For most students, choosing a university is the first time they’ve decided where they want to live, study and work.
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“Being a student commuting from home has had its ups and downs for me. . . It’s worked out a cost-effective option . . . but I’m among the first to leave on an evening out because I have the furthest journey.”
You may want to stay at home and study locally or you may want to move away and live in a town, city, by the coast or in the countryside.
Stay at home
If you choose a local university, you have the flexibility to live at home or you can move out and live with friends. Some students stay at home in their first year but move in with friends for their second or third year. If you decide to live away from home, be aware of the length of the accommodation contract. Usually, a contract will cover the holidays as well as term time so you could feel that you are paying for a room for weeks when you don’t need it.
Depending on your course, you may not need to be on campus every day and some days, your classes may start mid-morning or after lunch. Therefore, you might be able to consider universities that are up to 90 minutes’ journey time from home. Equally, check the journey and see what it’s like at rush hour as it could take twice as long when you’re stuck in traffic or cannot get on a tube or train.
In an academic year there are 3 terms (autumn, spring, summer) and 2 semesters (September-January; January-June). Universities either change the timetable for each term or for each semester. Therefore, if you are travelling by train or tube, you may want to buy a season ticket for 3 months rather than 12 months so that you can choose a peak or off-peak ticket depending on your timetable commitments. If you are travellng to university by car, be mindful of running costs and parking charges.
You will usually save money if you live at home but you may want to agree new house rules with your family so that you become more independent and university doesn’t feel the same as being at school or college. This may mean that you take on more household chores (cooking, laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping) and, in return, you have more freedom to come and go.
Most universities provide student accommodation. Many guarantee a room for first year students and also have rooms for students in their second or third year. Usually, students prefer to live in university accommodation in their first year and then move out for their second year. There are accessible rooms and, often, a small number of studio flats for couples or accommodation for students with families.
If you live in university accommodation in your first year, you are usually allocated a room so you do not choose your flatmates. However, your choice of accommodation gives you some say in how many people you share with and if the flat is mixed or single-gender. You can also apply for a room that is en suite (your own toilet/washbasin/shower) or shared bathroom, and if it’s catered (meals included in the rent) or self-catered (you do your own cooking).
Check how close the accommodation is to campus (walking distance or will you need to cycle or catch a bus), what laundry facilities are on site, and what social spaces are available (is there a pool room, café, bar?)
The rent usually covers all of the utility bills (gas/electricity/water/wifi) but you should have your own TV licence. If you have a car, check if parking is available and if there is an extra cost for a permit.
If you are looking to find private accommodation (ie to rent a house or flat), ask the university’s accommodation service for help as they will often have a list of approved landlords. For example, at Goldsmiths students can use the University of London Housing Service’s database.