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Halls vs home: should I stay at home and commute to university or move out into halls or other student accommodation?

Weighing up whether to move into halls or stay at home and commute to university? Students share the pros and cons of both options for anyone feeling torn over where to live

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to starting uni – and one of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make is where you want to live.

Your main choices are: Members of our sister site The Student Room (TSR) have been sharing their experiences of moving out or staying home, and giving the pros and cons of both sides for anyone who’s struggling to decide.

Visit the university life forum on The Student Room to read more questions, answers and personal experiences around being at uni.

Figure out your finances

One major advantage to staying at home and commuting is the money you could save.

“As someone who has commuted to uni by train – honestly going to uni in your home city and commuting? Do it. It's majorly expensive to live away from home at uni, juggle work, studies, pay rent, bills, food, make food etc,” comments TSR member Funtimes01_.

Don’t assume that commuting will definitely be the cheaper option though, as even if you only have to pay low or no rent living at home, you’ll also need to factor in the costs of travelling and potentially being out all day – you won’t be able to pop home for a cheap lunch if it’s a two-hour round trip to get there and back.

“Sometimes it can actually be cheaper to stay in halls…so you want to think about how much public transport will cost you, how much parking will cost [and] add on food each day,” says jonathanemptage.

Think about the distance between home and uni and the time you’ll spend travelling

The shorter your commute from home to university, the easier it will be to handle – great if you already live reasonably close to a university that you want to go to. 

“My uni is only 15 miles away so to me it seems pointless spending so much money to live there when I have a perfectly fine home to live here,” comments Lauramercier.

It’s worth bearing in mind that there may well be delays to your journey though, whether that’s unexpected traffic jams or public transport that’s running behind schedule.

SophieSmall advises thinking about “how reliable is the commute? Is it possible problems could be caused for getting there early in the morning? This could affect exams and assessments.”

The longer the journey, the more tired you’re likely to be as well – which could make it harder to keep up your motivation to study. 

“Delayed trains… might impede on your work if you want to work after uni classes or the day after [as] you might get in really late and be tired,” says Milax1x. 

Could you use your commuting time constructively?

Your commute doesn’t have to be wasted time, though – depending on your mode of transport, you could try to use it to get some work done.

“Do a bit of revision on your commute. Generally, I find commute revision is about 1/3 as efficient depending on mood,” says Personinsertname.

“So if you speed through 30 minutes of revision on your commute that would resemble 10 minutes of revision at home. Each little bit helps though,” they add.

Living at home and making friends with other students at university

Lots of TSR members who are considering staying at home and commuting have concerns about whether they’d still be able to make friends as easily as they would in halls.

“The social life is a big part of student life – societies and clubs usually meet up in the evening to train and for socials. Then there are house parties and hall parties that you'll probably miss out on if you’re not around,” comments jonathanemptage.

On the other hand, Lydia from York St John University shares that “I know lots of people who commute and they still have a full university experience.”

“When on campus for lectures you can socialise with your course mates and friends. [And] societies often have a specific day to meet and so you could very easily go to this after your lectures when you are in already,” Lydia finishes.

“I think commuting makes it harder to go on nights out and socialise with course mates. But one of my friends commutes from the outskirts of Sheffield and we’re really close,” says Chandni from Sheffield Hallam University

“I tend to just go to uni and get my work done and socialise outside more than at uni so it can work and I wouldn't worry about it too much,” finishes Chandni.

And while you might not meet flatmates if you’re living at home, you’ll still meet other students taking your course.

“You'll still be able to have a social life. I personally interacted more with my classmates than my flatmates, and none of them lived in halls,” says 1582.

Ultimately, commuting to university might just mean that you have to make a bit more effort to form friendships.

“It doesn't mean no social life, it just means you have to go up to people on your own and say hi,” says jelly1000. “Usually on a high contact hours course, eg the sciences it’s easier to bond with course mates as you see more of each other. With humanities, it can be more hit and miss whether course mates bond closely but you can still make some friends by talking to people.”

Get an idea of your daily timetable

Lots of university courses have lectures and classes happening throughout the day, sometimes with very long gaps in between.

If you ended up with a big gap in your timetable as a commuter, it’s worth thinking about how you’d spend that time – would you be happy to study in the university library, for example?

“You may have a lecture from 9am-11am, then have a 3-4 hour break before your final lecture (this happened to me for at least one module every year),” says SophieSmall. 

“What will you do during that time? Will you commute back home and then commute back in? Do you think you'll be able to study in the library effectively throughout that time without getting bored?”

Home comforts vs more independence

There are certain perks to living at home that you might miss if you moved out – other people to reliably pitch in with everyday tasks such as cooking and cleaning, for example.

If you commute, “your days will be long and probably tiring… but when you get home you are HOME, your own bed, tea with family, the lot,” says katie.mayne.

On the other hand, you might be desperate to taste a bit more independence and freedom.

“Your parents might be cool but they could enforce things like curfews and not let you go out if you have a 9am lecture the next day,” says jonathanemptage.

When you move out, “you’re more learning how to live, like how to eat healthy, how to do laundry and things like that – it’s such a valuable experience,” they add.

Ask yourself these questions to figure out whether you’d be happier commuting to university or moving into halls

If you’re still feeling undecided, you could try writing down the pros and cons of both options.

“It's definitely a personal choice!” says Ana from the University of Liverpool. “However, you definitely won't be disadvantaged if you pick one over the other - it really is down to what you're most comfortable doing.

"What really helped me when I was deciding whether to commute or live at university was writing a big pros and cons list. It was nice to visually see the benefits and drawbacks of commuting or staying, and it made my decision a lot easier to make."

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help decide whether to commute to university or move into halls or other student accommodation:
  • How much money (if any) would you save if you commuted to university, factoring in travel and food costs?
  • How far would you have to travel each day and how long would it take?
  • Would your commute be reliable?
  • Could you use your commuting time to study or would it be dead time?
  • Would you be worried about missing out on social events/opportunities to make more friends?
  • Would you be comfortable with studying at university if you had to hang around for several hours between lectures?
  • Would you prefer to keep your home comforts or have more independence?

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