Student accommodation or shared house? Ella helps you pick

11 Mar 2020
By Ella S., Student at Birmingham City University

Time to find a place to live! It’s scary because you’ve only just started uni, but you already have to decide where you want to live next year. And whether you’re a fresher or a third year, finding a new home can be super stressful.

As a third year who has lived in halls, a student house, and then halls again, I have hated finding places to live. I can’t lie.

But I have the tips so you won’t hate it. I’ve made the mistakes so you don’t have to!

Student accommodation

Most students will live in university halls or private student accommodation in their first year, especially if they’re coming from a distance. It’s a great way to meet new people from all over the world!

Also, some unis and accommodation providers will let you choose whether you want to live in a mixed or same sex flat. So what are the pros and cons of living in halls?

The pros

1) You get to personalise your room

You get to start fresh, with a blank canvas, and customise your space with great new bits and pieces that show your new friends who you are. I loved this bit! Personally, I need my room to be calm and stress free as that’s how I work best.

2) You can have your own bathroom

Most student accommodation providers offer the option of an an en-suite bathroom. It will usually cost you a bit more than if you opt to share a bathroom with your flatmates. But, from doing both, I prefer an en-suite purely for the convenience.

3) You have on-site security and reception staff

Moving away from parents and carers is exciting. But if something breaks, or you need advice, or you forget your key, you have to figure it out yourself.

So having someone on hand 24/7 is super useful and, in my experience, they’re really friendly and always have your back.

4) You’re close to uni and good transport links

This makes it super easy to get in to lectures. In my first and third year, I’ve lived on campus and it takes me seven minutes to walk into uni from my bedroom. Lie-ins for the win!

5) You don’t have to wait in for parcels

I only realised this when I got a house in second year! At accommodation, someone is always in to get your boohoo order. But at a house, you might need to bribe a flatmate (usually with a maccies) if you’re in a seminar and you need them to listen out for your delivery.

6) You get free food, occasionally

My accommodation in third year gave us free pizza and breakfast one week, and that was an absolute winner! Obviously, I’m gonna be biased when there’s free pizza involved.

The cons

1) You’re responsible for the communal areas

Sometimes you’ll get stuck with a messy flatmate, and it can be a little stressful when it comes to cleaning and taking the bins out. In my first year, I didn’t have a cleaner which caused a little tension until we made a cleaning rota.

Read more: Cleaning: Pro tips from our housekeeping team

2) You’ll have regular fire alarms

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the drills are bad. They’re good, super important, and we need them for safety.

I’m on about the idiots who set the alarms off at five in the morning. That’s not the best when you’re on the eighth floor! I just think of how I’m toning when climbing that many stairs getting my summer bod in advance.

Coming from someone who actually had a fire in their accommodation in first year, pay attention to what your accommodation say. They’re not saying it for laughs, they’re saying it to keep you safe.

Read more: Q&A: How to stay safe from fire, with Avon Fire and Rescue

Shared houses

Unless you’re moving to uni with a group of friends, you’ll typically get a shared house only in your second and/or third years. I got mine in second year, having sorted it out in November of first year.

So what’s good and bad about sharing a house with your mates?

The good

1) You get a bedroom bedroom

You know what I mean? A real bedroom, in a house, like you used to have at home. You actually feel like you’re at home, which can make it so much cosier.

2) The communal areas tend to be nicer

We had a TV, and sofas, and artwork on the walls. Granted, the TV was probably older than me but we could still have family nights watching Bake Off and that’s all that matters.

Also, our fridge was in the living room, which was a bit weird but we rolled with it. Sometimes you just have to.

3) It’s another step to being fully independent

This whole house is yours!

The bad

1) Sharing bills can be a hassle

In my house, we had separate contracts for our own rooms so the rent and bills were kept separate. But if you have contracts together, it can be hard if someone’s not pulling their weight or if someone drops out.

I’ve heard from friends that getting their housemates to pay bills was hard, and they sometimes had to pay more to cover their share.

2) You have to sort out any problems with the house

I had a mouse in my house (lol rhyming) for months and my landlords were useless. I could hear it moving around my room at night, and twice had to move into my boyfriend’s student accommodation because it wasn’t going away. It was gross!

3) Getting your full deposit back can be tricky

In my experience, private landlords and estate agents charge for all sorts of things that accommodation providers don’t. I had a bill for over £400 for tiny marks on bookshelves.

Student halls generally only charge if you break something or something goes missing, but if you report this before you move out you should be fine.

Do what’s right for you at the time

I have plenty of happy memories from both student accommodation and my shared house. I’ve gone from one, to the other, and back again - so I’m proof that you can have a great time wherever you are.

For me, student accommodation was the winner - though it may have just been the free pizza.

Live with us again next year

Happy where you are? Rebook now for 2020/21 to get the room you want. Be quick - our rooms sell fast!

Want to live with your flatmates again? Complete the group booking form to stay together.

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I’m Ella, I’m 21 and in my third year at Birmingham City University. I’m currently studying Media and Communications specialising in Radio however I do study photography modules too.