Trying to decide what type of accommodation to live in next year? Whether you’re a first-year looking for a clue or you’re a seasoned student looking for a change of scene, there are several options open to you. We’ve outlined the gist of each type of accommodation below, along with the key considerations and the main pros and cons.
Uni-owned halls of residence
If you’re a first-year, going straight into uni-owned halls is one of your easiest and most convenient options, because it’s arranged through your uni and, depending on which city you’re studying in, there’s a good chance that the accommodation itself will be on-campus or extremely close to it. These types of halls are also usually on the cheaper end of the spectrum – but paying a low price isn’t the aim here; the aim is to get yourself a nice new home for the next year.
Geographical convenience is something that you really do need to go for, especially if you’re going into your first year. You might not think a 40-minute commute sounds too gruelling now, but wait until you get in the swing of things – getting up in the morning for lectures, meeting friends for coffee or drinks on weekends, getting to and from nights out in town, getting to the train station to visit your parents for the weekend or to go on a day trip. The last thing you need is an absolute mission each time you want to go somewhere. Location counts for a heck of a lot.
Most likely, the setup will be that you’ll get a room within a shared flat. In other words, you’ll be sharing a kitchen, a living space, and a bathroom with other students (usually between four and six, including you). Some unis even provide catered options, which is ideal if you don’t fancy channelling your inner Heston Blumenthal any time soon.
The downside to uni-owned halls is that they tend to be no-frills in terms of their facilities and interiors. Some are nice and serviceable, but others are grotty and rundown. Even if the halls look nice on the internet photos, you should definitely go to view them in person before you sign up to live there – it’s crazy how much a bunch of carefully taken photos can differ from what you see in the flesh, and the last thing you want is to turn up to accommodation that looks like a Southeast Asian prison.
The key pros: Convenient location (usually – check!); sociable setup; cheapish; arranged through uni
The key cons: Potentially rundown interiors; basic facilities
Private halls of residence, AKA private (purpose-built) student accommodation
Where uni-owned halls tend to offer the bare essentials, private halls go the whole hog – the good ones do, anyway! – providing you with state-of-the-art facilities and more perks than you can shake a stick at. And by perks, we don’t mean super-fast Wi-Fi and communal TVs – those should be givens in any decent student residence nowadays. Think gyms, games rooms, cinema rooms, stylish communal areas, comfy study areas, free on-site social events (like pizza nights, themed parties, etc.).
Of course, good private halls are more expensive than uni-owned halls, but, like anything in life, you’ll get what you pay for. Time for a fast-food analogy: if uni-owned halls are medium-sized McDonald’s meals, private halls are those towering Five Guys burgers that come with those crazy soft-drink flavours and those overflowing cups of fries in those huge brown paper bags. One does a job, whereas the other goes above and beyond to present something worth shouting about.
A good provider will put all the monthly costs into one lump sum for you so that you don’t have to juggle bills or go through the trouble of organising your own providers. Your rent, your utilities (including broadband), your maintenance, and your contents insurance will all be taken care of without you having to do anything – again if the provider is any good.
As for your living quarters, there could be several options to choose from, depending on the provider:
- An ensuite bedroom within a shared flat (which you’ll share with between three and five of your fellow students) – this is the most common one and is great for making new friends and having a laugh
- A studio for just you (including a kitchen area and a bathroom) – this is also a common one nowadays and is perfect if you like your own space or you need peace and quiet for your uni work
- A dual-occupancy studio or flat (i.e. for couples to share) – this is a rarer option that you’ll only get with certain providers or in certain residences but is great if it’s applicable to you
Another big advantage to private halls is the quality and stylishness of the furnishings and the overall aesthetics of the interiors. That might sound a bit superficial, but it’s not: thoughtful interior design can make you happier and more productive, both of which are key to you enjoying your time at uni and achieving academic success. Surely that’s worth a few extra quid a month, in the long run?
As for location, this can vary depending on the provider, but the best student residences are just short walks away from uni campuses. Having those super-duper facilities in your accommodation is all well and good, but if the catch is that you have to travel for ages to and from uni – or to and from everything in general – then it’s probably not worth it.
The key pros: Modern facilities; luxuries included (e.g. gyms and cinema rooms); stylish interiors; convenient location (probably – but check!); easy payment; sociable setup
The key cons: More expensive than most uni-owned halls
Private flat-share (or on your own)
Uni-owned halls and private halls are the two most popular student-accommodation options out there, but they aren’t the only options. You could decide to swerve halls-style accommodation altogether, opting instead to privately rent a regular apartment, in which you could either share with another student or live by yourself.
This type of accommodation gives you independence and the freedom to live how you want to, within reason, in your own space away from everybody else – if that’s what you want. You may be able to buy your own pieces of furniture and use those (although landlords will vary on their policies when it comes to furniture), and you may be able to redecorate the apartment in certain respects to suit your own taste (again, though, different landlords will have different policies: some allow tenants to personalise the decor, whereas others strictly forbid it).
Do bear in mind that private renting has its headaches and bureaucracies. Basically, you’ll have to sort everything out yourself: liaising with your landlord (or their letting agent), making sure all the paperwork is filled out, staying on top of your various monthly bills and payments, maintaining the flat and cleaning it to the landlord’s standards, and buying household items as and when you need them.
If you think you’ll have a good handle on all of this, great, but if you’ve never lived on your own before, you’re probably better off opting for halls – where you get your independence but there’s less responsibility and fewer hoops to jump through.
Another big element of private renting is the cost. Yes, private student accommodation is expensive, but it gives you value for money and all the monthly costs are nicely and neatly presented in one or two lump sums. With private renting, the monthly rent figures can vary greatly depending on the property and the location, from the suspiciously cheap to the outrageously expensive.
The key pros: Independence and a ‘real adult’ feel; your own space; flexibility re. furniture and decor (potentially – check)
The key cons: General admin and logistics; less sociable than halls; potentially expensive and can come with hidden/unexpected costs
Another private-renting route you could go down is sharing a full house with several other students (usually between four and six of you altogether).
As with renting a private flat, you will have to arrange this yourself, or as a group if you and some mates are planning on living together. Again, you’ll have to deal with landlords and letting agents, fill out forms, arrange your utilities and other bills, and maintain the place with regular cleaning and general care. There will be more of you to split these duties between, though, which makes it slightly easier.
A private house-share usually works out cheaper than a private flat does, because the cost is spread between more of you. If you’re an especially organised group, you could even chip in collectively for the weekly food shop and thereby save a bit of money each (more nights out, anyone?), but this is much easier said than done, and might not be worth the hassle in the end!
Of course, there are student houses and then there are student houses. Many of them are old Victorian and Edwardian houses, and the problem with properties this old is that they can be cold and damp (an absolute nightmare in the winter), not to mention susceptible to general disrepair. They’re not all bad – some are well-maintained and lovely – but be extra-careful when you go to viewings. Double-check, triple-check, quadruple-check, take your time looking round for potential problems, and use your nose – if it smells a bit musty or damp, then it is musty or damp.
Also consider the area. What’s that like? You’ll get a good idea of this when you go to view the house, but go back at nighttime and see what it’s like once the sun goes down. Student houses tend to be located in the rougher areas of their cities, which means that break-ins are a very real possibility. And this is one of the biggest downsides of private house-shares in comparison to halls and even private flats. With the other options, you get certain (albeit varying) levels of security, whereas houses are easy targets for burglars. Wondering whether your MacBook or bike will still be there when you get home is not a nice feeling.
The key pros: Potential to split costs; sociable setup; good level of independence and a taste of adult life
The key cons: General admin and logistics; age of the property – i.e. potentially cold, potentially damp; general security
Make your decision on which type of student accommodation to go for
Ultimately, it comes down to what setup works best for you. There’s no wrong choice as long as you’re happy and you feel genuinely comfortable in the accommodation you choose.
As you can probably guess, we think that your best bet is private, purpose-built student accommodation like ours. It’s comfortable, it’s stylish, it’s safe and secure, it’s convenient, it’s sociable.
Living with us is easy: each month, you pay one single figure for everything – water, gas, electricity, broadband, contents insurance, bike storage, parking, general maintenance, a weekly kitchen-clean, access to the laundry facilities, access to the gym, and access to all of the other on-site perks. You get the picture. All you need to sort out for yourself is your food.
Sound good? Take a look to see if we have a student residence in the city you’ll be studying in. We hope to see you soon!