Accommodation options for uni students
Unless you’re prepared to give up sleeping and a social life for extra shifts at work, studying full-time at university is generally a time of financial struggles.
Many students are fortunate enough to be able to continue living with their family while they study, but those who need to relocate in order to have better access to university will need to determine which kind of affordable accommodation is best.
Some universities offer accommodation to students on or nearby the campus. This accommodation is generally affordable (though this can depend dramatically on the particular institution) and extremely convenient, if not particularly lavish.
It’s most common for students to rent just a single room, and then share common facilities such as bathrooms, kitchens, and laundries. Larger, more self-contained apartments may be available, but naturally these come at a higher price, which is often unaffordable for students working in casual jobs a few days a week.
The biggest attraction here is the convenience. Students who live on campus will save significant money on transport costs over the course of their semester or degree.
It also presents an excellent opportunity to socialise with fellow students and make new friends – an added boon for any students who aren’t enrolling into the same university as their high school friends.
For some, however, this style of communal living can be overbearing, making it difficult for them to seclude themselves to focus on studies, or feel as though they’ve lost some privacy.
Renting a share-house
Depending on where you rent, and with how many people, a share-house can become very affordable. The cost will also depend on how many luxuries and creature comforts you’re willing to give up, however. A house with a tiny kitchen, dilapidated bathroom, no fans, air-conditioning, or fly screens, shared between four people is going to be very affordable, and for a lot of students this is the goal scenario.
For share-houses, your options are to either rent with strangers (usually organised on websites designed for students to find other students with whom to rent) or friends.
Renting with strangers is a roll of the die, and could just as likely result in lifelong friends as it could with petty in-fighting when one housemate refuses to clean up after themselves or turn down their music at 3am.
Renting with friends is of course safer, but poses the inherent risk of ending long-term friendships. As most will tell you, living with someone always has the potential to put a great strain on the relationship, so you’d want to be very sure that the friends you’re moving in with are ones you think will all get along harmoniously.
Homestays are a popular option among both younger and international students. Many universities offer services of pairing prospective homestay students with suitable households and families.
The price can vary dramatically, as some homestay families will provide all meals, but those that don’t will be more affordable (though this may work out similar after factoring the cost of doing your own food shopping).
The cost may be offset by carrying out household chores, or even looking after children outside of university hours and/or offering private tutoring. These kinds of arrangements will typically need to be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.
Homestays are also nice for those who enjoy the family atmosphere of a home, and a homestay house is usually going to offer better living conditions than most colleges and low-rent share-houses.
At the same time, however, some may find it difficult to adjust to living with another family – especially if the family doesn’t have anybody else at a similar age.
It may also limit your freedom to have guests over, making socialising that much more difficult. Being able to host gatherings and parties is part and parcel of university life for many, which would make a homestay an unviable option.
Student apartments, hostels, etc.
There are some other options as well, such as dedicated student apartments, usually in the form of high-rise buildings in city centres or near large universities.
This accommodation is rarely cheap, however, and typically involves a handful of rooms (up to a dozen or so) in a dormitory. Like the college option, they offer good opportunities for socialisation at the cost of privacy, and convenience at the cost of affordability. They do have the added bonus of usually providing gyms, games rooms, and common areas for socialising, however.
There are also hostels, which are usually a very cheap option, but as in most things, you get what you pay for. Some hostels may offer private rooms, but for the most part it will be twin or quad share, with communal kitchens and bathrooms.
Hostels are very popular among international travellers, and so the main advantage after affordability is the opportunity to meet a wide range of people from varying cultures and backgrounds.
The primary and obvious downside is usually living conditions. This will definitely depend on the hostel, but for the most part they don’t offer quite so much comfort as a privately leased apartment or house. Of course, if this isn’t an issue, or if you’re looking to ‘slum it’ during your student life, then hostels present a good option.
Most university degrees take at least three years to complete, while most leases are a maximum of 12-months, so if you make the wrong decision in your first semester or year, there’s no need to panic – simply organise to try another option at the next possible term.
If your university life will be your first time living out of home, be sure to call your parents often – they’ll appreciate it.