that in self-catered kitchens, your cutlery WILL go missing, causing you to become extremely protective over your forks (they're always the first to go). 

Students Cooking at University

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