How to find the right student accommodation for you

This is it. Life is good. You’re going to uni. Is it going to be the party paradise of on-campus halls, or a flat-share right in the middle of town? Maybe the cost of rent will decide, what supports on hand, or whether there’s a bus stop nearby. There’s lots to consider, so let’s break it down and make the decision easier.

Many first years will find themselves living in halls of residence, the classic uni experience – and each uni will let you know whether that’s guaranteed, or just an option. From the second year, you’ll probably have gathered a group of mates and found a house together. Sometimes this works the other way around, but what is always the case is that what you need is personal to you. You should take time to really understand what’s available, the pros and cons of each option and how that fits with how you live.

'Halls promotes independence – you’re going it alone, but you’re surrounded by people you get on well with.' First year student

Things you can do to help you find the right student accommodation:

  • Check your university website: Nobody wants to move into a room they haven’t seen, so have a stalk through the photos and find one that fits. You’ll also find answers to those all-important questions, like 'will I have my own bathroom?' or 'how far is the walk to lectures?'
  • Consider private accommodation too: Private accommodation is usually owned and run by a separate company – although some may have partnerships with unis. Many are purpose-built blocks with lots of facilities. They’ll often take students from multiple universities, so if you want diversity and to meet a totally different set of people, then this is a great choice.
  • Read the boring stuff: You’re probably renting for the first time, and student accommodation providers can be pretty strict. Make sure you read the small print, and find out whether you’re allowed to bring your pet lizard, or your 1991 VW Golf, or if you can stick your Lizzo canvas to the wall.
  • Check the bills situation: Most halls will include water and electricity in your rent, but make sure you check. You might need to pay more for things like faster internet, and you’ll need to get insurance and a TV licence. Don’t get stung by added extras.
  • What’s included: You’ll have a big shopping list (or you’ll have made one for somebody else...) of things like cutlery, kettles, lamps, and boujee posters. But check what’s already in the room and shared areas so you’re not buying things that are already there.
  • See for yourself: Make sure you go to an open day, or if you can’t see it in person watch a virtual tour. We all know that photos can be misleading, so try to get a real sense of where you might be living by asking current students.
  • Up to scratch: You can use Unipol’s National Codes to find out your town’s best accommodation options. Unipol checks a lot of stuff, so it’s always worth having a look.
  • Protect your deposit: You’ll need to hand over a deposit at the start of term, and any damages/fixes will get deducted at the end. Apart from making the decision not to smash up your room, you should also make sure your money is safe and protected. Find out how to do this by reading money.co.uk’s advice.

What are my student accommodation options?

Halls of residence

Normally situated on/near campus, they’re run by the uni and designed to be convenient and sociable. Generally, the rooms can be smaller but the kitchens are big, and bathrooms are often shared. There’ll be lots of you living together, mostly first years, so parties are going to break out pretty often.

Expect to make friends easily, but while you’re washing up your cereal bowl that somebody else has used. Again.

Halls of residence are popular. Check when registration opens and get your name down early. Your chosen uni will be on top of this – so you’ll be asked to provide your top three choices, and you’ll be able to choose between different halls based on location, price, facilities etc.

‘I’m from a small town – halls has really helped me get my social life up and running in London.’ First year student

Private halls of residence

There are also plenty of halls which aren’t necessarily run by your uni, but are still designed exclusively for students and offer a lot of variety. There are some big players, but also regionally based companies too – it’s definitely worth checking them out. They’re often in town, as they can be open to students from any university – so it’s a great way to make even more friends. You’ll get all the services you’d expect with uni halls, plus potentially more – as well as a great location.

Most private accommodation includes all heating, WiFi, and electricity in the price of your rent – so you know exactly where you stand.

If you’re looking for central, convenient living with a diverse group of students, then private halls could be the way.

Shared house/flat

If the idea of sharing a bathroom with 40 strangers, or being woken up by that same dubstep track for the third night in a row isn’t your thing, then a house might be better. 

You can rent by yourself, but most people find other students to share with. Your uni can often help with this, or there are plenty of websites to connect you to house or flat-shares.

Like private halls, you could find yourself living with students from other universities, or those in their second or third years. Most students move into houses with their mates after the first year anyway, so consider yourself a trendsetter if you follow this route.

Ask other students – and get the facts!

A great way to find out what the student accommodation is really like, is obviously to ask actual students. You can chat to students already at uni on ucas.com, and ask all the questions the websites don’t answer.