Finding accommodation in Clearing
You've got your place in Clearing (Yay!) and now you need somewhere to live. Colum from NUS reflects on his experience looking for last-min housing after going through Clearing...
When you're going away to uni, your accommodation can seem like a make-or-break part of your student experience. After all, it's probably your first time living away from home. That can become even more daunting if you end up in a situation where you're not going to your first choice university and you're already feeling out of your comfort zone.
I was in that position only a few years ago...
You probably won't get the ensuite...Often, not getting a place at your first choice uni also means fewer accommodation choices, or not being offered any on-campus accommodation at all. When I applied, I firmly believed that if I wasn't living in the newest accommodation then I would be living in squalor with horrible people and would have a terrible time.
I was offered a room with less than what I fancied (I didn't have an ensuite... SHOCK HORROR) and as an incredibly silly, stubborn young man I decided not to go to university at all that year.
I won't pretend that a toilet was the entire reason for it; but my accommodation worries certainly contributed far more to the decision than it ever should have done.
- Must-read: Choosing uni halls - top tips from students
Learn the real story about accommodationThe truth is, if you talk to second or third years, or graduates, they’ll tell you a totally different story about their accommodation. Unlike what you might get from prospectuses or open days, living in that top-end block is not the key to having a successful or fun time at uni. Plus, the other accommodation at the other end of the price-scale often has a lot going for it – for example, leaving you with enough money to have all of the fun!
I can't stress enough how much you should not panic if you don’t feel you’ve been offered the 'best' room. Talk to the accommodation office about it, and even try to visit – lots of universities put on Clearing open days for that exact reason. You’ll soon find that once you’ve moved in and got to know the people you live with you’ll be absolutely fine.
Ask yourself what you can really affordInterestingly, in some cases the complete opposite happens now. Universities have developed ‘plush’ accommodation at such a fast rate without much thought for affordability that you might end up being offered a top-end room, whether you can afford it or not!
A lot of university rents now fall outside of the amount of money your average student gets through their student finance, so what do you do if you if you're not able to find additional money elsewhere?
Don't feel pressured to accept unaffordable accommodation that could plunge you into debt. If you find yourself in that position, you should ask some serious questions of your university about how they expect you to fund your rent. Do you really want to find yourself in an unmanageable situation before even starting?
- Must-read: Quick guide to student finance and fees
Get housing advice from your universityFor those of you that find yourself without on-campus accommodation, it might seem like your chances of a fantastic first year are over. Don’t panic, that's not true.
The most important thing is to talk to your university's housing office (and even the students’ union) about what to do, and get their advice because they know the local housing market really well. They should be able to point you in the direction of private landlords and letting agents who they either work with or come recommended from previous year's students.
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Ask what measures they have in place to help you link up with others in the same situation, plus anything extra they can do to help you feel more settled and comfortable in your first few weeks. Get involved in any housing-related Facebook groups affiliated with the university, or start following the housing office on Twitter for shout-outs to find other new students in the same position.
Two years after I rejected my place at university I went back, and I still wasn’t offered the top end accommodation that I once had my sights set on. I went for it anyway and never noticed any difference – I had a brilliant time, made amazing friends and had a bit more money in my back pocket.
I still don’t have an ensuite and my life doesn’t seem to have suffered for it.
Which? University provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Colum McGuire, Vice President (Welfare) for the National Union of Students (NUS). NUS is a confederation of 600 students' unions representing the interests of more than seven million students. We've teamed up with NUS to bring you tips and advice about student accommodation.