If university wasn’t expensive enough already, there’s that small issue of finding somewhere to live. Accommodation generally ranges from something similar to Harry’s living arrangement in the Dursley household, to apartments with a balcony and scenic view. I’m going to talk you through what’s on offer from halls to privately rented accommodation.
Halls of Residence
Most first years will move into university owned accommodation. This is a great way to meet fellow freshers but a room isn’t necessarily guaranteed if the university is your insurance choice. The choice of rooms on offer is generally: shared, single, single with en-suite or studio.
I chose single with en-suite as I really like having my own bathroom (more room to store all the makeup!) and there were more of these on offer at my university. These rooms will usually be within a flat of about 6-8 people. Personally, I think studios are a little isolating as you’re less likely to see your flatmates – although I guess this could also be a positive for some people!
You can see a full tour of my uni room here.
Catered vs Self Catered
When I was initially looking around universities, I always thought I’d go catered. My cooking skills left a lot to be desired and I figured it would be easier than having to produce three meals a day on my own.
In the end, I went self-catered though and I’m really glad I did. It depends on your university but the set meal times can be quite restrictive and often don’t include lunch. There was also a very small chance of me making breakfast in time, especially on a weekend. It turns out cooking isn’t all that difficult and it’s not too hard fending for yourself. I ended up cooking Christmas dinner two years in a row for my housemates, so anything is possible. If all else fails, rally round the flat and put in an order to Dominos pronto.
I’ve done a tour of uni kitchen and living areas here.
Privately Owned Accommodation
Sometimes there isn’t enough space in halls of residence for all first years (Exeter, I’m looking at you), so you might have to go for a flat run by a company. It’s pretty much the same setup as halls but check what you will be paying. Often, university owned accommodation charges you for fewer weeks of the year, in line with academic terms.
In contrast, privately owned places are likely to bill you for most of the year so you could still be paying for your room whilst you’re back home in the holidays. This type of accommodation is popular with international students for this reason, as they may need somewhere to stay once term is over. The standard of accommodation ranges as much as university halls. My sister is in a brand new place so the flat is lovely and modern but there’s also some less desirable flats owned by other companies.
Once you’ve survived your first year of uni, students tend to move into shared, privately owned houses. There’s this panic in the air in the first few weeks of term with everyone trying to find future housemates. Try not to worry if you’re not BFFs with your current flatmates, ask people on your course or in societies if they’re looking for another housemate.
It’s a bit of a balancing act finding both a house and housemates that are compatible – right number of rooms, price, location etc. It all seems to come together in the end but start looking around December/January so you don’t have to go for the only house left that’s miles from your lecture hall. If you know any second/third years they can be helpful in recommending houses and landlords too. Some houses are rented by letting agents and this can come with more fees but also the reassurance of a company name. I went through a private landlord though who has been renting to students for years and he was a fantastic.
If finding a house and housemates is all a bit too much hassle, then you can always move into one of the privately owned flats mentioned above. This also comes without all the trouble of sorting out bills etc. as it’s an all-inclusive rent.
Watch a video tour of my room here.
Finding university accommodation is a bit of a pain but it’s worth putting some time into. It’s daunting moving to a new place and living with people you’ve probably never met. The bare brick walls in my room in first year was more prison cell than chic NYC loft vibe, but once you’ve popped some photos up and put your duvet on the bed it’s your new room. If you’re still not keen on your living arrangement, then fear not as you’ll have basically moved into the library by the end of final year anyway.