So, you’ve got your results, you’re going to uni - but where are you going to live? It may be your first time living away from home, but you certainly aren’t alone.
As a first year you’re probably going to be living in student halls. They’re typically large blocks of flats where hundreds of first years live as soon as they move to university. No Halls of Residence are the same. Obviously they vary depending on where you apply to, how expensive the rent is and how many people you live with.
But who am I living with?
The bedrooms are usually organised around corridors and you share a flat with a number of other students. It seems weird now, right? Living with strangers? It couldn’t feel more normal once you get used to it. In fact, when you go home you actually miss having them around. After all, you’ll be living with these people and sharing kitchens and living space with them - maybe even a toilet! As cheesy as it sounds, the best bit of student halls is the socialising, people can be strangers in September and family by the end of first year. It’s pretty crazy! Since everyone’s in the same boat it makes it super easy to socialise. The university and halls themselves will usually hold events during freshers to help you meet each other which is super helpful and will definitely help ease you in.
What are the rooms like?
If you’ve applied - you probably know. There will be various open days where you can view rooms at different halls and speak to people living there. If you can’t get down to one, there are plenty of photos online and the details on the accommodation sites are pretty precise. They aren’t particularly glamorous - unless you can afford that luxury in first year - but they do have everything you need. They tend to be pretty well furnished with beds, wardrobes, desks and storage - but it won’t stop you taking EVERYTHING you’ve ever owned with you when you move in. Some are more modern than others, some are shared, some are large and some are small. It usually depends on the price, the age and ultimately - what you pick. Size and style are usually reflected in the price, but it’s nothing to worry about. Have you ever seen 60 minute makeover? Nothing a few fairlights can’t fix.
A benefit of university halls is that they’re usually not too far from campus and strolling into 9ams in your PJs or clothes from last night becomes the norm - we all do it. It might not seem important when applying but trust us, that extra half an hour in bed - oh yes. Of course, not all halls can be directly on campus and that’s okay too - PJs on the bus are a look as well. Whatever you do - be prepared. Whether it’s finding a cheaper halls further away, budgeting for public transport or parking, or even whether you can find it in yourself to walk everyday - it’s important stuff. Oh, and note to self: it turns out that your halls being far from campus is not a valid excuse to being late to seminars. Unfair, I know.
How much does it cost?
Again, it depends. You need to make sure you think about how long your contract is too. Top tip: don’t choose a cheaper rent for a 50 week period when you only need it for 30-40 weeks - it doesn’t make sense! First, you need to check how generous your maintenance loan is and see what you can actually afford. Student halls can cost from £50 a week to £300 a week - so choosing one within your budget is kind of a big deal. It’s important to bear in mind what you want and what need aren’t synonymous - or both affordable. Aside from the Bank of Mum and Dad, bare in mind that your money also needs to pay for those fancy cocktails at the beginning of the year and that cheap, cheap wine at the end. You probably thought you left maths behind you - but these sums will save you from the inevitable student poverty that little bit more.
Is it difficult?
Absolutely not. It’s usually pretty simple and most unis will offer an easy online application process which guides you every step of the way. It is pretty daunting moving away from home and being an adult for the first time ever. Unis appreciate that. University halls are great to ease you into adulthood, so to speak. Bills are typically included in your rent and you can set up an installment plan so money leaves your account without worrying about it yourself. I’m not saying your halls budget for you, if you end up dipping into the overdraft already by freshers - we aren’t here to shame anyone. If anything, it’s part of the experience. However, it certainly helps you come to terms with paying ACTUAL rent and simplifies all that boring law and contract stuff.
Plus, university halls tend to have a whole team of staff on site at all times to help you with anything you need from fitting a new light bulb to taking your Missguided parcels in. You know, all the necessities.
Self-Catered or Catered?
You will have come across self-catered and catered halls in your endeavours to find your first year home - they are VERY different. Arguably, catered halls are more social and have the obvious benefit of not having to cook. Whilst it may seem ideal for those of us who have never even made a cup of tea, the convenience is reflected in the price. They are significantly more expensive. Plus, you have to remember you probably won’t have your own kitchen to make a full blown meal when you come in from a night out absolutely smashed. Again, a pretty integral part of university life.
Will I get in?
Pretty much every university guarantees first years a place in halls of residence - they even work alongside some private ones to ensure everyone has somewhere to live. It’s important to know that whilst you put preferences down - these aren’t guaranteed. Whether it is mixed / same sex, an en-suite or location that tickles your fancy, not everyone gets what they want. It can seem unfair at the time but the university accommodation services do try to allocate you accordingly - however it's often done at random if demand is high for certain halls. This is something you can strop about as much as you like - but it’s life. You’ll grow to love your halls for what they are and who you’ve met there. Besides, it’s only for first year!
What are the alternatives?
There’s plenty of alternatives if you think halls of residence just aren’t for you - or even if you’ve gone through clearing or just aren’t feeling where you’ve been allocated. As mentioned earlier, private halls are pretty similar, aside from being slightly more costly and luxurious. I suppose that’s just the price you pay for luxury. It’s equally as social as you’re still all in the same boat. Perhaps you can even bond over how you didn’t get that ideal accommodation choice you both wanted and be envious together.
You can always jump right into a house. After all, we all end up there next year anyway and halls aren’t the only place you can socialise. It’s a little more responsibility but you’ll be a pro for next year’s house hunt!
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