If you've chosen your course and institution, the next step is to start thinking about your accommodation options. For some students, the decision to remain at home is simple. If you can get from bed to a lecture theatre in less than an hour, there's little motivation to fend for yourself and leave the comfort of your childhood home. But for many others, such as students who need to relocate to study, there is greater need to move.
Keep in mind that most institutions will have accommodation services to help you. They will provide information on the range of accommodation options and their associated costs, give you access to student housing databases and help you prepare to make the move.
Note that Australian residents who are full-time students may be eligible for financial assistance such as Rent Assistance and Relocation Scholarships through the Department of Human Services. These can ease the financial burden of relocating, especially if you're from a regional or rural area.
In this section we cover:
Types of student accommodation
To get you thinking, here we discuss some of the most popular accommodation options for students:
Halls of residence and colleges
These are usually affiliated with or owned by an institution and are located on campus or close to it. Students usually rent a single bedroom and share facilities like bathrooms and kitchen facilities, although some institutions may provide apartment-style rooms with private bathrooms and kitchenettes.
All utilities (electricity, gas and water) are included in the fees, and internet access is usually provided in each room, although this may not be included in the cost of the room. Colleges tend to offer a range of student services such as daily meals in a formal dining room and academic tuition, while residences may offer students more independence, often giving students the ability to make their own meals in shared kitchens.
Note that prices vary greatly depending on both the institution and location (metropolitan compared to regional, for example). Contact your chosen institution's accommodation service for a price guide.
- One of the biggest attractions is the constant opportunity to socialise and meet new people. This is great if you have moved to a new state or city and feel a little out of place. There are usually many parties throughout the year (everything from formal balls to weekly parties and karaoke nights) and plenty of opportunities to strike up a friendship or two.
- You won't miss out on the comforts of home, with many institutions offering facilities such as gyms, swimming pools and cinema rooms.
- Many colleges provide a range of co-curricular opportunities such as musicals and sporting teams.
- Another huge plus is proximity to your campus. This might mean saying goodbye to your car or public transport fares and welcoming some extra sleep instead.
- This type of accommodation can be expensive, although costs will vary between institutions. Note that while some services (such as internet) may be included in the cost, others (such as cleaning) may not be. Keep an eye out for scholarships and bursaries on offer to assist with these costs.
- Your institution may require you to abide by a set of rules. This relates to things like parties (including the maximum number of guests allowed and noise levels) and overnight guests, as well as your use of shared facilities and equipment.
- Although often a positive, some students find the social opportunities to be distracting and some miss their privacy.
College apartments provide students with a more independent style of living than university colleges or halls of residence. Apartments are generally self-contained and include a kitchen, bathroom and small living area. Utilities may or may not be covered in the rental costs and you may have to pay extra for internet and phone services. You may find that some apartments are affiliated with institutions, while others are privately owned.
Costs vary greatly. Contact your chosen accommodation provider for a price guide.
- Living in college apartments not only provides a more independent living style than other forms of accommodation, but it also provides students with more privacy due to the availability of self-contained living spaces.
- It's likely that you will be able to find a room in an apartment close to campus, whether walking distance or a short public transport trip away.
- You need to pay extra for meals, tutoring and internet access (as well as be responsible for organising these!).
- You may find that the sense of community afforded by living on campus is lost.
This involves renting a room in a private home and sharing with the existing owners (usually a family). You will usually have your own bedroom and share most facilities. Meals may be provided.
The cost of homestay varies greatly. Contact your institution for information about pricing and what you can expect.
- You don't lose the family atmosphere or creature comforts you may have been used to at home.
- It can be considerably cheaper than other forms of accommodation as you are usually provided with meals and laundry.
- Some students find it difficult to adjust to a different family's way of life, such as house rules and the dinner cuisines on offer.
- You might find it lacking in social opportunities.
This may involve moving out on your own or into a shared house or flat with friends (or even strangers). You can find share houses through word of mouth, real estate websites, newspapers or on student noticeboards on campus.
The cost of rental accommodation varies greatly depending on your location, as well as the type of accommodation you choose (a house or apartment, for example). Visit real estate websites and the Study destinations section for an indication of costs in the areas you are considering.
- Renting gives you a lot more independence than other styles of accommodation, helping you become responsible and self-sufficient through paying your own bills, sharing cleaning duties and dealing with landlords and property managers.
- You can choose where you live, whether this means setting up house in the inner city or further out in the suburbs.
- You have more freedom to live as you choose (although it helps to sit down and set a few basic rules with housemates).
- Living out of home can be pricey, particularly if you choose to live on your own. You will also need to factor in additional costs, such as food and bills.
- If you're renting with others, be wary that it can be difficult sharing a place with people who have a different lifestyle (and perhaps a different idea of what constitutes clean!). Share house disputes can get ugly.
- You have to deal with landlords and real estate agents.
Hostel accommodation is a popular option for students who are moving from a regional area, interstate or overseas to study. They often provide a good short-term option until something more permanent can be arranged.
Hostels generally provide a furnished bedroom with access to a shared bathroom and kitchen, laundry, lounge area and recreation facilities (such as pool tables and arcade game machines). You may find that meals are provided, although this is not always the case. There is sometimes the option to stay in dorm-style or twin-share rooms, and short-term rental options are generally available.
The price of hostel accommodation depends both on location and the types of services provided. You can also expect to pay more for private or twin-share rooms than the dorm style of accommodation. Contact hostels in the areas you are considering, but also have a chat to the accommodation service at your institution as they will be able to point you in the right direction.
- There are plenty of opportunities to meet new people, especially if you are new to the area.
- Assuming that you choose a hostel close to your campus, proximity is a definite advantage. You will find that there are a number of hostel options in the centre of the city, so it can be a very convenient option for students studying in the CBD.
- You are required to share facilities with a large number of people (sometimes 50 or more).
- You may find that the cost doesn't quite measure up to what you get, especially if you need to pay extra for meals.
Living at home
Favoured by many students, living at home is the cheapest accommodation option. Although your parents may ask that you make a contribution for board once you are out of school, it is likely that this is still a more attractive option than forking out for on-campus accommodation or a private rental.
- Depending on your circumstances, living at home can be much cheaper and also means that you will generally have to spend less time working to get by, leaving you with more time and money to spend as you please.
- Staying at home usually means you can keep enjoying all the creature comforts you???re used to, such as your childhood room and home-cooked meals.
- You have access to a quiet study space, something that can be difficult to find when living in shared accommodation or on campus.
- Independence may be an issue. Leaving school means that you're ready to be treated like an adult, but it can be hard to continue to follow your parents' rules (even curfews) or deal with a lack of privacy.
- You may miss out on some of the social activities happening on campus, especially if you're in a rush to get home after each class. You may find that students who live on campus are always out partying together or form close-knit groups, which can cause some off-campus students to feel isolated.
- If you don't live close enough to your campus, it can be a hassle getting to and from class. Be wary of those one-lecture days; it can be very tempting to stay in bed and promise yourself that you'll show up next week.
Tips for choosing student accommodation
Before you decide on your accommodation, ask yourself the following questions:
Is location important?
One of the most important considerations (and most practical) is location. Do you want to live in the city or in the suburbs? Do you want to be able to walk to campus or are you happy to drive or take public transport?
Does your accommodation option suit your lifestyle?
This is a simple enough question, but it's important to consider how your accommodation option will fit into your lifestyle. For example, you might reconsider a share house or college if you love nothing more than peace, quiet and time to yourself. You may also have a think about specific requests you have, such as being able to walk to the train station.
Can you afford it?
While your capacity to pay for accommodation will depend on your individual financial situation, you should consider whether the option you are choosing is within your budget (and if it's feasible over a long period). Be wary of choosing something at the very top end of the scale, as this can make life very difficult if a large expense suddenly comes up, such as major car repair, or if you need to take time off from paid work to make time for exam study.
Is it something you want to commit to?
When choosing your accommodation, consider whether it's something that you want to commit to (whether you are signing a lease, an agreement with your institution or otherwise). This includes considering (and reconsidering) the people you choose to live with if you've decided on share accommodation, as well as having a thorough think about the features of each property you look at, especially if you've had to make some sacrifices in the name of budgeting.