Living at University
Studying at university can throw up some interesting dilemmas for you. Do you stay at home or do you stay in university accommodation or student halls? It’s a question that dominates every uni student’s thinking.
University living can be a weird thing, especially if you have never spent much time away from your family. For most students, living at university is their first experience with true independence, which can be daunting, as they need to get to grips with university living costs.
Student halls of residence are accommodation buildings that are owned or run by the institution themselves and are a mainstay for students of a university living at home, who want to stay in halls. Another advantage is that they are either on-campus or very much close to it, meaning life is made a lot easier for students who choose to roll out of bed and into a lecture; a long commute is never an option, especially if you need to take university living costs in the UK into account.
Most universities try to allocate a dorm room to their first years; it is only in rare cases where there isn’t a space for a first-year student. If this is the case the university can help students find temporary or safe accommodation.
Certain institutions also offer third or last year students a place in halls as they understand this is one of the hardest years of the degree with dissertation and final project deadlines, however, it depends on the institution. Most universities and colleges prefer students to find their own means of living arrangements during their second year.
Halls are generally very big buildings, and depending on the institution can hold thousands of students. Most dorms will host 6 to 10 students with a communal kitchen or bathroom. The advantage of being surrounded with lots of people is that you’ll never be alone and there will be someone there if you need help with a financial, personal or academic issue.
The other option which is widely used at university is to privately rent a house for student accommodation, apartment or flat during the second or third year, that can prove to be a somewhat costly venture for people that are living at university, however, so you may look to skip this option in order to keep an eye on your university cost of living.
The majority of students live with other students to help reduce the rent and to also seek the feeling of security and social interaction. Universities usually have a list of trusted and safe estate agents or private landlords which students use over and over.
When looking for accommodation outside of halls, always take someone else with you, and if you’re able, somebody from your family or friends circle. This way, they will look at the property with a different perspective and can ask questions that may slip your mind.
Once you move in, take pictures of the entire house, including the front and back gardens so that you have proof of the state of the property before your time there, this will stand you in very good stead and will make sure that you're not being taken advantage of by the landlord.
If any problems occur during your stay, you should keep a log of communication with your landlord and report any issues straight away – don’t leave them to slowly get worse. If you are having problems talking with your landlord, or not enjoying your stay, talk about the situation with your flatmates or you can visit your accommodation office at the university for advice.
Choose a property that is a short distance from the university if you can, to help your budget and to shorten the length of your commute.
If you’re able to financially, and emotionally, then living alone can also be a good option. If you’re quite an independent person and prefer to live on your own, don’t feel obliged to have to live with 4 or 5 other housemates. The advantages to living alone are that you have your own space and won’t have to rely on others during your stay.
A downside is that you might feel lonely from time to time or a lack of security. Ensure you choose a flat or apartment which is in a safe area and have friends, family or other students that live nearby in case of emergencies or if you fancy being social.
Again, always log your communication with the landlord and seek any advice from your university if any problems do occur. Most accommodation near universities is designed for a group of students to live, to help with costs and to house all of the thousands of students that attend the institution, therefore, finding a place to live for one person may be problematic, and you could end up living further from campus than your classmates.
Living alone at university is a totally fine alternative for people as well, it doesn't mean that you are becoming old or anything or that you need to start looking into senior living university.
Commuting from home
Another option which is used by many students is to choose to live at home and commute to university. Obviously, the main issue with this type of accommodation is how far you live from campus and how long it will take you to get there. If you live in the same city or town, or are able to commute easily there and back then this is a good decision. Living at home during university holds the advantages of not having to move far away from your current life.
Moving away from home can feel really scary, and even though living at home can seem the perfect choice for most students, you need to ensure it's right for you. If you have to travel for more than 2 hours a day to get to the university via public transport or driving, then this isn’t ideal. If you had to rush to university to hand in a deadline that had been moved forward or to return a library book to avoid a fine, then this will only be a problem – not a blessing.
Clearing or last minute changes
If you end up going through Clearing or Adjustment and find that you are attending a different university, you will have to speak to them about your accommodation issues to ensure you have somewhere to live when you start the next term.
As you are being offered a place later than most applicants your situation may differ, however, universities know how to act during this situation! If you have chosen to live in halls, or at home but changed your mind, speak with your university or the accommodation office for more information.
Furthermore, if you have chosen to live with a group of students via a private landlord but change your mind, this can be difficult to alter, generally due to security deposits and rent arrangements.
If you do change your mind, then you need to speak to your potential housemates as soon as possible in case they need to find a new tenant, or speak to their landlord right away.
A change of heart at the last minute can’t always be done, and you may have to live where you arranged regardless, but it can also affect relationships in the future, especially if you and your friends got into different universities. Make sure you know everything that there is to know about accommodation.
The majority of first-year undergraduates choose to live on university campus when they start university. Living in halls has its perks if students are attending university far from home, and can help them ease into student life.
Universities make it easy for you
One great thing about living in halls is that students only pay accommodation fees, but included within these fees are electricity, gas, the internet, water and rent bills, so you don’t have to worry about each and every bill and how to pay it.
Universities try to make it easy for undergraduates and especially first years if this is their first time moving away from home. However, it is easy to take this for granted, and if you move into your own place or shared accommodation for the second and third year, you’ll have to get to grips with the different types of bills you will be faced with.
Everybody watches everyone’s back
As previously mentioned, your dorm mates can become really good friends, especially as the selection process isn’t based on your academic or personal preferences. Students are picked at random, so you might find that your dorm neighbours are studying different degrees or have different interests. Even with this, you will meet friends for life at university, and a lot of students like to care for their own so if anybody is in trouble, needs a helping hand, or needs to be put into bed after a heavy night of drinking – someone will be there.
How much does living at university cost?
So how much are living costs at university? This will obviously depend on where you stay when you're at university and what your room or house is situated.
You need to factor in a number of different things before you panic too much, such as:
- Weekly food shop
- Possible transportation costs
- Nights out
Not all of these will relate to you, but it gives you a rough ballpark of what to expect at university, so make sure you keep an eye on your university finances.
What is it like living in university halls?
You will have easier access to your friends, but you will also have a shared kitchen, a shared toilet and very little space to spread out in as well, so you need to be aware of the downside as well of the upside.
However, the communal experience can be a great one and can hone a lot of communication and integrational skills as well.
Speak to previous students and see what they have to say. For some its better than living in student accommodation, student halls are a better way to spend your time and also cuts down on a lot of transportation costs as well.