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Student life-before you start

Student accommodation

Read our student housing tips on how to find the right accommodation, including where to live and things to be aware of when house hunting.

University student carrying box up stairs moving in


  1. Where to live 

  2. Choosing the right accommodation for you

  3. Student house hunting

Where to live 

After choosing your university and course, the next most important decision is where to live. It’s crucial for success at university and is likely to be your biggest expense, so it's worth giving time and effort to the various accommodation options available, making sure you maintain maximum flexibility within any arrangements.

If you're warm and well-fed, this will have an impact on your happiness and enjoyment, help you to settle in quickly and have a positive effect on your studies.

Where undergraduate students live (data from Unite Students) %
In university or private halls 36
In shared houses 27
At home 18
Other 19

Student demand is polarising. Some seek premium accommodation in en suite flats as standard, while others look for the bare minimum.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has identified 16 different categories of accommodation, ranging from deluxe en suite to lodging in a family house or staying at home. The majority of first-year undergraduates going away to university choose to live in university-managed accommodation if they can.

Choosing the right accommodation for you

Where you live can have a serious impact on health and general wellbeing. You’ll probably be there for the majority of your time when not at lectures and seminars, so if you can get it right, you're much more likely to enjoy the experience.

Live at home or away?

For some, living away is the only option but for others it's not feasible. If your university is commutable from home, you may be considering it. Here are the pros and cons of each option:

  Home Away
  • It's far cheaper living at home and this is the main reason for those who choose to do so
  • Fewer household chores – probably
  • Easier to remain in close contact with old friends
  • Independence
  • Uni lifestyle at your beck and call
  • A wealth of like-minded souls on your doorstep means plenty of opportunities to make lasting friendships
  • Less independence
  • Some would argue that you'll miss out on the uni lifestyle
  • Longer journey time to and from uni (and no snooze time)
  • The extra cost of student accommodation 
  • You'll have to look after yourself
  • It's likely you'll be placed with people you've never met before, which can be difficult to manage

Student house hunting 

Do you have your university accommodation arranged for next year? Starting your second year at the majority of universities means you’re out of halls and into privately rented housing – a daunting prospect for most young adults. Don’t worry, we’ve got lots of sound advice and it’s all much easier than you might think.

Choosing your housemates

You may be tempted to arrange house/flatmates via friends in halls, on your course, or through the society you’re involved with. Make sure these are people you’d be happy to live with. Living with someone can push the limits of even the closest of friendships.

Being your ideal pub buddy doesn’t qualify a person as the ideal housemate. Think about whether they'll contribute to the washing up, pay their bills on time and be a good influence during the exam period.

You could consider moving in with people you don’t know at all, via a house-share website or a friend of a friend. It’s important you get an opportunity to find out whether you’ll be compatible housemates. So meet up with them, go for a coffee or grab a bite to eat together. You’ll never know for sure what they’ll be like as a housemate until you’re living together, but it’ll help. If you get a bad feeling about anything or anyone, don’t sign anything.    

Finding the right accommodation

First, you need to decide if you’d prefer to live in a flat or a house. Both have their benefits. Houses can be more spacious and it’s likely there will be common areas such as a living room or eat-in kitchen where you can get to know your new housemates. However, they can come with the added hassle of sorting out bills and badgering your landlord to get that leaky pipe fixed. 

These issues are often sidetracked via renting a flat in a managed building. The choice is yours, but make sure you’re comfortable with whatever you and your housemates decide on. 

Where to live?

Most university towns and cities have established student areas where there are plenty of like-minded people around and the community is largely accepting of students. However, you should consider the locations of these areas as they can often be a fair distance from the university, so if you want to roll out of bed straight into early morning lectures it may not be the best option for you. 

What makes good university accommodation?

If you’re a first-time renter, this stage is more difficult. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Avoid renting a cheap property from a landlord you barely know anything about – if your university has an accommodation service, ask them for a list of accredited private landlords/accommodation
  • Remember, if the rent is dirt-cheap there’s probably a reason – make sure you check the condition of the property before signing
  • Be cautious when you move in, check for damage, dampness, functionality, etc. and take dated photos so the landlord can’t blame you for damage that already existed

General advice

A word on behalf of the neighbours:

  • They were all young once and most welcome students
  • Whole areas of major university towns and cities are now dominated by student housing in what has become known as 'studentification' – this has had some adverse effects, not only on the local people but also on students themselves
  • Living in such a community requires respect, tolerance and a bit of give-and-take – work on it
  • Follow the community code: say hello, keep the peace and clean up

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