University of Essex - University Square via Flickr (CC By SA-2.0)
Having received your university offers and chosen your first and second choice, your accommodation letters will be coming through thick and fast. Hopefully, when you attended an open day you saw the accommodation on offer and have a few ideas about where you want to live. Most people in the first year choose university halls, so here we will concentrate on these.
Universities will generally give you a list of the accommodation on offer and you will have to reply with your first, second and third choices. They can nearly always guarantee that you'll be offered accommodation with them, especially at this early stage, however they may not be able to give you your first choice. They quicker you reply the more likely that you'll get your top choice.
If you want more information on the types of accommodation available, please see our University Accommodation page.
Here are a few things to think about to help you along the way:
How near are your halls from where you want to be? You may want to be five minutes from your lectures so you can roll out of bed at 8.45am, and I’m sure this is a positive for most people! However, universities such as Bath offer university accommodation both on campus and in the city, with city accommodation offering a quick walk home from a night out, which may be more up your street! Also look at where your lectures will be - universities often have a number of campuses - so, if you like, you can choose one nearer to your lectures, and perhaps make friends with those in similar subjects studying on the same campus.
Self-catered or catered
Unfortunately, not all universities offer catered accommodation, but for the most part, you can choose whether you cook your own meals in first year, or have someone cook them for you. Self-catered halls generally consist of about 6 rooms sharing a fully equipped kitchen, living room and bathroom (unless your room is en-suite) in a single flat, while catered halls consist of far more rooms, as many as 20, sharing a number of bathrooms (unless they are en-suite) and a partially equipped kitchen. In this way, catered halls offers you the opportunity to make more friends, although people being able to roam the corridors and knock on your door at any time can get a little weary. Furthermore, be warned that catered accommodation is a little bit like school dinners and eating the same thing every day can grow quite tiresome quite soon!
University or private halls
In the last few years there has been a proliferation of private accommodation, with some universities having partnerships with private accommodation firms to provide their accommodation outright. University halls are often clustered around a ‘square’, ‘campus’ or ‘village’ of their own, away from the central university campus. Private halls are generally slightly more expensive than university-owned accommodation and don’t offer catered rooms, however they are more likely to be better located and you are more likely to have your own space, with an en-suite bathroom and often your own kitchen. You might prefer this arrangement, especially when concentrating on essays and revision, however the knock-on effect of locking yourself in your room may be that it’s harder to make friends. Private owned halls may also have students from other year groups, as well as international and postgraduate students, meaning you’ll meet a wide variety of people.
En-suite or non-en-suite
How fussy are you about sharing your bathroom with someone else? Some people aren’t bothered (I definitely fall into this category!) while for others the thought of someone sharing their space is abhorrent. Universities and private firms now offer a wide variety or en-suite options, for both catered and self-catered rooms, but remember that these will cost you more.
One of the reasons why you might have chosen your university may be how expensive the university town/city is, and you might also be looking for the cheapest accommodation. Remember that all the benefits, such as an en-suite and catering add up, so it’s up to you as to how you spend your money. If you’ve a rough idea of how much money you’ll have throughout your first year, perhaps work out a weekly budget and see how far you’re money will go in terms of accommodation. If you thinking about self-catered remember to factor in a food budget, but also not that it may, in the end, work out cheaper if all your meals are cooked for you.