One of the most exciting things about going to study at university is living in a new place. You get the chance to have your own space, and meet some new people too! Once your degree programme is confirmed, your next task is to find somewhere to live.
Here’s everything you need to know to get settled.
What should I consider before finding accommodation?
It’s important to start looking for accommodation before you start your degree or course - you wouldn’t want to turn up at university on your first day hoping to find somewhere to live! Here are a few things you need to consider long before you put down a deposit, or sign a contract.
The price of accommodation can be daunting at first sight. However, there are a lot of options available to help you with affording rent. If you are a student from the UK, you are most likely eligible for student finance, in the form of a maintenance loan. The amount you receive is based on several factors, such as your combined total household income and ability to support yourself whilst at university. These loans need to be repaid once you complete your degree, but only when you start earning about £21,000 a year - even then, it won’t be a huge amount each month. Additionally, many universities offer financial assistance in the form of grants, which you do not need to repay. Grants can be awarded based on merit if you demonstrate strong academic potential, and means-tested, which means that if your household income is low, you are eligible. You can find this by using the student finance loan calculator on the gov.uk website.
Budgeting is key to making sure you can afford your accommodation costs, which may include rent, utilities, and maintenance. It’s a good idea to get a sense of how much rent could cost. For example, according to research by the Complete UK University guide in 2019, the average weekly rent cost for students in halls was £148, whilst private accommodation was £197. However, this is a benchmark and it’s important to find out the average accommodation prices for your university. When budgeting, you’ll need to think about whether your student finance can cover expenses like groceries, utilities, books, entertainment, and travel - alongside rent. Rent should be one of your top priorities, so it may be worth setting aside the money for this or aiming to pay your rent as soon as possible, once you have the means to do so.
There are a variety of different types of accommodation, from student halls to private flats. Each type has its own pros and cons, and it’s important to choose what makes the most sense for you. For example, student halls are a great option if you are looking to socialise and meet a lot of new people, whereas private flats would be more suitable for you if you’d like to have more independence. If you are looking for private flats, you’ll also need to start looking for places earlier on in the year. We go over this in our guide here, which weighs up the advantages and disadvantages of residence halls vs private housing.
Finding a suitable location can really impact your university experience. For example, if you opt to live further away from your university grounds, transportation may be more expensive, but the price of the accommodation may be cheaper, or you might be able to live in an area you like better than the one your uni is in. If you live close to university, you might be able to walk to your lectures, and you will spend less time on transport overall. Make sure you choose an accommodation which is located in an area that works for you and your needs.
How to find accommodation
Once you’ve sorted out what you’re looking for, you can begin the process of actually finding options for accommodation. There are a few channels you can go through in order to find places that you can shortlist.
In most cases, you’ll receive information about university-owned accommodation as soon as you confirm your place with the institution by the accommodation office. 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 looking at private rentals and want to find other students to live with, your university should be able to help you out. Student unions are your best bet, as they’ll often have lists of other students who are looking for housemates. Student unions are also helpful as they provide information on local landlords and letting agents that have been used by other students at the university.
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.
Once you have found a few accommodation options, it’s a good idea to create a shortlist, and visit the spaces if you can. 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.
Securing your accommodation
Online through 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 your method of payment for your rent.
Some universities will let you apply from February/March 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. For most private accommodation in the UK, you will need to find a guarantor - a person who will be liable to your rental commitments, like paying rent, if you fail to do so. This can be a parent or anyone else who agrees to do it for you, but they’ll need to be in a financial position to be able to do so.
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 deposit. Then, you’ll be set to moving into your university accommodation when the time comes.
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Student Finance Calculator
Looking to find out how much student finance you may be entitled to? Check out this calculator here.