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Should I choose university halls? Top tips from students

You’ll probably have a couple of halls options to pick from when sorting out first year accommodation. What can you learn from these university students’ experience when choosing halls?

We've also got advice to help you weigh up all accommodation options from private rental accomodation to living at home. Plus, what to do if you miss out on a place in halls... 

Apply early

Accommodation is usually allocated on a first come, first served basis – and some unis can't guarantee all first year students a place in halls. If you have specific preferences, get your choices in early so that they can be considered.

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

If you want a place at halls then you need to apply ASAP because places can be limited. First Year Games Design And Development Student | Swansea Metropolitan University

Shared bathrooms aren’t that bad!

For some, availability of an en suite bathroom is their dealbreaker. But are you really willing to sacrifice more money and being farther away from university if you can’t get one?

I didn't get my first choice accommodation but I have really enjoyed living in halls this year. If you were paying the same price, I definitely think it's more useful to live closer to the university than it is to have an en suite bathroom say, as those who live further away say it is quite a hassle getting into uni, and also means getting up earlier! Shared bathrooms are really not that bad at all. First Year Maths Student | University Of Bristol

Don't worry if you don't get your first choice!

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, en suite, catered, etc).

Accommodation officers will do their best to match you to your preferences. Keep in mind that some residences will be very oversubscribed, so you’re not guaranteed to get your first choice.

Be aware that you may not get your ideal choices for accommodation. For example, I asked to be in a mixed flat and ended up with an all-girls flat. This didn't prove to be a bad thing though, as we all became really close. First Year English Student | University Of Glamorgan

Don’t overlook the cheapest halls

Different types of accommodation comes in a range of different shapes and sizes – and, accordingly, varying price ranges. If your student budget is looking tight, going with the cheapest or basic halls option can free up some cash to go towards other living costs – this might be worth considering if you’ll be going home at weekends a lot.

The accommodation I am in was one of the cheapest, and although it is quite basic, I would not have wanted to live anywhere else. The general atmosphere is great, it's always lively and it’s a good place to be social and meet new people. The only bad thing is the noise. It can get really noisy in the early hours of the morning when people come back from a night out and walk past being really loud. First Year Religion And Theology Student | University Of Manchester

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Close to uni is ideal

Location is another important factor to weigh up when choosing accommodation, and often impacts how much you’ll pay. This can be something many students under-appreciate once they move off-campus and have to travel in for class (an extra cost to consider, after your first year).

Most halls will be located on or close to campus, but this can vary from university to university. Some halls may be farther into town (including private halls operated by third-party providers) or simply farther away from where lectures take place if it’s a large campus.

Do some research into where your lectures will take place and what your timetable may look like. If you don’t mind waking up a bit earlier and you can walk (or cycle) to class, you could save some money living further away from the action.

I personally loved living in halls, it is the best way to meet people. Also, it is really nice to be able to roll out of bed five minutes before a class and still get there in time. First Year Diagnostic Radiography Student | Queen Margaret University

There can be cheaper options

While rent is inclusive of bills, and contracts are slightly shorter than in the private rented sector, living in university halls is still overall likely to be the more expensive accommodation option overall. Note, some private landlords include bills in their rent (but check this before you agree to anything).

While living in halls in your first year can make the transition to living away from home easier – as well as putting you in the heart of things, on campus – if you’re happy to rent a private house or flat with other students, your housing office can help match you up with students or find a spare room in a property.

Check out our tips for finding housemates to rent with in first year.

I had already done research about the accommodation before deciding to attend the university. I believe that local private landlord accommodation is definitely cheaper compared to halls of residence especially if you're a working student like myself who is solely responsible for supporting yourself financially. First Year Biological Sciences Student | University Of East London

Factor in hidden costs

Do your research, apply early and think about issues such as location, catering and extra costs – you’ve got a much better chance of picking the first-year accommodation that’s right for you. Try to visit different halls of residence at university open days to get a feel for the atmosphere. Chat to current students living in these to find out the pros and cons. Would they choose the same halls if they had the chance to choose again?  

And if you don't manage to get a place in halls, don't panic! Here's how to seek alternative accommodation

I end up spending a lot of money on bus passes in order to go to lectures/go out. Third Year Veterinary Medicine Student | University Of Liverpool

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