It is likely that you will choose to live in University halls during your first year of study. Most universities run their own halls, or they will have a partnership with a private halls provider. Once you have accepted your first choice university, you will be sent information about the accommodation available, including the application deadlines.

Which halls you choose is important because it can really impact your enjoyment of your first year of university. Because of this, you should try and make a note of those that you like and those that you don’t, when attending a visit or open day. Usually, you will have to list three halls in order of preference so it is a good idea to really explore all of your options.

if you can’t find a place in University Halls, you could also go into privately run halls. Here the application process is different, you will have to apply directly through the company’s website, but the questions you have to ask when choosing which halls to go for are very similar.

Quad at Nuffield College, University of Oxford

Image Credit: Martijn Van Sabban/

When making your choice there are a few main things that you really need to decide on.

Self-Catered Vs Catered

All accommodation at university will be either catered or self-catered. Some universities and most private hall providers do not give the option of catered accommodation but many do. Halls that are catered will probably give you breakfast and dinner during the week and all three meals at the weekend.

Self-Catered Pros:

  • The atmosphere tends to be better and it will be easier for you to meet more people because you see them every day in the dining hall.
  • Not having to cook can save you time and money.

Catered Pros:

  • If you are self-catered, you have to eat at the same time every day so you might end up missing meals and therefore wasting money.
  • You will make a closer bond with your flatmates by eating with them every night.

Shared Rooms Vs Single Rooms

It is not as common as it once was for university students to share rooms. However, many universities still have one or two halls where shared rooms are available.

Shared Rooms Pros:

  • Shared rooms are generally far cheaper than the alternative.
  • If you are more shy, it is nice to have one person who knows you really well in the first year.

Single Rooms Pros:

  • You don’t have your own space to escape to when uni gets too much and you are not guaranteed to get along with your roommate.

En-suite Vs Shared Bathroom

Most universities have a choice between en suite rooms and those that share bathrooms.

En-Suite Pros:

  • You get your own space and don’t have to queue for showers.

Shared Bathroom Pros:

  • En suite rooms tend to cost around 10-20% more than the alternative.
  • It is very unlikely that you will have to share it with the opposite sex.
  • Shared bathrooms get cleaned once or twice a week as part of the contract, but en suite bathrooms don’t.

Flat Vs Corridor

Most university accommodation is structured in one of two ways. Halls are often split into a number of self contained flats, with 6-10 rooms per flat, organised around a shared kitchen, living area and perhaps bathroom. This format is most commonly used or self-catered accommodation. Some halls are arranged, instead, in long corridors of 10 or 20 rooms, which share a much larger kitchen or kitchenette and perhaps bathroom. This format is often used for catered halls.

Flats Pros:

  • You can form a really close bond with your fellow flatmates.
  • Your flat will probably be quieter and people will be more respectful because you know them better.

Corridors Pros:

  • If you do not get along with people either side of you, it is much easier to meet other people than if you are living in a flat, as bedrooms are not shut off from each other.

A Few Rules of Thumb:

If you are still unsure about which halls to choose here are few general rules, which help you decide:

  • The bigger the hall, the more “fun” it will be but also the more noisy it will be.
  • The more expensive the hall, the more likely you are to share with international students or students from private school.
  • Halls close to the city centre tend to be home to more international students or mature students.
  • Being closer to uni is not always the best option, if there is a ‘studenty’ area a bit further out, this will be more fun because it might have its own bar and other facilities.
  • If there are a few different accommodation villages, chose based on location rather than individual hall, because all of the facilities, the bar and the general atmosphere will be the same across all halls in each village.
  • If you still feel stuck, look at all the different student forums, this is the best way ti get an idea of what each university is like.
  • Once you have applied for your accommodation, you will have to start thinking about what to bring. If you don't know what you will need, check out our article on packing for University.

By your second or third year, you might decide to move out of University halls and get your own flat or house with friends. Also, if you have applied through clearing or adjustment, you might not have a place in University halls so have to look at private rented accommodation. There are a few things to think about when moving into a private house and it can be more complicated than living in halls because you do not have the safety net of the university.

A traditional looking green front door


If you have been at the university for a few years, you probably already know where you want to live but new students may not have any idea. If you are in that situation, do a bit of research on where the main ‘student’ area of the city is, this will be a fun area to live and will have more student houses available.

If you are struggling to find something in your price range, it is a good idea to look just on the outskirts of the main student zone because you still won’t be far from the action but you will probably get a lit more for your money.


It is really important to try as far as possible to go through a reputable landlord. There are thousands of illegal landlords working in the UK and many of them prey on students because that know that they are less aware of the legislation. You university accommodation office will be able to help you find a good student landlord or you could go online and read some reviews of certain landlords.

Having a good landlord is important because you want to know that, if something breaks, they will fix it quickly. It is also a good idea to have a parent or someone at the accommodation office look through your housing contract before you sign it just to make sure that you are not being swindled. This is especially important when it comes to your deposit because some landlords will do anything possible not to give it back to you.


If you decide to move into a house, you will most likely do it with a group of friends. If this is the case, it is really important to make sure you chose the right people to move in with. You don’t want squabbles or big fall-outs to ruin your year so choose the people that are most tidy, laid back and friendly, even if they are not your closest friends.

If you need to find a flatmate or are a lone student looking for a place in a house, your university accommodation office will be able to link you up with people who are looking. You could also try posting on university facebook pages for your course or first year halls, for a more personal approach.

Type of Accommodation

There are less options in houses and flats than in university halls. Most will have double bedrooms, a shared bathroom, a kitchen and living area. However, you will need to chose whether you want to live in a flat or a house and whether you want something old or modern. Older houses tend to be more spacious and more grand, so many students go for this option. However, they will be much colder and more likely to get damp and mould. They will also be harder to clean.

Modern developments of flats or houses may be smaller but they will be warm, clean and it is unlikely you will get drafts or mice or mould.

The final option for university accommodation is to live at home with your parents. There are many benefits to this; you will save a lot of money and you are sure to live somewhere nice and warm, with food on the table, meaning you can properly focus on your studies.

Having said this, living at home can hinder you from getting involved in university life. You may find it harder to meet people and you may feel a little claustrophobic, living with your parents’ rules as an adult. Furthermore, although you save money on rent and food, your maintenance loan will be smaller meaning that the savings will not make a huge difference to you at the time.

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