Where you live while you're a student is incredibly important. Your room becomes your home from home: it's where you study, sleep, recover from last night and get ready for this evening. If you're sharing it with a dubious patch of mould and an over-familiar rat, chances are you're not going to have the best time.
But don't worry, you can make the right accommodation choice by following these simple rules:
1 – Pick the right location for you
You'll find that there's a range of choices when it comes to where you live in relation to your uni, and everyone has their preference. You might want to be minutes away from campus or in the middle of town, for example; or perhaps you'd prefer somewhere quieter, away from the hustle and bustle. (If Google maps just starts to laugh when you try to get directions to a student property from campus, it might be a little too far away.)
Sites like student.com can help you weigh up your options. You can look up travel times between your uni and different student properties, as well as finding out more about the area, so you can decide if it's right for you.
2 – Join the student community
There are a few good reasons to pick student-only residences. You'll save on things like council tax, for one, but perhaps more importantly you'll be living with people in the same situation as you. You can explore your new lives together and feel a nice sense of team spirit - and you can have weeknight parties without worrying about disturbing the grouchy office worker down the hall.
Other teams and communities can help you find the right home, too. Searching through student.com means you'll be looking at approved student properties and talking to experts who can advise you, for example. Social media is your ally as well. Check your uni's twitter feed to get info about accommodation, or use our forums to see what students are saying about a place.
3 – Snoop around
Take advantage of open days to check out accommodation in person if you can. If that's not possible, you can still explore: fire up Google streetview and have a virtual prowl around the locations you're interested in. What shops and amenities are nearby? What does the neighbourhood look like? (Tip: biohazard warnings and evidence of zombie peril are not good signs.)
Some accommodation providers make this much easier for you: student.com has pic galleries for all their properties and locations, for example. It's definitely a good idea to see as much of a place as you can before you arrive, to avoid any nasty surprises on the first day. Plus, it adds to the sense of excitement and might – might – stop your family worrying.
4 – Keep things simple
Yes, you absolutely can get all the utilities connected yourself, set up the broadband and generally handle all the separate bits of paperwork involved in bringing a new home to life. On the other hand, if you'd rather be talking to your housemates than yelling down the phone at the broadband people, there are other options.
Private accommodation providers like student.com will manage the whole booking process for you, taking some of the hassle away. Plus, many dedicated student properties have Wi-Fi ready to go and all-inclusive fees that cover rent and bills in one payment, all of which can make things easier. You can just focus on your student life.
Little things like immediate broadband access can actually make a big difference, so check what's available in your room. You'll be able to plan your social life and check your lecture schedule right away, with a Spotify soundtrack and Netflix in the wings for some Breaking Bad bonding time with your new housemates.
5 – Get a move on
Obviously you shouldn't rush into a decision, but it's important to be aware that student accommodation can fill up quickly.
Booking your room in good time is all about being efficient. Make a list of the things you want from a property and start your search as soon as you've confirmed your place. Your uni's website will usually offer some guidance on accommodation, and you can also get some useful general tips from the experts at student.com.
Sorted? Now all you need to do is look forward to settling into your rat-free room and attempt to fit everything you own into a single suitcase. No, you don't need that paddling pool. Have fun!