Finding the right student accommodation is something that makes students and parents/guardians very anxious. So, the university offer is there, but you’ve nowhere to live. This can be stressful. Whilst most first-year students go straight into university halls, there are many accommodation options available to you.
Here is a breakdown of where students live during their first year at university:
- 40% of students live in student halls
- 24% of students choose to commute and live at home with parents
- 23% of students choose to live in privately rented accommodation
- 7% of students choose to live in private halls
- 5% of students live in a house or flat that either they or their family own
- 2% of students have other arrangements altogether
Does this surprise you?
As you can see, there are plenty of options. Obviously, most people are not fortunate enough to own a place or be able to buy a place in their city or town of choice, and most choose not to go down the private route. University halls provide the logical option - not just financially, but socially too.
The bad news is that wherever you choose to live, the impact on your wallet will be substantial. It’s also really important that you make the right choice, otherwise, you might end up putting a severe downer on your experience living away from home for the first time. It has been estimated that rent takes up to 73% of the maximum student loan out of your budget, which is pretty intense.
Let’s take a closer look at the types of accommodation highlighted above to see what they offer - this might just help you to decide:
Most first-year students end up in halls. There’s no doubt that halls are the most sociable living environments, so if you’re a bit shy or worried about heading out into the wide unknown we’d advise that you throw yourself in the deep end and get into halls. It’s a great way to make friends, constantly engage with students at your uni, and potentially find those lifelong friends that you’ll end up sharing with for the rest of your uni experience.
Not all halls are on campus; some are located in the town or city. This is usually a huge plus because you’re in the centre of the action, and it won’t be far to get to campus for lectures, group work, to use the library, or attend societies, clubs and activities run by your student union.
You won’t have to worry about bills or landlords if you’re in halls either, which is one stress off your chest in the first year. You’re also likely to be well supported by the housing office or university itself if anything goes wrong. It’s the perfect stepping stone towards independence and learning to live amongst other people.
Of course, it’s not all roses. Being in halls can be frantic, and they tend to be 24-hour places. You might lose a bit of sleep in return for your fruitful social life, and they might not always be the cleanest places to live. You don’t get to choose who you live with either, so there’s no guarantee that everyone will be a friend for life!
Living at home
Living at home is a financially smart option if you can commute to university. It means that you don’t need to pack up all your worldly possessions and lug them to a new town or city, and that you can still enjoy your home comforts whilst studying.
Of course, this inevitably means that you’ll miss out a little. You won’t be in halls when those impromptu parties take place, and you may not meet quite as many people as those living away from home. However, if you plan well and make the effort, living at home doesn’t have to impact your social life entirely. You can still meet people at your lectures, at sports clubs, societies and students’ union events.
Privately rented accommodation
Some students may prefer not to live in halls of any kind and move straight into the private rented sector, where you rent a house or flat with a group from a landlord or letting agent. This is more common with siblings and mature students who may already have a network of friends to live with.
Of course, not all universities are able to guarantee a place in halls of residence for all first-year students, so privately rented accommodation is an option you may have to explore. Of course, it’s great because you choose who you live with, but you may not be as close to the university campus as you want to be. You can choose from a range of options too - a house, flat or apartment.
Don’t forget, you’ll be dealing with admin and the dreaded landlord. Nice to have your own gaff though, isn’t it!
Private halls make up half of student bed spaces in the UK and are becoming a very popular option. 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.
Private halls are more common in big cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester where there are thousands of students looking for accommodation. They do tend to be a bit more expensive though, so if you’re considering this option, make sure you do some research into what you'll be getting for your money. You’ll want to find out, particularly, if bills are included in your rent.
Private halls can be a great way to expand your social circles, as you may find students from other universities in the same building. Think of it as a broader circle of diverse people your age to meet and potentially form friendships with. Your university will have an approved list of private accommodation providers, so check this out before you make any concrete decisions.
Of course, you may be taking care of your own bills, and you may be dealing directly with a landlord or letting agent, which is not an experience that students tend to enjoy.
Living in a house or flat that you or your family own
All we can say is this - you lucky devils!
You’re the master of your own destiny if you are fortunate enough to be in this position. No parents watching over you and no landlord to answer to. It’s a great position to be in. Just make sure you respect the property and don’t turn it into party central.
Whatever you choose, try to do it ahead of time to lessen the stress, and embrace your abode wherever it is or whoever it might be with. These are the best years of your life!