One of the most exciting things about going to study at university is getting to live in a new place. Whether you’ve lived alone before or not, the chance to get your own space and meet some new people is one not to be missed. If you’ve got your degree programme confirmed, your next task is to find somewhere to live. We run you through everything you need to know to get settled…
Ah, plans. Love them or hate them, they’re often necessary. This is particularly true when it comes to finding a place to live. You can’t (or at least probably shouldn’t) turn up on your first day at university and hope to find somewhere to stay. There are a few elements you should consider when thinking about where to live:
- Budget. Student living can sometimes cost a lot. With your tuition, accommodation, and living costs, you’ll want to make sure you have enough funds and student loan to get by. Consider your yearly costs and how much you can afford to spend on housing.
- Location. It’s likely that you’ll have to spend a fair amount of time on campus while you study, and you’ll also want to have amenities close by. When choosing your room, take a look at where it’s located, what the transport is like, and what’s nearby.
- Type. Will you go straight into student halls or will you opt for private housing? Each has its benefits, as we explored in our guide here. When you’re looking for housing, this is an important factor.
Once you’ve got your accommodation ‘wish list’ in place, you can start looking at some potential options. Here are some ideas of places to start looking:
Through your university
In most cases, you’ll receive information about university-owned accommodation as soon as you confirm your place with the institution. If you’re feeling eager, you can always check their website in advance to get an idea of what’s on offer. You may have an application deadline for guaranteed accommodation, so make sure you don’t dilly and/or dally.
If you’re striking out on your own and want to find a room or apartment tailored to your needs, local estate agents or landlords are the places to look. A quick search for ‘private rentals in _____’ will pull up plenty of results. Just make sure that you research any options thoroughly. If you're looking in the UK, check out any private landlords on Rate your landlord.
Student Union/Accommodation office
If you’re looking at private rentals and want to find other students to live with, your university should be able to help you out. Student unions or accommodation offices are your best bet, as they’ll often have lists of similar students, as well as info on landlords and letting agents.
Not only are social media sites a great place to connect with fellow students, but they also serve as a means for finding accommodation. There’s more than likely a 'University of ____ housing' group on Facebook where you’ll be able to find both flatmates and rooms for rent.
If you’re still having a few difficulties deciding on the right place for you, try these out:
- Pay a visit. Rooms are always going to look better online or in a brochure than in real life. Take the time to visit some potential housing to get an idea of how it looks (and smells!), and see what amenities and transport links are nearby.
- Speak with current students. Social media groups and student forums are a great way to get the opinions of people who have lived in the places you’re considering.
- Draw up a shortlist. Places in halls aren’t always guaranteed and, rentals can be snapped up quickly. Pick out a few locations that fit the bill just in case your first choice doesn’t work out.
Once you’ve settled on exactly where you want to live, it’s time to start your application. The process will be slightly different depending on where you’ll be applying:
Through the university
Most institutions will let you apply to halls online. You’ll likely need to set up an account and provide a variety of information, as well as make a payment to secure a spot. Once your place is confirmed, you’ll have to set up how you’re going to make payment of your rent.
Some universities will let you apply from February/March time even with a conditional offer, and many have a cut-off date for guaranteed housing, usually around August.
Through a letting agent/landlord
There’s a bit more paperwork involved when you’re renting privately. Once you’ve decided on a property and contacted the letting agent or landlord, you may need to pay a deposit to secure the room/house. You’ll then be given a tenancy agreement that details the legal rights of you and the landlord.
Make sure you read through your contract and paperwork carefully. If there are points you’re unsure of, ask either the letting agent or someone you trust to explain it. Once you’re happy, you can sign the contract and pay a security/damage deposit which will often be refunded when you move out (subject to terms).
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