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How to pick the right student accommodation

Choosing where you’re going to live is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make before you start your course. NUS helps you weigh up all the options.

Not all students live in ‘traditional’ halls of residence, with many choosing to live in the private rented sector, purpose-built student developments or to stay at home. 

Here are some of the pros and cons of each option.

University halls

University-managed accommodation or ‘halls’ certainly have some advantages. In terms of making friends, living with other students is a great way to get to know people who you may end up becoming good friends with. You’re also likely to be conveniently placed for any on-campus goings on so shouldn't have to worry about travelling long distances for social events.

If you’re going to be living away from home for the first time, halls can also be good preparation for living in the private rented sector as you have many of the benefits of independence, but without needing to think about the complications of bills or landlords. You’re also likely to be well supported by the university if anything goes wrong.
 
Pros:
  • Social scene: a good chance to meet lots of people
  • It's the 'halfway' house option: easing you gently in to living away from home
  • You're not alone: extra support will be available from your university if you need it.

Cons:

  • Being thrown in at the deep end: you don't get to choose who you live with
  • No guarantees: you might not get a place in your preferred accommodation
  • Living near to lots of students: get used to putting up with noise and mess!
     

Private student halls

A second option in some areas is to go for a room in a purpose-built student living complex. The set-up is similar to halls managed by universities, but it's owned by a private company. If you’re considering this, make sure you do some research into what you'll be getting for your money (what bills are included, what facilities are on site, and what sort of activities and communal spaces there are). Also ask about any up-front costs so you can factor these in.

Your university will have an approved list of student rental companies, and may have a more formal partnership in place with a private company to provide student accommodation.

The majority of the university halls are out of the centre, but I stayed in a private halls situated right on the city campus, near the shopping centre and all the best nightlife. Third Year Psychology Student | Nottingham Trent University

Pros:
  • Built for students: so the same advantages as students in university halls apply
  • Mod cons: handy perks such as wi-fi can be part of the package
  • Location, location: you'll be on or close to all the student action.
Cons:
  • Extra costs: factor in any up-front or additional costs, and studio rentals will be pricier
  • Same student pitfalls apply: noise, not choosing who you live with, mess and so on.

Private accommodation

Others may prefer not to live in halls of any kind and move straight into the private rented sector. Sometimes it'll be your choice  if you're a mature student who wants their own living space outside the realms of university, for instance. And sometimes it might not be  not all universities are able to guarantee a place in halls of residence for all first-year students (it's a good question to ask at an open day)  so you could be among those who miss out, especially if you've come through Clearing or are late with your application.

Living in a privately rented property can be appealing as it enables you to decide exactly where you live and who with, though it’s worth making sure you’ve done your research before you start looking to make sure you avoid some of the common private landlord pitfalls (you can take a look at tips on tenant rights over on Which?'s main website). Universities usually have approved lists of landlords and student-friendly lettings agents.

I didn’t live in halls first year, but found a nice private flat with a spare room close to my uni through Gumtree. My room was large, spacious, and had everything I needed. The landlord sometimes needed a bit of chasing up to fix anything, but otherwise I loved it. Fourth Year Medicine Student | University Of Bristol

Pros:
  • Independence: you're in charge of where and with whom you're living
  • Flexibility: the private rental market is packed with different living options to suit you.
Cons:
  • Further out: you may find yourself outside the main campus
  • Managing bills: you'll need to budget, especially if you've never lived away from home before
  • Dealing with admin: you'll be dealing direct with a landlord or letting agent .

Living at home

Living at home works well for many students as it can significantly cut your costs and is the one option that doesn’t involve packing up all your worldly goods and relocating.

You might be concerned that this will have an impact on your ability to meet other students, but while it might require a little more effort, you’re sure to meet plenty of people both in your lectures and outside. Sports clubs, societies and students’ union events are a great place to start.

Lived with my mum for two first years. Plus points: food, no noisy neighbours, no rent or money issues, free laundry service. Downsides: making friends can be harder and the rules of the house are made by parents. Third Year Film Studies Student | University Of The West Of England - Bristol

Pros:
  • Hassle-free: no moving, no upheaval
  • The old cliché: someone else taking care of cooking, cleaning, laundry...?
  • Cheap: should save you money overall.
Cons:
  • Away from studentville: you'll need alternative ways to meet people
  • Someone else's roof: that means someone else's rules.

More from students on accommodation: we asked students to weigh up halls, landlords and other student accommodation and captured their top tips in our on-campus video...

Which? University provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from the National Union of Students (NUS), a confederation of 600 students' unions representing the interests of more than seven million students.
 

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