A guide to student accommodation for first years

Girl student packing a box with books

Beginning university is one of the most exciting moments in many young people’s lives. There is so much to look forward to, and lots to think about. One of the biggest concerns for any first-year undergraduate student is accommodation, as this is often their first experience of living away from home.

If you’re starting university and are wondering what your accommodation options are, there’s no need to be nervous—we’re here to help. While a lot of freshers opt for halls of residence, this isn’t the only option and you may find something much more suited to you in private accommodation.

In this guide, we’ll discuss some of the accommodation options available for first-year students and outline some of the things to consider when looking for a place to live in your first year.

Accommodation options for first years

Choosing the right accommodation can often make all the difference to your overall experience of university in your first year as a student. For first-year undergraduates, there are typically three choices of accommodation available:

Student packing for university

University halls

Traditionally, university halls of residence have been the primary accommodation choice for first-year undergraduates. These are divided into halls providing shared kitchen and bathroom facilities, with some offering ensuites. Halls can be a safe introduction to living away from home and a great way to make new friends. However, places in halls are limited and many of the residences are now dated, especially compared to new purpose-built student accommodation.

Living at home

If your university is local to you then you may wish to continue living at home. This can be a great way to save money and enjoy familiar surroundings. However, if you live further afield and have to travel a considerable distance into campus every day, this can become tedious—and expensive. It can make it harder to enjoy ‘student life’ as you may not have the same opportunities to mingle and socialise as your peers in halls or private accommodation.

Private accommodation

The UK has a variety of private rented accommodation options available for undergraduate students, ranging from shared houses to purpose-built accommodation consisting of shared and single-occupancy apartments and self-contained studios. Purpose-built properties are typically found in much better locations than student housing and are finished to a higher standard, with more personal space and enhanced facilities like gyms and cinema rooms.

Should you choose university halls or a private flat?

Private accommodation provides students with real choice and flexibility compared to university halls. With student halls, you will be assigned a room in an apartment by the university accommodation team with little choice of where the property is, and in some cases, who you’re sharing it with. The rooms are usually very small and basic, and often only have space for a single bed, wardrobe and desk.

Private accommodation is typically in better locations than halls of residence, and there are more options available. Whether you’re looking to share with friends or make some new ones, or would rather live alone, you will have more say in what your accommodation for your first year will involve. You can live as independently as you wish, in accommodation that has been purposefully built or renovated for students’ needs.

With private accommodation, you get much more choice over where and who you live with, allowing you to choose the kind of student experience you’d like to have. This may be a more viable option for you, especially if you were accepted onto your course through clearing or were late to apply for halls of residence. It may also be much more appealing if you’re a mature student or already in your early twenties, and don’t like the idea of living in a flat full of 18-year-olds!

Private rentals offer extra comfort and security, often right in the heart of the city. For example, Woodhouse flats in Leeds provide an exceptional standard of student living right in the heart of one of the UK’s favourite student cities. Peterson Hall in Dundee provides secure central accommodation in a city where student accommodation is at a premium. Mansion Place provides Student Accommodation in vibrant Nottingham is a stylish and comfortable place to begin your student life.

If you’re still unsure, private accommodation providers like Mansion Student can offer advice and guidance to help you find the right living arrangement for you.

When should I start looking for student accommodation?

As a general rule, the sooner you begin looking for student accommodation, the better. A recent survey by Save the Student found that the majority of students start viewing accommodation for the following academic year between November and March.

Viewing student accommodation

There are a range of factors to consider when you’re viewing student accommodation for your first year. Primarily, you will want to look for accommodation that fits into your budget and can be comfortably covered by your student loan. You will need to leave enough in your monthly budget to be able to pay for necessities like food, and you don’t want your accommodation to swallow up so much of your finances that you can’t afford to go out and enjoy being a student.

Other key factors to bear in mind include the condition, qualities and location of the accommodation option you are considering. Is it secure and well-maintained? Do you like where the property is based, and is close to campus as well as shops, cafes and other places of interest? Does it provide a good level of privacy and a quiet place to study? What other facilities does it have? Most importantly, can you see yourself living there?

Your choice of accommodation will have a huge impact on your experience of first-year student life, so it’s important to properly consider every property you view. However, remember that competition for student lets is fierce in big university cities like Manchester and Sheffield. The sooner you submit your application, the higher your chances of securing a spot in your accommodation of choice.

Renting privately with Mansion Student

Mansion Student are specialists in high-quality private student accommodation in some of the UK’s favourite student cities. We provide a complete service to help you make the most of your university experience, which includes dedicated Hospitality and Maintenance teams at all of our properties.

Whether you’re looking to share with friends or would like a self-contained studio, we can advise you about what’s available. When you opt to live in one of our purpose-built student residences, you can enjoy complete security and luxury living.

To find out more about any of our properties, or for help and advice in finding student accommodation, contact a member of the Mansion Student team today.

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