A Parent's Guide to Student Accommodation
05 December 2017
University Halls of Residence
The ProsHalls of residence managed and maintained by the university is the default option for first-year students. But is it really the best choice? Here, we look at the advantages and pitfalls of university halls of residence. Close to campus and purpose-built, university halls of residence are generally considered a safe and affordable option for first-year students. Depending on the price paid, the room may include an en-suite bathroom, or at least a basin, with a shared kitchen and bathroom used by anything from five to 20 fellow students. Most are also monitored 24/7 by security personnel, and often feature a fob or passcode entry system that makes them a much safer option than a privately-rented house or flat. University halls are generally favoured for first-year students because of the ease at which students are able to live independently away from home without worrying about bills, broadband and, in some fully-catered halls, even things such as cleaning and cooking. They also offer what we’d call a ‘full-on’ university experience, with no shortage of social events from Freshers’ week to the end of term. Other pros of university halls include:
- Regular cleaning and maintenance of communal areas.
- Pastoral care provision – many university halls have an on-site doctor or counsellor.
- Canteen facilities – particularly in catered accommodation, though these are becoming less popular.
The ConsDespite these plus points, university halls of residence aren’t for everyone, even first-year students. University halls vary in quality – so, whilst it’s possible to find some amazing halls of residence, there are some not-so-amazing examples. Additionally, university halls of residence offer varying amenities and creature comforts – meaning students have to pack more belongings. All of a sudden, those kitchen mod cons seem a long way away. Secondly, some halls are well known for being rowdy and noisy, and this is something that can have a serious impact in the long-term, not just on their studies, but on their health and wellbeing, too. It’s only natural that bringing together a few hundred young adults with their first taste of independence will lead to beat-blasting parties. Perfect during freshers’ week and after finals, not so perfect when deadlines are fast approaching. Other cons include:
- Some halls are staunchly regulated, with students required to log overnight visitors, and collect their mail from a central office.
- The need to vacate halls during holidays, which can cause a massive upheaval.
- Conflict arising from the shared use of communal facilities.
Private Rented Accommodation
Low rents and the flexibility of living with friends make private rented accommodation a popular choice, particularly among second and third-year students. Here are the pros and cons of renting privately as a student.
The ProsAfter a year spent living with people they may not necessarily have much in common with, opting to rent privately gives students the freedom to live with friends, which can make for a more enjoyable and productive university experience. Alternatively, they may choose to live independently in their own flat, which is great for developing important life skills. Depending on the type of accommodation they choose, and the location, renting privately can result in significant savings, with an average weekly rental cost in a shared house being well below £100. Moving into private rented accommodation may also afford a more study-friendly environment, with less noise and distractions – which is great for those entering the tougher second and third years of study. Other benefits include:
- More space, including the use of a private garden or yard (depending on the accommodation type).
- Full 12-month rental period, which allows for greater flexibility during holidays and the summer.
- Space away from campus, which can expand their university experience.
The ConsOne of the biggest drawbacks of private rented accommodation is the massive variances in the quality of housing. Some shared student houses and flats are genuinely in an abhorrent condition, and managed by landlords happy to take money from naïve students, but unwilling to invest in the maintenance required to bring their property up to a reasonable standard. Such is the demand for student housing that they don’t think this is necessary. There’s also the danger of students having to manage utility bills, which can make budgeting difficult, and add unexpected costs which mitigate any savings they’ve made through cheaper rent. Splitting costs fairly and evenly between housemates can also result in conflict, especially if they have different view on when the heating should be used than others. Other negatives include:
- A potentially unsafe neighbourhood away from the secure university campus.
- Large deposits and agency letting fees, which can quickly max-out a student overdraft.
- The added responsibility of keeping a private rental in good condition.
The Parental Home
While parents will undoubtedly have mixed feelings about their child living at home throughout their studies, it does have its benefits – as well as its downsides.
The ProsOne of the most obvious advantages of living at home during study is the opportunity to save a large chunk of student loan, which can be used to fund a lifestyle not often befitting an undergraduate student, or else put to one side for a rainy day. Even if you decide to charge your student lodger board, they’ll still be in a much more comfortable financial position than their peers when it comes to stepping out into the real world after study. From a student perspective, living at home provides the opportunity to maintain close friendships with old friends, and hang on to part-time jobs they weren’t ready to give up. It’s also a great choice for ‘home birds’ who struggle with homesickness – which is a relatively common issue, and one there’s absolutely no shame in. Other positives include:
- An escape from the rowdy and, for some, overwhelming atmosphere of campus-life, and an environment far more conducive to study.
- Safety and security.
- The ‘best of both worlds’, so to speak.
The ConsIf students opt to live with parents, they risk missing out on the wider student experience, and the great sense of independence which comes from living away from home as a young adult. This, in turn, can make it more difficult to move out after study, as living away from home as a student provides a useful stepping stone into the much more daunting real world. Not only that, but they’ll find it more difficult to make friends and connections at university, which could affect their studies, become demoralising, and lead to a growing sense of resentment in having to travel back to the family home every night when they’d prefer to stay out and have fun on campus. University is a chance to discover yourself, and meet like-minded people who could become lifelong friends. Other downsides include:
- The inconvenience and expense of travelling into university.
- Not having the opportunity to pop to the library for that one book which could make or break their essay.
- Conflict with parents, who may have been looking forward to a little time apart from their offspring.
Purpose-Built Student Accommodation
Students are no longer limited to university halls of residence and dodgy private rentals, with purpose-built student accommodation cropping up in the majority of the UK’s big uni towns. Here, we explore why purpose-built student accommodation, such as Aparto, could be just what you’re looking for.