students moving into halls of residence

Halls or home?

Finding student accommodation might seem like a minefield at first, but narrowing down your priorities will help you pick the right pad.

You’ve got your place at university or college but now you need to find somewhere to live. How do you decide what suits you, particularly if you’re moving to a place you don’t know?

Living in

If you’re studying in or near your hometown then the cheapest option is probably to live at home, especially if cost is an issue.

Aside from the financial benefits, the plus side of not fleeing the nest is that you’ll still get to eat all your home-cooked meals, never have to queue for the shower and potentially have a much higher standard of accommodation. And of course, if you’re a mature student or have a family of your own then you’ll almost certainly be studying near where you live, and staying in the family home.

On the down side, students living at home are not entitled to as much student loan money as those who live out, and you could be missing out on the social aspects of living out or on campus.

Living out

If you want to or have to live away from home, there are all kinds of options when it comes to student accommodation, depending on where your university or college is located, and what sort of housing it offers.

Many offer housing on campus, or even manage accommodation off campus for students. There are lots of different permutations – you might get the choice of an individual room with its own en-suite bathroom and catered facilities, or you could share a room with another student with a communal kitchen and shared bathrooms.

Alternatively, you could choose to live in private rented accommodation, either on your own or with other students. You could even lodge with a family or people who aren’t studying.

The option that will suit you best depends on how much you have to spend on accommodation, plus your preferences when it comes to lifestyle. Whatever you choose, make sure you find out in advance if your rent covers any of the bills as well – you don’t want to move in and then find out that these costs are on top.

And don’t forget to start looking for somewhere to live as soon as your place to study is confirmed. If you are applying for university or college accommodation, get your forms back on time. If you’re looking to live out, go and visit the area and start scoping out your options as soon as you can.

Saving money

According to the NUS, the average cost of a room in university-owned accommodation in the UK doubled in just ten years, increasing by 97 per cent, from £59.17 per week in 2001/2 to £117.67 in 2011/12.

Living out isn’t cheap, but if you are smart with your money you can make savings on a lot of your costs. For starters, the more people you share with, the more money you can save. For example, each house only needs one television licence, and once there are two or more people in a house the council tax fee is fixed.

You can also save money by clubbing together for shared household items such as loo roll and cleaning products and buying in bulk – which is another way to buy cheaper.

If you are prepared to live a bit further away from your university or college then you might be able to find cheaper accommodation than digs which are nearer, although don’t forget to factor in the costs of transport to get in to study each day – which might even out the total cost in the long run.

Be a good housemate

Whether there are two of you sharing a room, or ten of you in a communal house, you may well not have picked each other to live with – especially if you are in your first year of study.

Eventually, every house finds it own level, but to start with it pays to be as considerate to your other housemates as you can. In short – especially if you haven’t shared before – this means clearing up after yourself, washing your own dishes, leaving the place tidy, not hogging the bathroom, and respecting the quiet times that other people need to sleep and study.

Don’t be surprised if you don’t get on with everyone, but if you find that you’re really clashing with someone then try to communicate and compromise with them if at all possible. If it goes too far and you feel like you or anyone else is being bullied then ask your friends, tutors or accommodation staff for help. You might not find your soul mate at university, but you’ve got a right to live as peacefully as possible while you do what you’ve gone there to do – which is get your qualifications.

Happy house hunting!

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