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Settling in at university is such a crucial part of your overall student experience and choosing which accommodation is suitable for you based on your budget and lifestyle is key. Choosing where you are going to live is one of the most exciting and important decisions you will make. To ensure this process is smooth as possible, we have noted a few key points to ensure that you make an informed decision.
High-level things to consider:
- You can opt to live at university residence, private accommodation, rent a flat or you may even choose to live at home.
- Can you afford it? It helps to do thorough research on costs, the advantages and disadvantages of each option. If your are sponsored by a bursary it is adviseable to find out if accomodation is covered and if so how much exactly, in order to plan budget correctly.
- Is location important? Do you want to live in the city or in the suburbs? Do you want to be able to walk to campus or are you happy to drive or take public transport? And if you’re happy to drive or take public transport, have you considered traffic? Your timetable and how this might affect travel time.
- If you’re choosing the university residence root, it is advisable that you do the accommodation application simultaneously or after the course application. However, it’s probably best to check with the respective university student housing on their policy.
Residence (managed by university management)
University residences are usually large blocks of flats housing hundreds of students, with individually furnished bedrooms organized around corridors or apartments with a shared kitchen, dining hall, bathroom, tv area, etc.
- They are usually managed by the university or in partnership with a private company, and the quality is generally good as they have to comply with health and safety.
- Many universities guarantee a place in residences for full-time first-year students and international postgraduates, as long as you meet application deadlines.
- Bills – university residences are usually popular among new students who are living away from home for the first time. All the bills are usually included, utilities, maintenance, food (if you will be applying for a catered residence). So, you know exactly what you are budgeting for, and it’s easy to arrange your accommodation by applying directly to the university – normally online.
- Catering – If you live in a catered residence, you can be sure that all your three meals will be catered for. This is mostly for first-year residences but if you’re in your second year, then there is an option to live in a self-catering residence which can be a great option if you want to practice your Masterchef skills or you’re simply tired of res food.
- University life – as they’re typically located on or near campus, living at res puts you at the centre of student life so it’s easier to access and get the holistic experience of university life. It’s a great way to make friends and to get involved in social activities.
- Convenient facilities you need (for example a laundrette) are usually on-site, and the university accommodation team is on hand when it comes to maintenance.
- Paying more? When it comes to university manages residences, you’re mostly paying for convenience, this means that you might find yourself paying more at a university residence than you would in private accommodation.
- Roommates – you don’t get to choose who your roommates will be. Things can quickly get tricky if you don’t get along/agree with your roommates.
- Peace and quiet – Residences aren’t the place to be if you value your peace and quiet because there might be a lot of activities happening.
If the route of university-managed residence does not sound like something you would enjoy, private accommodation might just be the answer. It usually accommodates around four/ five people or even more. This is also the option followed by most students from the second year onwards, but also by some first years. Another good example of this might be a commune.
Private accommodation offers most benefits of residences but you have to book a room directly with the specific accommodation you’re interested in – and most have easy online booking systems. It is important to note that some private accommodations are affiliated with institutions, while others are privately owned. It is always advisable to first check the university-approved or affiliated accommodation.
- Choosing who to live with – One advantage is getting to choose who you live with (for second-year students this usually means moving in with friends made in the first year), which can make for a better experience.
- Choosing where to live – Another benefit is that you’ll have more choice over where to live. You’ll be further from campus, but the popular student areas of most university cities are served by good transport links, as well as lots of shops, entertainment, and food outlets.
- Independence – Like any other living place, private accommodation has rules but there’s relatively more freedom than residences i.e. not having to sign out visitors at a specific time or eat at a specific time due to dining hall rules.
- The length of the lease can be shorter than the 12 months, which is common when signing a regular rental agreement i.e. 10 month lease covering the academically active period of the year.
- Bills – Usually the rent is cheaper than residences, but you must remember that you’ll be responsible for paying your bills. It’ll be up to you to sort your payments for things like utilities, Wi-Fi access, TV license and in some cases, buying your furniture. Please note however that there are university-approved or affiliated accommodation places that cover wifi in the rent, whcih might be slightly more expensive than places that dont have wifi.
- You need to budget carefully! As the manager of your finances, it is your responsibility to make sure all expenses are paid for before or on the arranged time.
- Maintenance – You also need to be comfortable getting in touch with your landlord or letting the agent to sort any issues or arrange repairs. Be sure to read and understand your contract and be aware of your rights as a tenant.
- Deposit – last but not least, some landlords may require an upfront deposit of either one/two-month rent price. You, therefore, need to make sure you plan upfront for this money.
This involves moving out on your own or into a shared house or flat with friends (or even strangers). You can find places to rent through word of mouth, websites, newspapers, or on student noticeboards on campus.
This is not much different from private accommodation except renting is not necessarily designed in a way that is student accommodation friendly, unlike private accommodation which prioritizes that.
- Renting gives you a lot more independence than other styles of accommodation, helping you become responsible and self-sufficient through paying your bills, sharing cleaning duties and dealing with landlords.
- You can choose where you live – close or far from campus.
- You have more freedom to “live” as you choose (although it helps to sit down and set a few basic rules with housemates).
- It can be expensive – particularly if you choose to live on your own. You will also need to factor in additional costs, such as transport, food, furniture and bills.
- Flatmate disputes can get ugly – If you’re renting with others or strangers, be wary that it can be difficult sharing a place with people who have a different lifestyle, and perhaps a different idea of what constitutes clean!
- You have to deal with landlords and real estate agents, which isnt always a pleasant introduction to “adulting”.