Choosing Accommodation

One of your first university experiences will be unpacking your belongings into the room that you will come to call home for your freshman year. It will likely be small, basic and, after a few nights out, very messy, but it will lead to great memories, friendships, and occasionally, work. With a wide range of accommodation available, it is important that you select the type that most suits your financial and lifestyle preferences.

Expectations of university accommodation

Naturally, accommodation varies between universities. Fans of American sitcoms and films may immediately assume that a two-to-a-room policy exists, and you will be paired up with a random student for the year. This is a worrying prospect for many, as there is no guarantee the roommate will be to your taste, and even if they were, spending a year together in the same room limits privacy. However, university applicants needn’t worry, as multiple-occupancy is a rarity in UK halls of residence. There are still a variety of accommodation options to select from which, although varied between universities, often follow similar formats. Typically speaking, you will spend your first year of university in halls of residence, which are not dissimilar from blocks of flats, inhabited solely by students. Once you have received an offer of a placement from a university, you are likely to receive a student ID number. Using this, you can apply for your preferred accommodation. Be wary, that this usually needs to be completed by a summer deadline, and it is therefore essential that you make yourself familiar with this date. Providing you submit your application by the deadline, you are very likely to receive your first choice accommodation. However, if the university you end up attending was your insurance choice, you may initially be required to share a twin room, until a single-occupancy one becomes available. Although you may have a very definite idea of your desired domestic set-up, it is worth considering the various possibilities, as each have their perks and their drawbacks.

If you are planning to attend an open day at a given university, it is worth doing some preliminary research into the accommodation they offer. That way, you may be able to take a tour of particular halls of residence. Due to time constraints, you are unlikely to be able to visit all of the halls available, therefore pre-planning can help you narrow down your choice. For example, if finance is to be your key factor in deciding, you could research into the costs of the various halls of residence, enabling you to cross off any that are not financially viable. When touring the halls, it is worth noting that it may not provide an entirely accurate reflection of the accommodation you will receive there. As some halls of residence are spread across numerous buildings, it is likely that various types of accommodation are available there. However, taking a tour gives you an important feel for the surroundings, giving you an insight into the student experience you can expect to receive there.

Different types of accommodation available

As mentioned, types of accommodation vary from university to university, and halls to halls. However, the options on offer tend to follow a similar format. Typically, basic room types cover standard single rooms, often with the option for a personal or shared wash-basin, en-suite rooms, and premium rooms, with double beds. Each enhancement understandably will come at extra cost, and many students will therefore select the cheapest option. Some halls of residence may only offer one type of room, whereas other, larger halls may offer a variety. A combination of chosen halls and their price will likely determine how many people you are sharing with. For example, the lower priced accommodation may require you to share kitchen and bathroom facilities with as many as 19 other people, who also live on your floor, whereas options at the other end of the price range may only require a kitchen to be shared amongst 6 students. This will all be specified in accommodation brochures which are available on the websites of many universities.

Depending on the halls of residence you plan on applying for, your hand may be slightly forced regarding which room-type to select. However, if your halls of residence offer more than one option, you will have to consider your personal preferences. For most students, university will be their first time away from home for any significant period, and as such, making domestic choices before experiencing any of the options can be difficult. It is important to bear in mind that this decision should simply reflect the surroundings you are likely to find yourself most comfortable in. Some people may find that more personalised living is preferable, and an en-suite room and a kitchen shared with 5 flatmates offers the most privacy and personal space. Others, however, may believe that sharing kitchens and bathrooms in a flat for twenty is a great way of saving money, as well as a quick way to make lots of new friends. The rules of percentages suggest that you are much likelier to find people with common interests in a group of twenty, than one of five. It is a common student fear that they will be placed in accommodation with people they share no common ground with. You just have to remember that everyone is in the same boat, and they likely have the same fears as you. Facebook is a great way of discovering who else has applied for the same halls as you, and can be an ideal icebreaker to ensure there are some familiar faces when you arrive.

Practicalities

All bills are generally included in your rent, which can often be paid in set installments throughout the year through a standing order. Some halls of residence offer catered accommodation at extra cost, though this does guarantee hot, nutritious food, which you otherwise might deprive yourself of! If catering is something that you desire, research into which residence complexes offer this is important.

Medical and family (if the student has dependents) considerations are likely to be the only factors affecting your application, provided it is submitted on time. Not all students are able to receive their first-choice accommodation, and in such a minority case, you will be allocated to either a back-up choice, or another available option. Occasionally, halls of residence may have reached their full capacity, and some applicants may be allocated to a shared apartment or house which is owned either by the university or a private landlord.

Ensuring you are comfortable in your accommodation is important, as this can form the social foundation of your university experience.