Should I choose university halls? Top tips from students
You’ll probably have a couple of halls options to pick from when sorting out first year accommodation. What can you learn from these university students’ experience when choosing halls?
Accommodation is usually allocated on a first come, first served basis – and some unis can't guarantee all first year students a place in halls. If you have specific preferences, get your choices in early so that they can be considered.
Also, be aware that unis often have deadlines for applying well ahead of your course start date (around the start of August), so don’t leave it until the last minute to make your application.
Shared bathrooms aren’t that bad!For some, availability of an en suite bathroom is their dealbreaker. But are you really willing to sacrifice more money and being farther away from university if you can’t get one?
Don't worry if you don't get your first choice!
Applications are typically made online. You usually put down a number of preferences – your preferred accommodation residence as well as your preferred type of room (standard, en suite, catered, etc).
Accommodation officers will do their best to match you to your preferences. Keep in mind that some residences will be very oversubscribed, so you’re not guaranteed to get your first choice.
Don’t overlook the cheapest halls
Different types of accommodation comes in a range of different shapes and sizes – and, accordingly, varying price ranges. If your student budget is looking tight, going with the cheapest or basic halls option can free up some cash to go towards other living costs – this might be worth considering if you’ll be going home at weekends a lot.
Close to uni is ideal
Location is another important factor to weigh up when choosing accommodation, and often impacts how much you’ll pay. This can be something many students under-appreciate once they move off-campus and have to travel in for class (an extra cost to consider, after your first year).
Most halls will be located on or close to campus, but this can vary from university to university. Some halls may be farther into town (including private halls operated by third-party providers) or simply farther away from where lectures take place if it’s a large campus.
Do some research into where your lectures will take place and what your timetable may look like. If you don’t mind waking up a bit earlier and you can walk (or cycle) to class, you could save some money living further away from the action.
There can be cheaper options
While rent is inclusive of bills, and contracts are slightly shorter than in the private rented sector, living in university halls is still overall likely to be the more expensive accommodation option overall. Note, some private landlords include bills in their rent (but check this before you agree to anything).
While living in halls in your first year can make the transition to living away from home easier – as well as putting you in the heart of things, on campus – if you’re happy to rent a private house or flat with other students, your housing office can help match you up with students or find a spare room in a property.
Check out our tips for finding housemates to rent with.
Factor in hidden costs
Do your research, apply early and think about issues such as location, catering and extra costs – you’ve got a much better chance of picking the first-year accommodation that’s right for you. Try to visit different halls of residence at university open days to get a feel for the atmosphere. Chat to current students living in these to find out the pros and cons. Would they choose the same halls if they had the chance to choose again?
And if you don't manage to get a place in halls, don't panic! Here's how to seek alternative accommodation.