If you choose to move away from home when you go to university or college you generally have two options to choose from when it comes to accommodation: university-owned or private. University-owned accommodation is usually made up of halls of residence ('halls'), which often resemble blocks of flats but can also be made up of smaller houses.
University accommodation tends to include the basic elements you need: a fully furnished bedroom (which can be en-suite) as well as a shared kitchen and (in some cases) shared bathroom facilities. Some accommodation will also include a common living area. Each student flat usually contains around 6-8 bedrooms, so you will be sharing your facilities with about 5-7 fellow students.
University accommodation can be catered, which means on certain days of the week at set times, meals will be provided for you. However, self-catered accommodation tends to be more common, which means you are in charge of feeding yourself. Self-catered accommodation also tends to cost less.
University accommodation tends to have termly payments with bills included, although double check this before you move in. You will find that costs vary depending on whether you choose a standard, en-suite or in some places, even a luxury studio room.
Private accommodation can either be a private-run hall of residence (which has a similar set up to university halls) or can be a room in a normal flat or house, run by a landlord or agency. Depending on which type of private accommodation you choose, you will either pay rent in termly instalments or pay monthly. Bills may be included or may be separate - make sure you check what is included and what is not before signing your contract.
It is not compulsory to stay in university-run accommodation, and many students choose to live at home or find accommodation from a private landlord.
There are lots of things to think about when choosing your accommodation. For example:
- How many people do you want to share with?
- Do you want to be in catered or self-catered?
- Do you want an en-suite?
- Do you want a single or double bed?
- What size room do you want?
- What’s your budget?
- Do you want to live on or off campus?
- Do you want to live in halls or in a house?
- Do you want to stay there during the holidays?
Every university will set a deadline for accommodation applications so once you know which one you want to attend make sure you find out when its housing applications close.
You can normally only apply for housing at your firm choice, but sometimes your insurance option will let you reserve a room too, so it is worth asking about that. That way, if you do attend your insurance choice you will not have to worry about where you are going to live.
Make sure you do not leave it until the night before to send your application; the earlier you send it, the more likely you are to get the room you want.
If you want to live in a private house, there is no fixed deadline to apply. However, student houses tend to become free around July/August so it is worth looking then, even if you do not move in until the September.
Some universities will guarantee you a room when you apply, while others will only offer a room if you put them as your first choice. Some will let you pick preferences (e.g. would you prefer to live in an all-girls flat, all boys flat or mixed) and others will simply allocate at random. Each university is different, so make sure you check with it early on.
Most universities will send you the details of how to get accommodation when it offers you a place. You will also be able to apply online, although we recommend you actually visit the accommodation before you do this.
And remember, the university is there to help so if you are confused about how to apply for housing or need help, drop them a line.
Most universities will ask you to set up a direct debit with them and accommodation costs will be paid in termly instalments. Remember, your student loans can help you to cover these costs; it is what it is there for after all!
Prices will vary depending on the type of accommodation you choose and the location of your university (e.g. a city-based one is likely to cost more than a rural one, and different areas of the country cost different amounts). If you opt for a standard room in a self-catering hall of residence it is likely you will pay a lot less than if you stayed in a catered luxury double bedroom with a large en-suite.
This will depend on what university you go to and where you stay. Some university accommodation will allow you to stay there from the minute you move in until you finish the year, while others will ask you to move out during the holidays so they can let the rooms out. Make sure you check your accommodation contract carefully and see how many weeks you will be allowed to stay there.
Making friends in university accommodation is easier than you think. You will move in at the same time, experience the same nerves and everyone will be trying to make a good impression and make friends at the same time. Plus, you will be surrounded by loads of other students who may not live with you but are likely to be close by.
Start by keeping your door open as you unpack - you will be surprised how many people you will end up chatting to as a result! From there, suggest dinners, nights out or a games night so you can get to know your new roommates.