One of my biggest fears during my first term at university was where I was going to live in second-year. I couldn’t believe that after just ten weeks living in halls I was expected to have found the people I was going to live with and a house to stay in. In the end, I didn’t have any of that figured out until towards the end of term two, but it was a cause of major anxiety for about half of my first year. So this year I thought I’d put together a four-post guide to second-year student housing.
Over the next four weeks, posts will discuss the pros and cons of staying in halls and moving out into rented accommodation for second year; just how you go about finding somewhere to live off-campus (not to mention people to live with); and how to visit a potential house with an estate agent. Finally, I’ll give you a quick photo-tour of my own student house to prove that it really doesn’t have to be like Fresh Meat and that student houses can, in fact, be clean, homely, and even warm.
Staying In Halls
Not all universities offer you the option of continuing to live in halls for your second or third years, so it’s worth finding out. If they do there will be a limited number of rooms available, so apply early. You might be able to apply as a group with your friends or as an individual.
- No hidden costs: rent and bills are all paid together
- Rooms are designed for students, so you’ll have everything you need
- Closer to classes, lecture theatres and the library
- Being on campus means continuing students’ halls can be quieter/more study-focused
- Staying in halls is a less complicated option for international students in particular
- Guarantees you housemates if you’ve not found anyone to live with next year – unless you pick a studio apartment!
- Safe and secure
- Might include luxuries like ensuites and regular cleans by campus staff
- Campus accommodation can be hit-and-miss in terms of quality
- Living in halls can be isolating
- Tends to be a more expensive option
- If you apply as an individual you could end up with difficult housemates
- Can feel less mature if you’re surrounded by first-years
- Living on campus means you never get a break from the uni bubble
- Don’t get a feel for the wider community in your town/city
The majority of students move out of halls after first-year and into privately rented accommodation with friends.
- Learn the process of renting a house and how to deal with bills
- Further independence from halls
- Most rents will be for 12 months, so you’ll have somewhere to stay during the holidays
- Can be closer to shops, town, gym, internships etc
- You have a whole house rather than just a bedroom and shared kitchen
- Rent is generally a bit cheaper (I pay £30 less a week, and my house is right next to campus)
- More space and luxuries like sofas and baths
- Living away from campus can give you a break from university
- Houses have more character than a carbon-copy study bedroom
- If you’ve struggled in first-year a change of scenery could be the cure
- Organising everything can be stressful, especially if bills aren’t included in your rent
- Can’t guarantee there won’t be hidden costs such as repairs
- Landlords/letting agencies are not always easy to work with
- Could be less safe, especially if closer to your town or city
- If you’ve struggled in first-year a change like this could cause more stress
Alongside the pros and cons of each option, it’s important to work out what you really want to do on a personal level, as well as a logical one. The main things to consider are:
Your finances. As I’ve mentioned, halls accommodation does tend to be more expensive than renting a property with a number of friends, although this varies on the style of accommodation and area you’re living in. However, everything will be paid in lump sum at three or four points across the year, after which you don’t need to think about the cost; in privately rented accommodation there may also be bills to pay alongside rent and other payments you might not have factored in depending on your landlord. Have a look at rent prices in your area and try to cost it up to find the most affordable option for you.
Your environment. I knew that I couldn’t cope with living on-campus for my second year. I found it too clinical, isolating, and intense. Since moving into a house I can freely walk around, everything has changed; it feels like a home rather than a bedroom where I was just a paying guest. However, the halls environment is absolutely perfect for some people; for example, it can be a better working environment, and you only need to get up ten minutes before your lectures start!
Your experience. You might have come to university with the sole aim of doing as well as you can in your degree. Or, you might be aiming to get as much “life experience” as you possibly can during your studies. I really wanted to move off-campus in second-year to find out how renting a property really worked, and learn how to handle bills and so on, as for me that was a really important part of my uni experience. For you, though, it might not be a major priority – and that’s totally fine!
Only you can decide what’s best for you. Try not to feel pressured into living somewhere you don’t want to with people you’re not comfortable with. However, do try to make the decision between staying in halls and living off-campus as soon as you can, so you can get on with applying or looking for a house.
If you’re planning on moving off-campus next year, be sure to check back next Thursday for my guide to renting a student property; I’ll be taking you through the whole process from choosing the right housemates to finding a property and signing your contract! And if you’ve any questions about student accommodation or university in general, feel free to get in touch.
Which is it for you – halls or an off-campus property? Let me know in the comments!