Going to university can bring with it not only a range of emotions, but also a whole host of choices that you have to make – some of which can seem overwhelming at times. Accommodation is a major decision, and the choices that you make in this respect really can make or break your experience of your first year.
For some people, what they want to do is simple, however for others it isn’t as easy. With this in mind, we have put together a list of accommodation types that you can choose from, and given you positives and negatives of each. This should help you to make your mind up, and choose the accommodation that is perfect for your needs.
Types of accommodation
There are several options open to students preparing for their university degree. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages, so it's important to weigh them all up before making a final decision. They include:
1. Living at home
Money is often an issue for many people who go to university, and if this is the case then you might have thought about living at home. If you live close enough then it might seem like the obvious solution – and usually you will find that it does, indeed, save you money.
One thing that you should think about, however, is how much travel is going to cost – if you can get a student travel pass for the journey that you take, it shouldn’t cost too much, however if you need to use things like taxis then the cost will add up.
An obvious disadvantage of living at home is that you may not get the full “university experience”, and there is a chance that you may feel left out of things that happen on campus.
Of course, if you are outgoing and make lots of friends who live there then this might not be an issue – but it is never quite as easy to make friends if you’re not actually forced to be around the people who you study with outside of lesson time.
2. University halls
For the majority of first year students, student halls are the “go to” accommodation option. There are many positives to taking this choice, the main one being that the blocks are often on campus, close to lecture theatre buildings – meaning that you can get out of bed and be in lectures within the space of 10 minutes!
This isn’t true of all universities, however halls do tend to be the nearest option. In addition, you have the chance to meet lots of people, all of your bills will be included, and some halls even provide you with cleaners for communal areas, which can be a great addition.
There are two main disadvantages to student halls, the first of which being the cost. Because they are the most convenient place to live, and bills are included, you do pay a premium for it.
It is important to work out your budget and make sure that you can comfortably afford your payments. Some students find that their loan doesn’t cover accommodation, which can be a bit of a shock if it isn’t planned for.
Another issue is noise. If you’re not the type of person who is bothered by this then that’s great, however you should expect regular parties and disruption to sleep. It’s all a part of student life, but if you’re the type who is really bothered by it, then you might want to consider another option.
3. Private student halls
Another option in some areas is a room in a purpose-built student living complex, an option that is growing in popularity; Unipol and the NUS found that private halls made up half of student bed spaces in the UK.
The set-up is similar to halls managed by universities – you have your own room and you share communal areas like a kitchen or TV room – but it's owned by a private company.
Studio apartments may be available too (though these are usually pricier). Private hall providers are quite common in big cities like London or Manchester, which have several universities based there (and thus lots of students looking for a place to live).
If you’re considering this option, make sure you do some research into what you'll be getting for your money ie bills that are included (including any upfront costs you'll need to account for) and facilities on site.
Private halls can be a great way to expand your social circles, as you may find students from other universities in the same building. When browsing providers, check what communal spaces are available plus any regular activities or events for residents to meet and socialise.
Your university will have an approved list of private accommodation providers, and may even have a more formal partnership in place with one already (especially if they don't have enough places in their own halls to meet demand).
Advantages include mod cons and being close to your university campus (as well as all the best night life!).
The downsides might be extra costs, and not being able to choose you live with. You'll also have the usual mess, noise, etc. to contend with.
4. Private accommodation
Around universities, there are lots of landlords who rent properties and allow you to take a room in a house, meaning that you will share communal areas, such as kitchen, bathroom and living areas with others.
This is a common option for those in second year onwards who have cemented friendship groups, however unless you’re going to university with people you already know, it can be a gamble to get a student house. Also, you will be responsible for your own bills and council tax, which can be a little trickier for budgeting.
That being said, it is much cheaper than halls, and if you’re lucky to get a group of people who you really get on with, you could have a fantastic year.
You would need to consider things like the actual facilities you were getting, where the house was placed, and the cost when compared to halls. There are many students who love living in student houses – however it’s not an incredibly common choice for first years.
5. Individual flat
If you are the type of person who really values their own space, then an individual flat might be something that you would like to consider. This would mean that you’d have your own bedroom, bathroom and living area, and wouldn’t have to deal with other people’s mess. However, if you’re in your first year, you might find that this isolates you from your peers, making finding friends tricky.
This isn’t always the case, and would very much depend on the type of person you are. Also, it will always cost more to have your own place than it would to share, but if money isn’t an object then you could find that an individual flat would give you a great chance to live comfortably while studying.
Generally, no matter what other people decide to do when it comes to accommodation, only you will know the best choice for your needs. It largely depends on the budget that you have available to you, the kind of lifestyle you would like while at university, and also the type of person you are.
If you’re more outgoing then being in more secluded accommodation probably won’t hold you back from making friends, for example. One thing’s for sure, though – university has the potential to turn into some of the best years of your life, so this means that it is very important to think about the decisions that you’re making, and ensure that you are making the choices that will be best for you.
Although it’s good to listen to the opinions of others, it’s ultimately going to be you living in the accommodation, so you need to be happy with the choices that you’re making.
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