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Applying for student accommodation: Q&A

You’ve done your Ucas application, your offers have come in, but now’s there’s another important application to do – your student accommodation. So how does the process work?

Here’s a round-up of things to do and look out for when it comes to making your uni accommodation application. We’ve also got to tips on choosing halls from current students – plus, we’ve weighed up the pros and cons of other student accommodation options

Student accommodation: what should you look for?

When you’re looking at accommodation options offered by the uni you're hoping to go to, it can be tempting to go straight for the halls with the biggest bedrooms, the ensuite bathrooms or the ones that you've heard throw the best parties in Freshers’ Week. But also bear in mind these factors:


Cost

Different university halls, and even rooms within a specfic halls of residence, come in a range of different shapes and sizes – and, accordingly, varying price ranges. Costs start from around £60 per week for a basic room a bus ride away from campus to as much as £150 per week for a self-contained studio flat within the student village.

Before you start looking at rooms, you need to work out what you can, realistically, afford. Contract lengths are usually around 40 weeks (you don’t have to pay for halls during the summer holidays). If you were to pay £100 a week for 40 weeks, that adds up to £4,000  £270 more than the non-means tested maintenance loan you might receive (via Student Finance England). 

If you’ve got another source of income to factor in (savings, a part-time job lined up, the bank of Mum and Dad?), this will increase your options – but make sure you don’t forget about all the other things you need to budget for!


Location

Location is another important factor to weigh up when choosing your halls, and often impacts on how much you’ll pay. Halls further away from the campus tend to be slightly cheaper, cities more expensive - and London in a price bracket of its own! You should consider:
  • The proximity to your lectures / the campus: is it walking distance / within a short bus or train ride?
  • Transport links: are the halls well connected to both the campus and the town / city?
  • The local area: what’s the area like surrounding your halls? Do you want to be slap-bang in the city centre, or part of a student village?


Facilities

Next on your checklist, the facilities:

Catered or self-catered accommodation: Catered accommodation will mean that your breakfast and dinners are sorted (saving you trips to the supermarket and time spent cooking and washing up), but self-catered accommodation gives you more flexibility and allows you to cook the foods you like. Here’s more info on the catered vs self-catered debate… 

Bathrooms: Could you manage with sharing a bathroom with your hallmates, or do you really need your own ensuite?

What extras are included in your halls costs? These could be a uni bus pass for the year, access to the uni gym or a regular cleaner. If you go for catered halls, two of your meals each day will be covered in what you pay. Are all the bills covered or any there any one-off payments you'll need to factor in?


Special requirements

You’ll usually be able to specify any special requirements - such as a disability or dietary requirement - as part of your application, which will be taken into consideration when halls are allocated.


What are the main pros and cons?

Our video reporter hit uni campuses to ask students about their experiences of living in halls...


When can you apply for student accommodation?

It varies from uni to uni, but usually you can apply once you’ve accepted an offer. Some universities will allow you to apply for accommodation even if they’re your insurance option, though many will only open applications to you if they’re your firm choice.

Although you can’t apply while you’re still waiting for your offer, it is worth doing your research in advance so that you can make your application as soon as they open. Accommodation is usually allocated on a first-come, first-served basis – and some unis can't guarantee all first-years a place in halls.

Also be aware that unis often have deadlines for applying well ahead of your course start date (around 1 August), so don’t leave it till the last minute to make your application.


How do you apply for a place?

Applications are typically made online. You usually put down a number of preferences – your preferred accommodation residence as well as your preferred type of room (standard, ensuite, catered etc.).

Accommodation officers will do their best to match you to your preferences, but some residences will be very over-subscribed, so you’re not guaranteed to get your first choice.


What if you miss out on a place in halls?

If you make a late application for halls  if you’re applying through Clearing or end up going to your insurance choice university, for instance  you might not manage to secure a place in halls. But don’t panic! Here are some tips from current students on finding alternative accommodation, and why not getting a place in halls might not be such a bad thing…
 

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