Once you’ve narrowed down your uni choices, the next big dilemma is deciding where to live. Moving away from home and applying to live either on campus or in uni-approved flats seems to be the obvious choice, but it isn’t always right for everyone. Here are some of the biggest pros and cons of living in halls.
If you’re lucky, your flatmates will be a bunch of the best, craziest and kindest people you’ll ever meet. You’ll have some really interesting conversations getting to know people of all ages, backgrounds and courses from all over the world. If you’re living in a large flat of eight or more there’s bound to be some arguments, but most of the friends you make in the first few days of Freshers’ week will stick with you till graduation and beyond.
Your flatmate might be studying Microbiology while you’re busy learning French and German, but there’s still a basic level of understanding of student life that means they’ll be a shoulder to cry on when three deadlines creep up on you at once, and they won’t ask questions when they find you in the kitchen at 2am eating a bowl of Aldi cornflakes.
Going to uni from school or sixth form is a big enough change as it is, without having to worry about bills, leases and travel to and from your lectures. Living in halls is the perfect middle ground between staying at home and renting your own house, where you learn to be independent but still have enough help from freshers’ reps, security services, nearby laundrettes and even cleaners to make you feel looked after.
Even though water, electric and internet come included in your uni bills, you’ll usually end up paying a lot more for your first year flat than the equivalent cost to rent your own house. Sometimes uni accommodation can be modern, clean and spacious but some halls are damp, dingy and depressing. It’s well worth working out your budget and looking round the different options on open days to make sure it’s worth the money, especially if your maintenance loan won’t cover the cost.
You’ve never known the meaning of dirty until you’ve stepped into a first year flat the morning after a night out… or any other night for that matter. Dishes covered with food, full-to-bursting bin bags, sticky alcohol stains, sticky floors and blocked drains. If you’re someone who can’t deal with everything not being clean, living with a load of students might be too much of a challenge.
They could be the greatest people you’ll ever meet… but they might be the worst. Whether you’re a party animal who gets stuck with a bunch of studious introverts, or a compulsive cleaner whose flatmates never help with the washing up – or vice versa – there’s always a chance that you might not gel with the people you’re put in a flat with.
Check you’re making the right decision by looking round the accommodation your uni offers on open days, and talking to a few current students to find out what their experience has been like. If you really want to do your research, look up the uni accommodation policies – do they try to match up similar personalities based on your applications? Do they let people go on a waiting list to change flats if the worst comes to the worst?
Most students find that whether or not you enjoy your time in halls completely depends on pot luck, and who you happen to be put with. But for many reasons it’s worth the risk, the mess and the expense as student accommodation is much easier, more sociable and more independent than living at home or going it on your own.