Times have changed a little since the days of My Fair Lady, when one could be satisfied with a room somewhere, far away from the cold night air. Nowadays, people set the bar a little bit higher. Wifi, perhaps? An oven? Maybe I’m just greedy?
For those of us who require a little more than four walls and a chair, picking the right student accommodation is an important job. But just how do you avoid ending up in the before section of DIY SOS and secure yourself a student standard Grand Design.
When nature calls
This is probably the most important factor for a lot of people. Are you shy in the shower, or all too familiar with the prickly embrace of irritable bowel syndrome? If so, a shared bathroom probably isn’t for you. Some campuses offer en-suite rooms for pretty much the same price as shared bathrooms, however, there can be a substantial difference depending on your university.
If you like to spread out your bathroom equipment, you probably won’t be too popular with your flatmates, so your willingness to carry armfuls back and forth is also a deciding factor. Also, if you aren’t comfortable sharing bathrooms with the opposite gender then make sure you find out the sharing arrangements for specific accommodation blocks. Some blocks have separate male and female bathrooms with toilet and shower cubicles, meanwhile, others have several individual bathrooms on one floor which are gender shared. Going to visit different accommodations is the best way to know for sure what the situation really is.
It’s not about the price tag
Well Jessie J clearly never had to balance a student loan with decent living conditions. If you’re fortunate enough to have financial help from your parents, then picking the nicest accommodation is probably a no-brainer for you. However, it’s vital that you sit down and do the maths before applying for your accommodation choices. The price of living can be a huge factor, it can even sway the choice of university. There is an enormous difference in living costs depending on where your university is located, how large it is and what facilities they offer.
You will be in charge of paying rent termly or yearly, depending on what payment plans your university offers. Your maintenance loan is intended to pay the cost of your accommodation, your food, transport and all those other things you need to maintain your life. In most cases, it doesn’t come close to covering all these things so be smart when looking at accommodation. Check out the monthly costs and calculate how much you’ll need to live. You spend roughly 9 months in student halls, so if you have to compromise with a worse but affordable flat, it’s not a life sentence.
For reasons unknown to scientists and myself, some accommodation blocks attract similar types of people and this can lead to buildings mere feet away from each other having completely different reputations. Again, the best way to know about a specific accommodation block is to visit and talk to the current students. Checking online for reviews left by previous students can be a great warning about buildings with dodgy fire alarms that go off every night, cleaners that don’t turn up to take out bins, or areas more prone to noise complaints. This is the best way of knowing whether you’re moving in with majority drama or law students, or a building known for its non-existent social atmosphere, or a block associated with the pungent waft of the devil’s lettuce. Find accommodation reviews here.
Location, location, location
Are you looking for a city campus or a separate campus? Do you want to take a twenty-minute bus ride every day for your 9am lecture, or roll out of bed and walk for four minutes? This can really affect which university you place as your first choice. Some people arrive at uni having done no prior research about accommodation, assuming that halls are always on campus. They are most certainly not, and some universities don’t have any on-campus accommodation at all. If that’s the case, you’ll need to look at transport links and the cost of travelling in and out each day.
Maslow's hierarchy of kitchen applications
Another important thing that honest review sites and accommodation viewings can do is provide an accurate picture of what facilities you’ll have to work with. Some uni accommodation comes with 12 people sharing two fridges and a single microwave… without a real oven in sight. Other accommodation is more generous, with proper working ovens and shelving space.
If you’re a budding Jamie Oliver (hopefully minus the sugar scandal) then a proper oven and space to put your equipment is going to be essential. If, on the other hand, your culinary expectations amount to microwave pizza with the occasional pot of pasta for a special occasion, the kitchen probably isn’t a big factor for you.
Choosing the right accommodation comes down to being able to honestly assess your own needs, finances and expectations. If you’re only happy with small numbers, don’t apply to the block that houses flats of fourteen. You’ll most likely get to choose a few preferred options, and some universities allow you to rank them, aiming to match you with one of your top three choices.
However, if you don’t manage to secure the accommodation you really wanted, remember it’s not the end of the world. Learning to adapt to your situation is an important part of life and anyway, the worst accommodation always breeds the best stories for years.
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