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Choosing your student accommodation

When it comes to choosing your student accommodation, you probably have a lot of questions. What do you need to look for? What should you avoid? What are the advantages and disadvantages of sharing with other students? And does any of this change if you are only 17 and not an adult yet.


Can a 17 year old live in student accommodation?

Most people will be 18 when they head off to university and therefore have all the rights and responsibilities associated with adulthood by default. If you belong to that small cohort who, for whatever reason, finish school early, you may only be 17 when you begin your university education. That can cause specific problems when it comes to accommodation.


The most prominent of these is that you are not old enough to sign a contract legally. That makes it very difficult to take up a lease for a property. That is particularly true if you are aiming to live in private, off-campus housing. However, even if you are not 18, it is generally recommended that you live on campus during your first year. It eases the transition into what, for many people, is their first experience of living independently and ensures you have access to all the services and amenities you could need.


In line with this, most universities will guarantee on-campus accommodation to all students, even the 17-year-olds, for their first year. Not only does this mean there is more support available to you, from counsellors and advice centres to on-campus security, it is also more convenient. You will not have to worry about how to travel to and from campus every day. As younger students are less likely to be able to drive and may have less financial independence to fund public transport, this has obvious advantages. During your second year or when you reach 18, then you can consider if you want to look for private accommodation off-campus, once you are more comfortable with student living and are old enough to take on the responsibility.


If you live relatively close to campus, you also have the option of remaining at home with your parents. This is obviously the easiest option, at least in terms of cost and alleviating some of the shock of the new that can come from a sudden switch to university living. You can still retain many of your familiar comforts. The obvious problem with this is it does restrict your freedom. You may still find yourself living by parental rules, and you will need to negotiate changing expectations to match your new position. Even with more relaxed attitudes at home, you may still feel like you are missing out on some of the full university experience, and if you want to study in a different part of the country to your home address, this is obviously not a practical solution.


How do I choose the right student accommodation?

You may know you want to secure yourself some student accommodation, but you still need to decide which property is the most appropriate for your needs. It is one of the most important decisions you can make when going to university, so it is essential you know exactly what factors need to be considered. Remember, most universities offer housing advice, there are organisations that exist just to help with student accommodation and you can also ask parents, other family and friends for help if you are unsure.


Location

Student halls may put you right on campus, but private accommodation can mean journeying miles every day. City centre or near-campus accommodation will probably be the most sought after, but paying less to live further away only works if you are not making things too difficult in terms of transport. There is a balance to strike between cost and closeness. You also need to consider the campus and shops, doctors' surgeries, and other essentials that you may need close at hand. It does not hurt to check out the safety of the area as well.


Viewing

Never move into a property without viewing it first. It is easy to make photographs look good, and you can only get a real feel for the atmosphere when you actually step inside. Take someone with you, as it is always helpful to have an extra pair of eyes looking for things like pests or damp. The boiler is always an important thing to check and you want to be sure you will feel safe and secure if you live there.


What is included?

Sometimes, renting a property just gives you the property, and anything else will cost you extra. If the price looks suspiciously low, it might mean there are some hidden fees that you were not expecting. Think about electricity, gas, water, phone line, internet and any other bills that you may require. This is another area were living in student halls of residence can give you an advantage over private rental, as most universities will provide all-inclusive accommodation.


Modern private accommodation can still be designed with students in mind, complete with social and entertainment areas and various amenities. Sometimes having to pay extra means you do get more for your money. You just need to check carefully exactly what you are paying for before you sign any contracts.


Terms and Conditions

Reading your contract carefully involves more than looking for extra financial costs. You need to know how long your lease will last, and does it include holidays, or is it term time only? How much is the deposit, and is there a deposit protection scheme that the landlord uses? What are the terms if you want to break your lease? If you are moving into shared accommodation, could you be liable if someone else fails to pay their share of the rent? Check every detail and make sure you understand every aspect before you sign.


Shared accommodation

Financial liability is not the only thing you need to consider when it comes to sharing accommodation with other students. Sometimes you can stay with your friends, but other times you may be living in close proximity to strangers. Make sure to meet them beforehand and ensure they are people with whom you are comfortable sharing communal living space. Campus residence halls may be gender, year or age specific, but there is generally less room to be picky about housemates in private accommodation.


What to pack

This is related to checking what is covered by your rent. You do not want to pack every saucepan you own if some are available in the accommodation already. If you are sharing private student accommodation, will your house or flatmates be willing to share utensils with you. Most university-run halls of residence will at least have a toaster and kettle, as well as an ironing board.


Is shared student accommodation a good idea?


There is not always a lot of choices available over whether you share your accommodation or not. Sometimes it is dependent on availability and what you can afford. With that said, there are several advantages and disadvantages to student accommodation that should be considered if the decision is available to you.


Most obvious in the positive column is the ability to share costs with someone else. It will almost always be cheaper to spread the bills between multiple people than it will trying to get by on your own. Another significant advantage is the opportunity to build new friendships with people in similar circumstances to you. You can expand your social circle and enjoy all the benefits of being a student with others in the same situation.


This depends, of course, on whether the people you share with are people you like. It is a lot easier to live together if you also enjoy your time together. This does not mean you have to be best friends, though. As long as you can be relatively civil when you pass in the halls and know when to keep to your own space, sharing the kitchen and living room should probably be manageable. Indeed, sometimes people who are good friends do not make good housemates. Just because they are fun on a night out does not mean you can trust them with money or to empty the dishwasher, and it may be harder to raise issues if you do not want to upset a friend.


One way to try and make a shared living situation more bearable is to ensure you carefully set out everyone's rules and responsibilities. This includes the bills and things like cleaning rotas and how much noise you can make at what times. Open discussion is vital, so living with someone you can talk to is much easier than if you are in constant disagreement.


Living in private accommodation does not have to separate you from the student experience. Many private residences that are specifically tailored to students will include social areas as well as private spaces so you can have your own room, but still enjoy a thriving social scene. Getting the balance right can provide some of the most satisfying experiences in student living.


Before moving in with anyone, you need to at least talk to them first and find out if you are a good match. Adverts for student accommodation may include details about other residents so you can find out if, for instance, they are quiet or a partygoer. It is generally easier to match students in campus halls, as universities may make the effort to group certain people together.


When it comes to private student accommodation in Preston, Brunel Court allows you to combine the best of all worlds. Within easy distance of the UCLan campus and the vibrant city centre, every resident has their own fully-equipped flat, including an individual bathroom, so your privacy is protected. You also have access to communal areas including social space, the entertaining kitchen and even a cinema and retro arcade; everything you need in one small but luxuriously furnished area. Bills are all included, and there is no additional charge for the high-speed Wi-Fi.


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