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Choosing student accommodation

Week 20

22 January 2024

It’s time to think about where you’re going to live while at uni. Although most universities will offer first year students a place in halls, our guide covers all the student accommodation options available to you.

For many, moving away from home for the first time can seem a little daunting. But the main thing to remember is that you’re not the only one! Pretty much everyone else starting uni in September will be in the same position. So, if you think about it, you’ve already got something in common with your new classmates or housemates.

Before we get started, listen to some students talk about their experiences with different types of student accommodation.

There's loads of information available online, so here we've briefly summarised your options and included some useful links.

Living in student halls

University halls

Most universities offer accommodation in their halls for all first year students. Often, if you’ve received an unconditional firm or conditional firm offer from your first choice uni, you’ll get the opportunity to apply for accommodation first. But make sure you check with your chosen uni to find out what their policy is, as well as their application process.

There are enormous benefits to living in university halls when you’re a first year student. It’s a ‘safe’ way to get used to living away from home. Plus you’ll get extra support from your university’s accommodation team. It’s also a great way to meet and get to know new people as soon as you arrive (check out any Facebook groups for your halls so you can chat with your new neighbours way before you even move in).

Some uni halls will be fairly close to the main campus(es), or will at least be near a decent bus route. Some will not. Always check on your chosen uni’s website to be absolutely sure of where they’re located.

Living with loads of other students will mean it’s likely to be noisy at times. If you think this will be an issue for you, check with your uni as some will have quieter blocks for those who would prefer to live somewhere less rowdy.

Following on from this - you also don't get to choose who you live with. Not necessarily an issue, but something to bear in mind.

Practically all student halls have shared kitchens (although you may be able to opt for catered halls), so be prepared for what that may entail. 

It’s also worth remembering that nine times out of ten you’ll be sharing a bathroom with lots of others. Again, not really an issue, but if you think you’d rather not, some halls will have en-suite rooms. Be prepared for these to cost more in rent, though.

Check out Solent's halls of residence to give you an idea of what to expect

Private student halls

As well as university-owned halls, you can also live in private halls. These are much the same as uni halls, but are owned and managed by a private company.

They can be more expensive than uni-managed halls. And because they’re managed privately, make sure you check your contract and cancellation policy, and also what your rent actually covers so you don’t get any surprise bills at the end of term.

If you’re studying in a city that has more than one university, you’ll probably find that you’ll be sharing with people who don’t go to your uni. Be sure to check where they’re located, too. Like uni-managed halls, some may be right near your main campus, others may be across the city.

If you want to live in private student halls, ask your chosen uni – they’ll have a list of those nearby.

Renting in the private sector

If you don't want to live in halls in your first year, you can look for shared private accommodation, or rent a room as a lodger in a private house with a resident landlord. It’s probably a good idea to keep this in mind anyway, as you’ll likely be needing to think about renting privately in your second year.

There will be tons of properties near uni for rent by students. Check with your chosen university for a list of properties that have been vetted by them as suitable for students. For example, Solent University, in partnership with the University of Southampton and Southampton City Council, has an online directory.

Remember that renting privately means you have to consider things like paying bills (as these are unlikely to be covered in your rent), tenancy agreements and deposits. Shelter has a good guide on what to look out for when renting privately, as does Solent:

Read Solent Uni’s private sector accommodation information

Living at home

Of course, you could be studying at a university in your home town and decide to live at home. This will inevitably save you a ton of money on rent, even if your parents do ask for something towards your keep.

It’ll also mean that it’s highly likely you’ll still get your meals cooked for you and your laundry done. But remember, if you’re living in your parents’ house, you’ll still be living by their rules, and they may not take kindly to you stumbling in at 3am three nights in a row during freshers’ week or beyond!

Also, while it won’t necessarily make it more difficult to meet new friends, being out of ‘studentville’ may mean you have to meet friends in different ways. As well as getting to know your classmates, have a look at joining clubs or societies where you’ll meet people who share a common interest and still get a taste of student life.

Tasks for this week

  • Start looking at all the accommodation options available to you at your chosen uni(s)
  • Check your chosen uni’s policy on accommodation for first year students.
  • Familiarise yourself with where halls are located in relation to where you’ll be studying.
  • If you’re looking at private accommodation, make sure you’re aware of your rights as a tenant.