What is student accommodation like at uni?

students in halls

Where should you live at uni? Find out what to expect from student living

When you’re getting ready to go to uni, one of your biggest concerns will probably be what student accommodation you'll end up with.

But with more options available than you might realise, you should be able to find somewhere to live that will suit you perfectly.

Understanding all your options will help you make the right choice. So we’ve grabbed some of the best advice from The Student Room and current UEA students to give you a heads-up on what student living's really like.

The types of student accommodation available

Most students will end up living in halls in the first year of uni, but it's not the only option...

University halls

This is where most uni freshers will spend their first year. University-owned halls provide a sociable way of life, and you’ll find yourself mixing with all sorts of people from the moment you chuck your bags in your room and venture into your shared kitchen.

If you’re planning on moving into halls, consider a few things. Firstly, what’s your budget? Do you want to go catered or self-catered? Ensuite or shared bathroom? Quiet halls or party halls?

You'll apply for your accommodation after you've firmed your uni choice, so you can research the available options at that time to find the place that's right for you.

Private halls

Private halls are owned by a separate business, rather than the university. So, if you're at uni in a big city, you might share with students from other unis. You’ll be more likely to find bigger rooms, en-suites and added extras that may not be available in university halls.

They’re often a more expensive option than university halls, but you may find they’re kitted out to a more modern standard. You should apply directly to the accommodation provider for private halls, but most unis will offer advice on your application if you need it.

Shared private house

One alternative to halls is renting a room in a shared house. This is what most people will be doing by the time second year rolls around, but it might also suit you in first year. It can be an option if there isn't any space left in halls by the time you've applied.

Depending on the city, it can take a while to find a student house. You'll want to make sure you've got time to view potential houses in person.

You’ll also be dealing with a private landlord and sorting your own bills, so make sure you’re prepared to do a bit of extra admin. Also, think about how you’ll find your new housemates – SpareRoom, Gumtree, and even student-specific Facebook groups can be good places to start.

Living at home

If you’re going to a local uni, staying in the family home is definitely an option. There are plenty of upsides, for sure: not least the chance for big savings on the rent and food costs you'll otherwise have to cover. And you're unlikely to get woken up at 4am by a rowdy group of rugby players coming back from a pub crawl.

On the flipside, living at home can make it trickier to socialise, as you’ll probably live a little further from uni and won’t be around for spontaneous plans. You may also start to crave your freedom when you see the Snapchat stories from the crazy night out you had to leave early...

Picking the right accommodation for you

Everyone has different priorities, so think about what’s important to you when you’re choosing where to live.

For instance, do you want somewhere close to uni? Do you want catered or self-catered accommodation? How are the transport links? How many people are you happy to live with? Do you want peace and quiet, or a bit of a party vibe?

And don’t forget to think about the local area. Do you want to be close to the main campus? Do you want to have easy access to facilities such as a gym, the shops or the best places for going out? Make sure you check out what’s around, or be prepared to fork out for the bus every day.

“How much you pay will affect the quality of the room, the food served (if in catered) and even how well the walls deal with external sounds, like drunk students getting home late at night…”

Jonah Ramone, member of The Student Room

Claiming your space

Lots of people worry about sharing a bathroom and kitchen at uni, but it’s not as bad as you might be expecting.

Shared kitchens can get a bit chaotic, but they're also a brilliant social space. One of the main challenges will be storage space, which is always going to be limited in a shared kitchen.

You'll probably get one cupboard each in the kitchen, so try not to take more stuff than you really need. (How often will you really use that lemon squeezer anyway?)

With a shared bathroom, it's generally a good idea to not leave anything lying around - just in case you have a housemate who helps themselves to your fancy face scrub.

“Try not to leave anything in the bathroom, like your shampoo. Instead, get a toiletry bag and keep all your bits in there so nobody can steal them!”

RickF1, member of The Student Room

And if you really find the idea of sharing a bathroom unbearable, there’s often en-suite accommodation available.

It’ll be more expensive, but you will have peace of mind that you’ll have your own space. And at least there won’t be a queue for the shower in the morning…

Making yourself at home

Some students like to bring familiar items from home to make their room feel more homely, but moving into your new uni room is also a great opportunity for a fresh start.

A good place to start is with lighting – it’s amazing what a lamp or some casually-scattered fairy lights will do for your room’s cosy-factor.

Extra blankets and cushions can also help make your bed extra snug, and dotting a plant or two about can really bring a student room to life.

You could also print some photos to put up around your room – they’ll be a great talking point with your new friends.

"I had a big pin board in my uni room which I covered in black felt with coloured ribbon going down it.

"I then pinned photos to the ribbon, which was nice as it was something I’d made but also showed off pictures that were special to me.”

Kindred, member of The Student Room

Shared living etiquette

Navigating the pitfalls of shared student accommodation can be tricky at first, but there are some simple things to remember that will make student life easier.

For starters, try to be considerate of who you’re living with, unlike The Student Room member Deutsch_Beth’s flatmate:

“We have a flatmate who steals our food, talks loudly on the phone at 4am and makes a complete mess of the kitchen but doesn't clear it up for days. She is the flatmate from hell!”

Use this as a good place to start; try to refrain from throwing an impromptu party in the middle of the night, leaving mounds of washing up festering in the sink for days or stealing your flatmate’s smoothie from the fridge. Food is precious (and expensive) when you’re living on a student budget!

Equally, if you have an issue with one of your flatmates, the best thing to do is to talk to them directly – that means no passive-aggressive notes or angry messages to the flat WhatsApp group.

Hopefully then you’ll have a more positive living experience like The Student Room member xoxAngel_Kxox:

“Our flat was like a family. We cooked, watched TV, went out, ordered food shopping together, gossiped until all hours of the morning... it was amazing. But, like any family, we still argued of course!”

Our partnership with the University of East Anglia

The Student Room is proud to work with UEA, a UK top-25 university (Complete University Guide 2024) and UK top-30 university (The Times/Sunday Times 2024), as the official partner of our student life section.

Located on the edge of Norwich, a lively city full of secret gems just waiting to be discovered.

Visit their profile page to learn more or join the conversation on The Student Room's UEA forum.

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