The differences between halls and private accommodation

When it comes to looking at where you’ll live as a student, most people choose between university halls of residence or private student accommodation. Here are some of the key differences to look out for.

How do I choose university accommodation?

There’s no one correct way to choose where you live. There are lots of variables – like your budget, where the accommodation is located and how modern it is – so think about what’s most important to you. Use the UCAS accommodation search to see what halls are available at the unis you’re interested in – and take a look at any info your chosen university can provide about local private accommodation too.

Here are some questions to inspire your accommodation search, and if you’re wondering how other students decided where to live, feel free to have a chat with students who are already at uni.

1. Do you have to stay in halls for the first year of uni?

This varies – some universities have more halls than others. You might spend multiple years in halls, or maybe no time at all. Usually you’ll find places in halls fill up quicker than places in private accommodation, but there’s usually a lot of accommodation available at universities – so think about what you might prefer.

You can find out more about each university you’re interested in by checking the info they have on their website about accommodation.

2. Who do you want to live with?

Halls – usually your housemates are allocated by your university. Though you may be able to state a preference on your application if you have any requirements or you’d like to live with someone you already know.

Private – you may be able to choose your own housemates in private accommodation, e.g. if a few of your friends are going to the same uni. A lot of students go into private accommodation in their second year, when they can choose to live with people they’ve gotten to know during their first year. Or if you end up applying for accommodation later on the application cycle – and as a result there are no more places in halls left for your first year – you may be able to join with other students who are going straight into private accommodation.

3. Where do you want to live?

Halls – are often located on campus, or nearby, or with direct student transport to your campus (with student-friendly rates). Or your halls might be closer to the town centre than your campus is – or they could be tucked away somewhere quieter, but containing its own amenities (like a shop, refectory, Students’ Union bar – maybe even a gym and sports court).

Private – student houses or flats could be situated anywhere in town really – from family-friendly neighbourhoods to lively areas with nightlife or entertainment venues close by.

4. How long do you want to live there?

Halls – usually have lengths of tenancy that match the academic year. This might be September to June for example, and then you might move back home for summer before returning to university. Your university might offer different lengths of tenancy though – get in touch with them to find out more.

Private – tenancy lengths vary for private student accommodation. You may be able to stay for a full calendar year if you wanted to remain in your university town or city over the summer. Or you might be able to live in the same place for multiple years if you’re happy with the property and the people you live with.

5. What shared spaces would you like?

Halls – you’ll either have a shared bathroom or your own en-suite shower room. You probably won’t have any outdoor space that’s exclusive to you and your housemates. But you might have a courtyard or green spaces outside that are shared with other student halls – or your halls might be right on campus.

Private – you’ll probably have a shared bathroom and a private garden or courtyard, which could be great if you like growing things, barbecues or spending time outside.

Ok, what should I do next?

Have a look around! Imagine yourself living in different kinds of accommodation. And make sure you visit or take a virtual tour of your accommodation options so you can envisage what it’ll be like.