Why you should choose to live in student halls instead of private accommodation
Going to university is an exciting rite of passage that requires a lot of organisation. One important part of moving away to uni is figuring out where you're going to live. Most first-years are offered university-owned accommodation with a nine or ten-month contract, and a lot of the time, students returning from studying abroad are also offered a room in the halls.
Some students, therefore, stay in halls the entire time they're at university. Others prefer to get private housing offered by local landlords. This article explains why accepting a room from the university and living in halls is better than moving into private accommodation.
*Please note, this specialises in students studying in the UK.
University halls are exclusively for students, and so are reasonably priced for students. There are many features of student halls that you wouldn't get in private housing:
- The bills are included in the rent. Water, gas, electricity, etc. Private housing will send you separate bills.
- You pay the university directly, in three installments over the year. This is usually a week or so after your student loan comes in. With private housing, you will pay monthly.
- It's a fixed price. The university website will tell you how much it is for a room in advance, so you know exactly how much you'll be paying.
This is a much less stressful way to pay and knowing what you're paying for. It also usually works out cheaper than a house, too, even if you're sharing with other students.
Since heating is included in the bill, you can turn on your radiator in the winter and keep your room nice and toasty. So many student houses I went to were freezing cold because nobody wanted to turn the heating on - it was too expensive! In student halls, you can keep your room as warm as you like at no extra cost (though most have a rule not to put the thermostat above a certain temperature. But it's more than warm enough.
Similarly to this, you don't have to nag your housemates for using up too much water or leaving the lights on, as it's all already been paid for.
With student halls, you can get self-catered, semi-catered or catered accommodation. Self-catered comes with a full kitchen, including a stove, grill, oven and microwave. Catered gives students access to the university canteen, and a pre-paid card with a weekly meal allowance. I always went with self-catered, but it's good to know that you have options.
Student halls are owned by the university, so they make sure it's kept in good shape, and above all, safe. Most halls have:
- On-site security
- Night security
- Numbers to call in case of an emergency or false fire alarm
- You can lock your bedroom door with your key
Private housing doesn't always offer this. In student accommodation, I always felt safe. I could also lock my bedroom door when I went to work or to class, so that even if one of my housemates left the front door unlocked, my stuff was still safe.
Universities know that a lot of students in the UK don't have a car. Even if your university is in a large city, halls are usually still very close to campus, either within walking distance or close to a bus stop, so you can reach class easily. With private housing, you might end up really far from your campus, and have a long journey to class, eating up your time and money.
University halls are also very well looked-after. Most will have:
- A cleaner to clean and check the communal area (in York St John University, it was once every two weeks. This will vary depending on the university).
- Porters to fix anything that isn't working. If the light bulb goes out in your room, they'll have it replaced almost immediately.
- Landlords won't do this. I've heard horror stories about bad landlords who take advantage of students living in their houses. From black mould to dodgy household appliances to a draughty bathroom, anything is possible in a private house. With university housing, you have peace of mind that if there's something wrong with an appliance, or a problem with hygiene.
Do you prefer student halls or private accommodation?
Downsides of Student Halls
Like all things in life, not everything about student halls are perfect. There are some downsides too, and if you'd still prefer to live in private housing, the choice is yours. Here are some downsides to university-owned accommodation:
- They can be quite noisy. If you're living with a bunch of first-years, chances are they'll want to party, especially in the first few weeks of the semester, or holidays such as Halloween. Still, security will usually come and tell them to quieten down if it's too late into the night.
- There's a communal area for washers and dryers that you have to pay for per wash. This is a pain when everyone wants to use them at once and no machines are free. It can also be quite expensive.
- You'll get spammed with leaflets advertising student nights out and takeaway restaurant offers. (This can happen with private housing too, but not as much).
There are downsides and good sides to living in student housing. Some people just prefer to organise their own accommodation, have their own washing machine and private kitchen, and pay monthly instead of a big chunk after the student loan comes in. Ultimately, the choice is yours. University is a great experience, so make the most of it.