There are different types of accommodation available to students and all should be considered before making a decision.
Most universities will try and house their first year students in their own accommodation. The quality and quantity varies a lot but you will usually be allocated a room in a shared flat with other students. You may not have en-suite bathroom facilities and dependent on whether you choose catered or non-catered will impact the level of kitchen facilities you have.
It is a good idea to take up an offer of university accommodation in your first year as it will take the hassle of having to find somewhere to live by yourself and ensures you do not miss out on any social events in your first few weeks.
Some universities will offer limited places beyond your first year so if it is an experience you have enjoyed, it may be worth looking into. Do consider though that you may end up sharing with first years.
Private halls are not owned by the university but may appear to be similar to the traditional halls of residence. They are usually laid out in shared flats and studio apartments with excellent quality accommodation and communal facilities.
These are a comparatively new addition to the student accommodation market as a compromise between university accommodation and traditional rented houses.
It is a relatively easy option compared to renting a private house as your bills are usually included, communal areas are cleaned and looked after, there are maintenance staff on site, sometimes there will be a manned reception desk to assist with lost keys and post, sometimes a carpark, social activities organised and usually ensuite bathroom facilities.
You can either rent a whole flat with your friends or rent one room within a flat and allow yourself to be allocated flatmates. Another benefit to this set-up is that as you all have separate tenancy agreements, you are not liable to replace a flatmate that decides to leave.
This type of student accommodation isn't for everybody - you may feel that you would rather be completely independent and want to tackle renting privately instead. The costs can also seem higher but they do tend to include bills.
For years this has been the most popular form of student accommodation as you can live independently without supervision for the first time!
Whilst this is true, the process is not always easy regarding the money side of things and paperwork can be baffling. You will need to deal with a landlord or an agent who will have certain expectations about how you use and maintain the property.
The property itself may not be as nice as the one you grew up in and it may be a harsh reality realising that the entire cleanliness and maintenance of the house is down to you and your friends.
Consider the cost carefully as a cheap house will be cheap for a reason - either size, location or quality, and bills will be payable on top of the rent.
The benefits are that it is a great practice for when you will be renting or buying your own house in the future - get a grip now on budgeting and cleaning and you may never move back home!
Some parents will decide that a savvy solution to where their son or daughter is going to live is to buy a house and rent it to a group of students. So your friends' parents could end up being your landlord.
Whilst this may operate in a similar way to renting any house in the private market, you will also have the added dynamic of sharing with the son or daughter of the landlord. Before deciding if this is an option for you, consider how you feel about this and the way your friend may react to this/be treated differently.
Financially, this may be the only option available to you, in which case, you will certainly save a lot of money compared to your friends.
If you do this, ensure that your house is located within reasonable travel distance from your university so you can still commit to your course and enjoy a healthy social life. It may be worth getting a job near the university as this will encourage you to stay close by for longer rather than rushing home.
Also consider how much you may pay for public transport or in petrol and parking if you are travelling to university every day - it may soon add up and may not be much different to living in student accommodation.