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If you are going to university away from home you need to find somewhere to live. For most first years, this will be in halls, and most large universities will have a good choice of accommodation.
I have left university now (although that is another story), but I was at Cardiff and recieved an unconditional offer. This meant that in the April before I was due to start there, they sent me out an accommodation pack with details of all the halls and the prices. If you have a conditional place, it is likely that you will not decide about halls until A level results day, but this varies from each university.
I found it hard to decide where I wanted to live, there are so many things to take into consideration. Hopefully you will find my tips useful.
Do you have any particular hobbies or needs which could dictate where you want to live? Eg, if you are a fitness freak and like an daily early morning swim you will probably prefer to live near a sports centre. Alternatively, if you get cravings for Ben and Jerry's and Vodka at all hours of the day and night you will be happier living next to a 24 hour supermarket!
How lazy are you? My halls were right next to the university buildings which I found ideal because I could wake up literally 15 minutes before a lecture and still be there on time. It also saved me money because I could pop back for lunch instead of buying lunch out.
If you are going to a campus uni (eg Lancaster) then it is highly likely that all of the halls of residence will be in close proximity to the university so you won't have much choice. But urban universities will halls in varying distances from the campus. In Birmingham there are halls several miles away from the university. This means you may have to buy a bus pass, which is another added expense, so think carefully. In Cardiff the halls of residence which are a way from the campus have a free bus service, but this is infrequent and usually full.
I did not want to live in a huge halls of residence as I get intimidated by big groups of people and prefer small groups. The thought of sharing a kitchen and bathroom with 11 other people did not appeal to me.
I chose to live in a small hall with 100 people, split up into flats of 4-6 people. This had good and bad points. It was nice to live in a small flat which was all female but it did make it hard to meet other people in the halls as the flats were entirely self contained. If you want to meet lots of people and are loud and confident you may prefer large halls with lots of people. That way, if you don't get on with the people you are living directly next to, there are plenty of other people to be friendly with.
In the past, halls of residences had shared bathrooms which could be for anything up to 10 or 12 people. More recently, universites seem to have realised that students are not happy to pay for a service unless it is modern and clean.
In Cardiff, approximately half of study rooms have ensuite bathrooms. Some would say this is extravagent, but it depends on the kind of person you are. Some people would feel uncomfortable sharing bathroom facilities with strangers. My sister had a minging bathroom that I would have hated to wash in! Most bedrooms will have sinks in so in times of desperation you can have a quick wash in your room.
Think carefully about what you want- if you are willing to pay a bit extra for your own bathroom you will really appreciate it. I personally only had to share a bathroom with one other girl. This was ideal because the cost was the same as for a shared bathroom between more people. If you don't wash much (yuck) and can cope with varying standards of hygeine, you will probably cope with communal bathrooms. Rather you than me though!
You will probably have to choose between catered, part catered, or self catering halls. Just a quick run down of the advantages and disadvantages of catered halls:
+ You can meet people at meal times + Nice and Easy after a days studying (yeah right!) + No washing up or cooking skills required
- More expensive than self catered - You will not have the chance to learn how to cook for yourself! - If you miss a meal or eat out you will still have to pay - The food may be disgusting - You will have to eat at certain times
I chose self catering because I like to cook and I am quite fussy about what I eat. I also thought the catered halls were unreasonably expensive and I am tight! If you want some tips on learning to cook, click on my profile page and read my op about that subject! If you choose catered, the chances are the next year you will move into a student house and you will need to cook for yourself then.
If you choose catered you will probably still have a small kitchen area in which you can prepare snacks and drinks, maybe with a toaster. Choose carefully as you will probably have to stick with your decision all year round. Part catered halls are when you pay just for your evening meals..it's up to you and your purse strings, but it's a lot cheaper to cook for yourself!
Now there are no grants or benefits for students, the expense of accommodation is a major factor in choosing where you live for most students. In Cardiff there were some gorgeous looking halls, with their own library, gardens and gym, but this was reflected in the price (ie extortionate).
Expect to pay anywhere between £45 to £100 a week for a place in halls. I think this is very expensive personally, considering that at home I live in a two bedroomed flat for £45 a week and at uni my room cost £50 a week. But this price generally includes all your bills (water rates and electricity), repairs, and maybe insurance too. So for the first year at least, all those are out of your hands and you do not have to think about them.
At some universities, you can pay a reduced rate by allowing your room to be used for viewing. At Cardiff you saved £50 a term by doing this, but there were only a certain number of places. This means that on open days you will have scores of sixth formers and anxious parents inquisitively peering into your room. So you can't have any drug fulled orgies in there! I did not fancy the idea of having to keep my room tidy on demand just to save £50, but some people who are naturally tidy may want to do this.
If I could choose again, I would have chosen different halls to live in. In mine, there was no bar, no common room, no TV lounge-basically, nowhere to socialise other than the cold bare kitchen. Other halls had bars and social centres which seemed to be where everyone met people. In halls with no facilities, it is very easy to just close your door and become isolated. Some halls have social committees which organise social events or evenings out. This is a nice way to meet others and makes it easier for people who are not very confident.
Bear in mind other facilities such as on site parking, laundrette and internet access may be important to you so find out about them before making your decision. If you have saved all year for a second hand metro and are looking forward to cruising around your new uni town, it won't help if there is no parking for 3 miles around your halls. If you want to write for any sites such as Ciao or use the internet regularly, consider living in halls with network points in each room to avoid the computer room queues.
Take care choosing where you want to live. It is a big decision and if you are not happy it can be very difficult to exchange ot wriggle out of contracts. Living in halls can be a great experience where you can meet a lot of people. For others it is a miserable time and something they would never do again given the choice. If you make the decision carefully then you minimise the risk of being unhappy.
Try to make the most of it and make your room your home by putting up posters and plants. I used fairy lights around my mirror and put down a colourful rug and lots of club flyers on the walls to brighten it up a bit.
My uni doesn't have enough accomadation for the first years. So when I applied I was told I lived close enough to uni not to qualify for the halls. I had to find a house to rent. It wasn't that bad as it led to me and my boyfriend moving in together. Sarah ~:o)~
anna_mcnally 03.05.2002 01:26
Very good op although you have had a much better halls experience than me. UCL don't allow you to choose which building you live in, they merely allow you to state preferences for certain facilities (single room, closeness to college, computers etc) and then give you the exact opposite of what you ask for. And halls is NEVER great fun in my experience but hell sums it up quite nicely. Anna (who is currently in her fourth set of halls over three years!)
Sootica.P.Monster 02.05.2002 14:30
Definitely towards the Ben and Jerry's and vodka end of the spectrum myself... Sootica XXX