The ultimate guide to deciding where to live at university
Last updated: 04/12/2020
Moving out of student halls and deciding where to live next can be difficult at the best of times, let alone when you’re trying to navigate student life during a pandemic!
Luckily, there is no shortage of housing options open to you – but there are also a few things to consider before settling on your student accommodation for next year. Students spend on average £125 per week on their student accommodation, so it’s important to get it right!
To help you decide, here’s a short summary of the different types of student accommodation you have to choose from – but remember, the student housing marketing moves fast, so start your research early to make sure the best properties don’t get snapped up!
Student halls of residence
If you’ve loved living in halls for the first year, then it could be you don’t want to leave – and you might not have to!
There’s a common misconception that student halls are for first years only, but this simply isn’t the case - many universities allow students to return in their following years, including post-grads. Check with your university accommodation office to see if this is possible.
Not only are halls often based near campus, but they also usually have great transport links to the university so you won’t have to spend too much money getting around.
You also won’t have to waste any energy organising your bills, as a lot of uni halls include things like internet and utilities in the overall rent - something you would usually need to budget for with private accommodation.
But as with anything in life, there are downsides…
Halls can be noisy, crowded and messy, so if you’re a neat person you might welcome the opportunity to choose your own housemates. You’ve probably also noticed that uni halls don’t always have a comfortable common area to spend time in - moving into a student house could mean more space for socialising.
Private halls of residence
If you’re struggling to find a shared house to live in next year - or simply fancy living in halls again – private student halls could be the option for you. With a private provider such as UNITE, you can enjoy all the benefits of a university owned halls of residence, with the added sweetener that they’re open to all students. You also won’t have to worry about all of the usual housing admin as the bills for private student halls are usually inclusive of things like internet and utilities.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that private halls can sometimes be pricey, and you won’t always be able to choose your flatmates – so you may have more flexibility (and spare cash) with a shared house. Private halls can also be slightly further away from university campuses – so be sure to calculate any potential transport costs before signing on the dotted line.
Student house share
Most students entering their second, third or fourth years tend to house share, but finding a house that everyone likes can be a challenge. Important factors to weigh up (among others) are location, price, quality and comfort.
Student houses are often in great central locations, and - whether you’re after a spacious house or a small pad for just a few select mates - there’s a variety of student houses to cover all options.
Living independently can also put you in good stead for life after uni as you’ll learn useful skills such as cooking and budgeting.
But bear in mind that deposit disputes with landlords and pressured sales sadly aren’t uncommon - although this can be easily avoided by selecting the right agency or landlord, and maintaining a good relationship. Try and obtain recommendations as to who to use from second year students, or from your SU.
Pro tip: Credit checks, admin fees and deposits can all add up, so make sure you start saving plenty of time in advance. You may also need a guarantor to secure the property - usually a parent or guardian.
Living at home for uni
Staying with parents or family is an option more and more students are turning to in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. But worldwide crises aside, there are still loads of great reasons to choose to live at home for uni.
In nearly all instances, you’re going to save money when living at home. You may also find it easier to focus on your studies when you’re not distracted by housemates and having to manage a student budget!
But if one of the main reasons you’re heading to uni is to build your social network, there may also be some downsides.
Living with family or parents can put distance - both physically and socially - between you and your uni friends. Let’s face it, if you’ve got a long commute you’re probably less likely to want to hang about after lectures. You'll also need to factor in the cost of fuel and maintaining a car, or the cost of public transport to get to and from uni.
Read our guide to living at home during uni!
Staying protected in student accommodation
No matter where you choose to live, there’s always the risk of losing or damaging your belongings at university. Student insurance is a great first step towards making sure you’re not left out of pocket and disconnected should you have an unexpected mishap.
To stay up-to-date with the latest student guidance around COVID-19, please visit the government website.