Everything you need to know about getting your university accommodation sorted for 2020/21

student sitting on sofa and working on laptop

Here are your student accommodation options, including how to choose where you’ll live and what to do if you’ve changed your mind about where you want to go

There’s been a lot of confusion and controversy around A-level results this year, which in turn has made accepting a university place a bit more complicated than usual for some applicants.

Whatever the reason for it, if you’ve found yourself with a university place this year but without anywhere to live yet – or if you’ve changed your mind about where you want to study – here’s everything you need to know to help you get it sorted as quickly as possible.  

More like thishow the government’s U-turn on A-level grades could have affected you, and what you can do about it

What should I do if I’ve accepted a university place for this year but I don’t have accommodation yet?

Your chosen university may have sent you login details to a website that will show you what accommodation they have available. Take a look at the university’s website to research the different available options as much as possible.

You’ll probably have to list a few different choices in order of preference, and once you’ve sent those off you’ll need to wait to hear back from the university about which halls you’ve been allocated.

Here’s our guide to applying for halls and, to help you pick, five questions to ask yourself when choosing your halls.

You will want to apply as soon as possible once your uni place has been confirmed with Ucas, as spaces in university-owned halls may be more limited than usual because of social distancing guidelines.

But even though you won't want to wait around for very long, it’s still worth taking a little bit of time to find the university’s forum on TSR and get honest opinions from current students about what the various different halls are like. You could also check out the student accommodation forum for more general questions. 

And this thread has loads of useful advice about choosing where to live, including a guide to house hunting.

If your university doesn’t have any spaces left in the halls you want to live in, you could try the TSR find your flatmates forum – sometimes students will post in there looking for people to take over their tenancies in halls.

Finally, if there aren’t any places left in your choice of halls, you could consider moving into private halls, a shared private house or, if you’re local enough, staying at home. We’ve gone into more detail about all of those options a bit further below.

two students sitting in a bedroom in halls

What should I do if I have signed up for accommodation but changed my mind about which university I want to go to?

You might have already accepted a university place and been allocated a room in halls, but now you’ve decided that you want to go to a different university.

If you haven’t signed a contract for halls yet, get in touch with the university’s accommodation office and let them know that you won’t be taking a room anymore.

Even if you have already signed your contract, it’s still worth speaking to the accommodation office and explaining the situation as they might agree to let you out of it – although there is a chance you could lose your deposit.

The Citizens Advice website has more information about ending your student halls tenancy in England.

Are there other accommodation options besides university-owned halls for first years?

Most freshers will live in university-owned halls in their first year, but they’re not your only option.

You could also look for a place in private halls – the main difference here would be that, as private halls aren’t owned by a university, you may be living with students from a mixture of different unis.

Rooms in private halls are often pricier than university-owned ones, but may also be a bit bigger and more modern.

Find out more by taking a look at our FAQs about privately managed accommodation and reading this article explaining the differences between university halls and private halls.

Moving into a shared private house is another option, either with friends you already know or by finding other students looking for a place to live – the find your flatmates forum on TSR is really useful for this.

Finally, if you’re studying somewhere local, you could consider staying at home. Weigh up the pros and cons with our article about living at home during university.  

Our article on where to live in your first year of uni takes a more in-depth look at all of these options to help you decide which one is going to be best for you.

group of students in halls kitchen

Will there be anything different about university accommodation this year because of Covid-19?

Some things might be done a little differently this year because of Covid-19, but it will depend on the university. Here are a few measures that the student housing charity Unipol has said accommodation providers might be taking, and that it’s worth checking about with your university before moving-in day.

  • Will I need to book a timeslot for moving into halls? Unipol has said that lots of unis will be asking students to book a timeslot ahead of their arrival, to help minimise contact and maintain social distancing.
  • How will I pick up my keys? Universities may be making contactless arrangements for collecting keys – make sure you know exactly where to go to pick yours up.
  • Will my parents be allowed to help me move in? Some universities have said that two parents will be allowed to help students move in, while others are only allowing one.
  • Will there be rules around how many visitors are allowed, and which areas visitors are allowed into? Your flatmates will likely be part of your social ‘bubble’, but outside of that there may be rules about who is allowed in your flat and what they’re allowed to do there. For example, parents might be asked to spend as little time as possible helping you move in, or asked to not eat or drink anything while in the flat.
  • Will I have to follow social distancing rules/wear a face mask in communal areas? Communal areas could include lounges, lifts and reception areas.  
  • Does the contract have an early release clause for Covid-19, exceptional circumstances or local lockdown? Ideally, you want to make sure you wouldn't be stuck paying rent even if you had to leave your halls months early. 
student working at desk in halls bedroom

What will it be like in university accommodation?

This will depend on what university you’re at and which halls you’re in – for specific tips, you can ask current students on the university’s forum or, if you’re after more general advice, the student accommodation forum will come in handy.

There are some student housing experiences that are pretty universal, though. Get ahead of the game with 15 things students wish they’d known about moving into halls and this article about what student accommodation is like at uni.

And this thread has a useful set of FAQs about living in student accommodation

Once I’ve found somewhere to live, how should I start getting ready for the big move?

You’ll probably want to start thinking about what you’re going to take to university. Make sure you don’t forget anything vital with our ultimate packing checklist, as well as our list of unknown essentials to take to uni.

Get your finances sorted too, with our guide to everything you need to know about student bank accounts.

And, once you’re there, you can feel confident that you’re fully prepared with these 11 things you must do before Freshers Week, this list of TSR members’ tips for making friends during Freshers Week and our guide to surviving your first year of uni.

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