By Emily Valentine
One of the most important decisions you'll make as a student is where to live. Moving can be expensive and stressful (especially when you’re fleeing the nest) so doing your research could save you a serious headache in the long run.
First up you'll need to decide what sort of accommodation suits your lifestyle and personality. If you’re a social butterfly then living in a place with communal areas might be a good option. If you're a more private person who likes their own space then you might want to opt for somewhere more self-contained.
Whatever your preference, you’ll need to draw up a budget and see what you can afford. Cost of living may even determine which uni you end up going to so you may want to work out your finances in advance of applying for your place. As a general rule, capitals and major cities are more expensive than the suburbs.
You might find that you end up saving some cash by living a little bit out of town and commuting into uni. However you could end up paying extra for travel or taking a long time to get into uni, so you’ll need to work out which is the more economical option. You could always look at cycling or walking into uni if travel costs are an issue. This way you’ll save money, become healthier, and reduce your carbon footprint.
Halls of residence
If you're a first-year student who doesn't really know anyone yet, then halls of residence are a safe bet. You’ll be living on or near your campus so travel costs will be next to nothing. There are usually incentives available for living in halls which could range from free WiFi and gym membership to discounts on food at on-site cafes and bars.
Halls aren’t necessarily the cheapest option, but you have to balance cost with the fact that they make the transition to living away from home a little easier.
Pros: Potentially lots of perks and discounts. Zero travel costs. Good option for first year students.
Cons: Halls aren’t for everyone. You might feel like you spend too much of your time at university.
If you're feeling really flush with cash then a private apartment could be the way to go. This will definitely be the most expensive option, but if you’ve got money to burn and you like your own space, then it makes sense. You can either go into a good old-fashioned estate agents to find your dream pad, or search online.
Pros: You’ll get the place all to yourself, which means no one to nag about doing the washing up...
Cons: Likely to be the most expensive option. You’ll have to pay all the bills by yourself. Can be lonely living on your own.
A house share is a fun option, and a common choice for people after they've made some firm friends in the first year. You get to choose your own accommodation, split the bills, and throw loads of house parties. Sounds great right?
Whilst in theory a house share is a fun and economical housing option, you’ll need to balance your expectations with reality. Arguments can break out for lots of different reasons and you may find yourself part of a full-blown investigation into who ate all the communal biscuits. If you do find yourself in the middle of a difficult situation or having to deal with a nightmare housemate, the best approach is to try and deal with the issue before it gets out of hand.
Pros: Cheaper than living alone and more freedom than being in halls of residence. Can share bills with housemates.
Cons: Personality clashes likely. Some letting agents or landlords require you to sign up for a minimum number of months and ask for a hefty security deposit.
Living at home
This definitely isn’t the option for you if you’re desperate to spread your wings, but you’ll potentially save a lot of money by living at home while you study. Living away from family and friends for the first time can be scary, so It’s a good choice if you don’t feel prepared for a completely independent life quite yet.
Pros: Could save you money. Less of a shock to the system.
Cons: Lack of freedom. Do you really want your parents asking you to hang the towels up properly while your mates are free to sling theirs on the floor with reckless abandon?
Whatever you choose, make sure you...
Always go and view your potential new home before signing up for anything. Sometimes things can look great on a website but, in reality, leave a lot to be desired. A website can hide lots of things, and you’ll only find out about damp, noisy neighbours and a view of the local sewage works if you visit in person. If you feel like you get any red flags, make sure you ask lots of questions before agreeing to anything.
Whichever option you go for, remember to check any terms and conditions carefully before signing up for anything. Not reading the small print could end you in a sticky situation. If there’s anything you don’t understand, get advice from your friends or family.
Good luck with your accommodation search!
Emily Valentine writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency which specializes in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To browse their graduate jobs, visit their website.
Lead image: Alex Gilbert (Flickr)