The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Student Accommodation

Guide to choosing Student Accommodation

April 7, 2016 - bellvue-admin - Student Life

There is so much to get excited about when you move to University. There’s the nightlife, the course you will study and all of the potential friendships you will make.

However, there is one massively important thing to sort out before you can enjoy all of that, and of course it is your accommodation.

Where you live is likely to impact on the majority of your university life, from the first people you meet to those you choose to live with for years 2 and 3, it is a decision not to be taken lightly.

There are a number of different option which suit different people for different reasons, so to help you make the best decision for you, here is our ultimate guide to choosing student accommodation.

These are generally your four options. Below we have gone through in detail the reason they are chosen and what you need to look out for in each.

  • University Halls
  • Private Halls
  • Private Houses
  • Room Shares

University Halls

The most popular choice for first years is of course university halls. These come in a whole host of different incarnations, but are most commonly shared flat accommodation blocks run by the university.

What to Expect

The most common incarnation of university halls are flats which home on average between 4 and 8 students. They will often have a shared kitchen and living space for the flat and may or may not also shared bathroom facilities (increasingly en suites are becoming a common feature).

There are also catered halls which will have a canteen hall nearby, meaning your flat will have little or no kitchen. Most universities will have the option of either when you apply.

This article from the Telegraph shows the top 10 universities ranked on their student accommodation in 2015, which further helps you get your head around of what to expect.

Why are they Popular?

The most common reason people opt for university halls is because of the social aspect. Understandably when people move to university for the first time they are keen to make friends, and halls is the quickest way to do so because you are living in a whole block of flats full of similar aged, similar minded people.

Another reason they are so popular is because of their location. Most university halls are either positioned on the university campus (in close proximity to all of the facilities or as close by as possible.

This is great in first year when you are finding your feet and perhaps need time to get to grips with the town or city you live in. It also creates a sense of a student community on campus which further helps you get to know more people as well.

Another reason they are particularly popular with first years is that they offer a great gap between living at home and living in a house of your own. Whist you are essentially living independently, you don’t have all the dramas of organising different bills each month, you just pay lump sums each term which includes rent, water, power and internet. 

Why are they disliked?

While halls are immensely fun to begin with because you get to spend every waking moment with your new friends, the lack of privacy (and sleep) can for some people become grating.

The problem with university halls is that if you choose no to go out on the town, someone else in your flat or block will be, so there is a good chance every night of the week you’ll be woken up.

What to look for

Most universities will offer a number of different halls which will vary in price and therefore quality. The cheaper are more likely to have shared bathrooms and reduced kitchen and shared space.

The more expensive will have en suite bathrooms and perhaps a lounge along with a decent sized kitchen. Basically if you prefer your own space, then you might end up forking out a little more on accommodation fees.

When it comes to bedrooms, they all will have a single bed, storage space, a notice board and some form of internet access, they are not likely to be very spacious however.

Make sure to consider all of the available options at your new university to ensure you choose the halls which suits you and your budget. It is also important to understand that the cheapest inevitably fill up the quickest.

One thing which catches plenty of students off guard is the varying quality of internet access, something which university halls have in places been slow on the uptake of.

While some are modernising with halls wifi, many still operate on a “one cable per room” policy, meaning you can connect one laptop per room, which is frustrating if you have any wireless gadgets or tablets.

See a number of examples of bad internet in halls of residence here from this by the Student Room.

Private Halls

Private halls are an increasingly popular alternative to university halls as they have become more readily available.

Private halls work much the same as university halls except they are owned by a third party company who has intentionally built them close to the campus.

What to expect

With university attendances on the rise, the need for quality accommodation has risen. It has risen to a point where many universities are struggling to keep their accommodation up to scratch, this is where private accommodation has picked up the slack.

Private halls are generally towards the top end of the quality spectrum so will have en suite bathrooms and shared facilities tend to be between a small number of people instead of say 8.

Why are they popular?

Their quality tends to attract students who are looking for a bit more comfort and privacy. They are also very popular with international students, and often become a community base for international students.

As well as having shared flats, private halls also include studio flats which are entirely self contained. This again is very popular with those of us who prefer our own space and facilities.

While they aren’t often as well positioned as university halls, they are the next best thing when considering location. Developers are considerate with their developments, knowing a halls based miles away from campus won’t sell.

They are also popular with first years because they don’t have all the maintenance and headaches of a full house. You simply pay your accommodation fees and that covers your electric, water, power and rent.

Most private halls have a member of staff on site 24 hours a day in case you lock yourself out or have any maintenance issues to inquire about.

Why are they disliked?

For those who prefer consistent company, private lets aren’t the best option. Lots of people choose university halls because they want to meet and enjoy the company of as many new people as possible, the issue with private halls is there are populated with people who are less comfortable socialising in the place they live.

What to look for

If you fancy that extra touch of privacy, the things you want to consider are budget and location. Work out how much you want to spend and cross that with how close it allows you to be to campus, if indeed you want to be close.

Private Houses

While university and private lets are the most popular accommodation for first year students, private housing is the most popular for second and third years.

After a year living on campus, the majority of students have spent their first year living with both people they do and don’t like. The second and third years gives them the option of getting together with their closer friends and moving to a private house to live together.

What to expect

Private housing comes in many forms, from 2 bedroom city flats to 10+ bedroom houses, all of which vary massively in quality and price.

In every city there are any given number of private letting agencies offering a range of different quality lets. Once you know how many bedrooms you’d like, you can begin researching and get a baring on the general standard for that number of rooms.

Why they are popular

Private housing is very popular because it gives friends a more comfortable space to enjoy each others company whilst also living somewhere which more closely resembles a home and not a dormitory.

There is also much more freedom in choosing a private home, you can spend as much or as little as you like on internet and television services instead of having to cope with whatever stock services are installed like in halls.

Why they are disliked

While of course there is more privacy than living in a full halls of residency, you really have to like the people you choose to live with because you spend a lot of time in close proximity to them.

Not only do you share a kitchen, bathroom and living room, you might well come to share food and you will definitely have to organise bills, all of which can add possible headaches.

If you prefer your own company the majority of the time, this isn’t for you.

What to look for

There is a big difference between a nice house online and a nice house in reality, so it is massively important to go to a viewing before you finalise your decision.

Some house views will be lead by a landlord, other by lettings agents and others by the current habitants. Your best course of action is to leave no stone unturned because any house could look great on the surface, and could be secretly falling apart.

Things in particular to ask about are the internet signal, mobile phone signal, shower water pressure, boiler and heating faults, bin removal dates and what the neighbours and surrounding area is like.

For even more advice on the ins and outs of house viewings and what to discuss with the lettings agents, check out this from NUS.

Room Shares

While a lot of people make good friendships from their time in university halls, not everyone is so lucky, which means they might be short of people to organise a private house with for their second and third year.

The most common solution for anyone who finds themselves in this situation is to look for a room share.

What to expect

Thankfully a lot of people end up in this situation, or at the end of second year, end up with a house with one spare room because someone has lift for a year abroad.

What this means is that There are either people looking for a room or people looking to fil one. If you find yourself as one of these, you need to search for the other.

The best way to do so is to check dedicated websites like RoomBuddies which brings the two together.

Why they are popular

Room shares tend to be popular because of the carefree and welcoming attitude of most students.

Generally, people spend their most liberal years at university, therefore are slightly more willing to take a punt on living with strangers who appear ok.

Also there is that slight safety net that they are students as well, so you can know at least one thing about them.

Why they are disliked

Of course the reason they are disliked is precisely because of that step into the unknown. Very few people would actually make this their first option, and instead would always look to find some close friends to live with first before they turned to room shares as a second option. 

What to look for

This is the one time you can be entirely selfish when finding somewhere to live because you only have yourself to worry about.

Do your research on the houses you like the look of, go for a viewing and most importantly try and get to know your potential housemates as much as possible.

If you dislike them on the first meeting then its probably time to check out another house, even if it’s a nice place, the most important thing is getting along with them, because the nice kitchen and spacious bedroom wont seem so small after a few arguments.


There you have it, our ultimate guide to choosing student accommodation. If you are considering a private home then check out what we have to offer in Preston, Stoke-on-Trent, Middlesbrough, Keele and Crewe.

If you are looking for even more student advice then please check out our news feed on our home page.


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