If you’ve just found a place at university through Clearing, you’ll need to find somewhere to live now – quite possibly in a place you know very little about.
“The sooner people confirm a place on a course, the quicker we can allocate them a room in halls or help them find alternative, university-approved accommodation,” says Angie Dunkley, who works in residential services for the University of Derby.
Although most students set their hearts on the social buzz of university halls, off-campus house-shares can be a great success. “I was in Clearing and I found a house with five students, who ended up being my best friends, and I shared with them all the way through uni,” says Chloe Schendel-Wilson, president of Bournemouth University’s (BU) student union.
Universities are prepared for a rush of late accommodation applications. “We realise Clearing is becoming a more popular admissions route, so we keep plenty of spaces spare,” says Ruki Heritage, head of student support at the University of Bedfordshire. Some universities, such as Manchester, guarantee all applicants who apply before the end of August a place in university accommodation.
Be prepared to make a quick decision if you see something you like. Halls are usually allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, and students can tour what accommodation is left during Clearing open days.
Some universities such as Bournemouth organise a “homefinder” day a fortnight after the main flurry of Clearing. Here, house-hunting students can meet – if they haven’t already hooked up through Facebook groups – and learn the dos and don’ts of rental contracts, find lists of available properties and university-approved landlords or estate agents, and arrange to view properties together.
Universities work with providers such as Unite Students, Prodigy Living and Campus Living Villages to offer places in private halls. These are usually pricier, but offer the benefits of all-in fees, sometimes require a smaller deposit, and have support staff on hand. “Check cancellation policies and be sure you’re happy before you accept. You don’t want to be tied to a room you don’t want or need,” says Shaw.
You may find yourself sharing with students from different year groups or even different institutions, but that’s not the end of the world, says Jenny Shaw, head of student services at Unite Students. “Older students can show you the ropes.”
While halls require rents termly – bills included – private landlords will expect it monthly, which requires budgeting, says Matthew Usher, UK student recruitment manager at BU. Private rooms or flat-shares usually end up cheaper, but will require a deposit and rent upfront, usually before your student finance kicks in.
Student unions and housing offices will help you check over potential contract pitfalls, such as whether you have to rent for a full year or are liable for bills if other flatmates don’t pay up.
Guide to finding a room
• Speak first to university accommodation offices and get on waiting lists for halls, as places come and go quickly. Don’t miss deadlines for accepting places.
• Options include private halls, university-approved landlords, university letting services, private flat-shares or a room in a private house with landlord on site.
• Look over accommodation if possible during Clearing open days – be decisive if you see a room you like. Join Facebook groups and other social media to contact other house-hunting students.
• Prioritise what you need – whether it’s wifi, an en suite bathroom, or peace and quiet. Be prepared to compromise.
• Find estate agents’ and landlords’ details at university housing offices. See also Homefinder UK, myspareroom.co.uk, Airbnb (for short-term accommodation) and movem.co.uk for student property reviews.
• Bring proof of identity and current address when viewing properties; you may be asked for a bank statement, photographs for university accommodation forms and a guarantor (usually a family member) if you are renting privately.
• Be prepared to pay a deposit for private accommodation and a month’s rent upfront before your loan comes through. University and private halls may also ask for a deposit.
• Don’t feel pressurised to sign, particularly private contracts, before checking with university staff. Student unions can also look over rental contracts. Beware of length or rental term (ideally seek September to June) and overall responsibility for rent and bills in a joint contract.
• Check contract cancellation policies before you sign – you may change your mind if other options crop up.
After Clearing: how to find student housing © Guardian News & Media Ltd