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University accommodation: The pros and cons of living in halls

With Ucas applications done and dusted, the practicalities of going away to university will be the next thing for many students to consider.

Some will do anything to leave their hometown for pastures new, moving hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles to do so. 

And yet, if you’ve grown up close to your favourite university, or just want to stay close to your familial settings, a decision has to be made. Do you up sticks and move into university managed accommodation, or stay at home and commute? 

More than 328,000 students in the UK elected to commute to university from home last year – a growing figure that is thought to be a result of sky-high tuition fees and the rising costs of living.

To what extent would your university experience be affected by your living arrangements?

To help your decision, here are the honest pros and cons of both options.

Moving into halls

Pros:

1.    It’s easier to make friends

You’re surrounded by people your own age who are all in the same boat (suddenly independent, potentially homesick, but excited for a change).

Although you may not have the same interests, you live with each other and therefore have more opportunity to create strong friendships. Plus, when any chance to do something fun arises (going to the union bar, going out out, or attending the freshers’ fair) it will be your housemates that you ask first.

Most halls will invite you to join a private Facebook group for your specific building, so if you find it easier to scope out new pals online, you can do so before you even arrive.

2.    You can choose catered halls if you’re not up for cooking

…Although you probably won’t make it to breakfast every morning.

3.    There’s so much choice

Be it the cheapest and grubbiest of halls, the basic middle ground, or the fully-fledged en-suite you’ve always dreamed of, halls of residence try to cater to all preferences.

4.    There are cleaners

Yes, they can be annoying at 7am after you’ve just arrived home, but they keep (most) things clean so you don’t have to.

5.    You can forget about bills, bills, bills 

Everything is included in your rent (hooray!) so no need to worry about standing orders… until next year.

6.    There’s so much to do

In a flat or building with 5+ others, someone will always have a brilliant idea for how to avoid studying. 

7.    Health and safety standards will be upheld

If this is a worry of yours (or your parents), then forget it, because university-managed halls will have strict guidelines to abide by.

8.    An RA will always be around to help

Your Residential Advisor will be an older student living close by, and on hand to help with any issues you might have.

9.    You’ll appreciate going home more

You might find that you value the time you spend with family more the less you see them. Not to mention the home comforts you’ll undoubtedly miss.

10.    Independence!

There’s no better way to learn how to be independent than by being thrown in at the deep end, amongst others in the same position. Plus you can learn from each other and realise how great (and simultaneously rubbish) it is to be in control of your own life.

Cons:

1.    It’s more expensive than home

Rent, nights out, and food (including increased amounts of takeaway), in addition to buying new stuff with your student loan will eventually add up.

2.    People are gross

You will have to put up with others’ mess, which is often made in your crockery. Grr.

3.    Distractions are easily come by

Such as pranks, spur of the moment competitions, group film watching. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) might kick in if you decline, so you probably won’t get much work done.

4.    Prepare for constant noise (and fire alarms)

Don’t be surprised if someone wakes you up yelling at 3am on their way back from a night out. Trying to squeeze in a disco nap?

Sod’s law means a nerf gun war will break out right outside your door. Oh and no one can cook toast in halls it seems… cue 6am fire alarm.

5.    You have an RA and the university to answer to

You might feel like a free agent, but you still have to answer to someone if you break something or get in to trouble.

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6.    It’s difficult to get any alone time

On one hand you can be sure that someone is always around to hang out with, but the opposite can be true too. If you need alone time it can sometimes be hard to find, or difficult to assert your needs to your new friends that you want to impress.

7.    It’s more effort (and expensive) to go home

Depending on how much you want to visit your family, and how far you moved to come to uni, this can be a massive pain. Luckily Skype exists (although it won’t help you get free food).

8.    You can’t choose your housemates

You could be really lucky, pleasantly surprised, or absolutely despise your new flatmates. However, it is fairly simple to request to change halls if the situation gets really bad.

9.    Home-sickness is real

And it can be an expensive problem should you decide to go home at the weekends.

10.    People steal (intentionally and unintentionally)

Depending on who and how many people you live with, possessions left in public spaces, like the kitchen, will probably get used or taken. 

Staying at home

Pros:

1.    It’s free/cheap!

You might get charged rent by your folks, but it won’t be much. Just make sure it’s reasonable considering the reduced loan you’ll get for living at home.

2.    There’s no moving involved

No packing, no hauling boxes up the stairs and no need to buy new kitchen or homeware.

3.    Free home-cooked meals and laundry

You might not appreciate how good this is until you move out, but it really is something to be cherished.

4.    You’ll be more encouraged to join societies to make friends

Without the chaos of living in halls amongst your peers, you’ll be more encouraged to join societies and get involved in uni life – great for your CV and for making friends!

5.    Going to halls parties = no worries

No one is going to trash your room or steal your communal kettle if you live at home.

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6.    No chance of home-sickness

But you might get ‘parent-sick’.

7.    Less distractions = better grades?

It’s possible. After all, university is for getting a degree and therefore a decent job.

Cons:

1.    It’s harder to make friends

It can be harder to just pop over to someone’s flat to hang out if you live off campus. But there are other ways.

2.    FOMO

Not being in the mix, so to speak, means you might miss out, and you might feel rubbish about it. 

3.    Getting home after a night out is trickier

You’ll probably end up getting taxis/buses home on your own, but at least you’re saving money on rent to compensate.

4.    You’ll (probably) get sick of always being around family

Just like anyone you spend lots of time with, being with your family a lot can become tiring. However, you can very easily stay out of the house by making on-campus friends or being proactive with studying in the library, or playing pool in the union bar.

5.    You’re not forced to be as independent

As scary as it sounds, having to fend for yourself can really help you to grow. But you can still become independent at home – you just need to put in the effort.

6.    You can’t get up 5 minutes before your lecture

Nope.

7.    You might not feel like you’ve really ‘experienced’ uni

For many people, the best part of university was living in halls. But this isn’t always true, it’s just something to consider.

Lizzi Hart is a linguistics graduate and a marketing executive at the Graduate Recruitment Bureau.

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