Settling into your first year of university is a whirlwind. It’s exciting, of course, but amid the lectures, society events, and newfound independence — thinking about housing for the next year can easily get lost in the hustle. 

Planning ahead is extremely important to securing your ideal room. This guide will help you navigate the (sometimes) frantic world of researching accommodation options such as university halls, shared housing, or private studios, until you find the perfect place to call home!

What we will be covering:

How does second-year housing work?

Are you wondering if second year students can still live in student accommodation?

Of course, you can. You don’t necessarily have to move out of university accommodation after your first year. Some students choose to stay in university halls for subsequent years, but most of the time, undergraduate students choose to move into a private accommodation or house in the second year. So, timing is crucial; it is important to begin your search as early as possible to find a place in your desired location and within your budget.

There are a few distinct types of second-year housing. Before you start looking, consider things like whether you prefer living alone or with your new uni friends, and whether you’d like to live closer to the university or in the city centre.

Here are the three main accommodation options you have as a second-year student:

1.    University halls

University halls of residence are typically owned and managed by your university itself to provide first-year students with familiarity, safety, and less competitive pricing. This type of accommodation is great for people who enjoy communal living and don’t have specific people in mind that they plan to live with but could be challenging for those who seek privacy and prefer larger living spaces.

Student laying in bed reading a book at her University student accommodation.
Image source: Plymouth University

Convenience: Halls are just a short walk from your classes and campus amenities.Limited Availability: Due to their popularity, you might find it really hard to get your first choice of residence.
Social Life: It helps foster a powerful sense of community and is an easy opportunity to make friends with flatmates and fellow coursemates.Shared Living: You’ll have to give up on privacy and live with other students, which could mean sharing your kitchen and bathroom in some university halls.
Safety and Support: Most halls have 24/7 on-site support staff and resources.Less Flexibility: Halls usually have fewer options in terms of room customisation and are much smaller than private rooms.
Inclusive of Utility Bills: Water and electricity bills are usually part of the rent, so this eliminates your monthly budgeting hassles.Rules and Regulations: They usually have strict terms and conditions, especially with regards to noise levels, guests, decorating, and other lifestyle choices.

There is no particular cap on how many years you can stay at the university. However, the duration of your stay in university halls can vary depending on your university’s policies and your individual circumstances. In many cases, students are allowed to stay in uni halls for multiple years if they wish, though availability may be limited. Sometimes, universities prioritise allocating halls to first-year students, particularly those from overseas, to facilitate their transition and integration into university life.

2. Shared housing

This involves renting a house or apartment with friends where you each have your own bedroom, but share communal areas such as the kitchen, living area, and bathroom. It is not affiliated with the university and makes for an excellent choice if you are an independent student who loves company, but also values having your own personal (and much bigger than halls) room space.

Students cooking and studying at a shared University Hall.
Image source: Uni Britannica

This option offers the most flexibility and potentially the lowest cost compared to the other two.

Cost-Effective: Shared housing can be the most affordable option, as you split the rent and bills.Management and Maintenance: Sharing a house means shared responsibility for cleaning, maintenance, and dealing with potential landlord issues that you will have to handle yourself.
Bigger Room with Flexibility: Houses usually have larger rooms and flexibility to personalise it more than you would have had at university halls.Limited Control and Disturbance: You may have limited control over the choice of housemates and lifestyle differences, leading to potential conflicts.
Social Opportunity: Much like the university halls, living with your friends or other students can be fun and you probably won’t miss home too much.Payments and Bills: The utility bills are separate from the rent payment. Even though equitable sharing of expenses is an advantage, it could create complications if one housemate leaves unexpectedly.

3. Private accommodation

Private student accommodations are different from the standardised university halls and shared housing in the variety of rooms offered. They cater to students who are looking for their own private space along with common facilities such as 24/7 security and support, housekeeping, laundry room, and amenities like gym, games room, and more.

However, navigating the different options and finding the right provider and location can pose a challenge, especially considering the terms and conditions and guest policies.

To give you a better idea, let’s take you through the two types of accommodation units you can find here and compare for yourself: 

  1. Studios: These are compact, self-contained units with a bedroom, bathroom, and possibly a kitchenette, ideal for those who crave complete privacy.
  2. En-suite rooms: Like shared flats with a common kitchen and TV room, but with individual, attached bathrooms, offering a good compromise between privacy and cost sharing.

These are usually full-furnished properties, so you only must arrange for anything extra that you may need such as organisers or bedding.

Student reading a book in his studio room at Study Inn.
Study Inn

Amenities: Gyms, laundry room, games room, cinema room, and study spaces are typically available. Social Events: Some accommodations organise movie nights, quizzes, and topical events to help you connect with your neighbours.Contractual Obligations: There is an extensive tenancy agreement which outlines your rents, policies, and other regulations regarding your stay.
Utility Bills and Housekeeping: Most private accommodations help you budget wisely by including water, WiFi, and electricity bills in your rent payment itself. Also, some providers such as Study Inn offer bi-weekly housekeeping and cleaning services for each room along with the provision of essentials like fresh towels and linen.Potential Costs: This option could be more expensive than university halls or shared housing, particularly for private studios and for the premium facilities that are offered.
Security and Support: It is more like a gated community or hotel, with a concierge, CCTV cameras, and keycard access for every resident.Finding The Right Provider: Research is key here. You may have to spend some time looking for good accommodation groups in the city that are also located conveniently. A lot of accommodations have luxurious facilities but tend to be quite a ride from the university of the city centre.


When to start looking for second-year accommodation

As we mentioned earlier, getting a head-start on your search is (almost) always a winning strategy!

The early bird gets the worm (October) 

Most universities and agents start announcing room availability during October and November. Yes, this is probably just a few weeks into your first year and it may seem like it’s too soon. However, starting your search early means that you get to browse a wider range of options AND even get it at a discounted rate.

Post-holiday hustle (January)

After the long Christmas break, the initial excitement and rush might have subsided and by this point, you should have a clearer understanding of the type of accommodation you desire and who you wish to share it with.

While this is not too late to look around and you will still have a variety of options, you may not get the same discounted prices as you may have in October or November. Also, the availability of accommodation can vary depending on location and demand. While more private rentals can sometimes become available in January due to ‘new year, new house’ decisions being made, these are less likely to be student-specific or term-time rentals.

The scramble (March-May)

This is a risky time to start looking out because the best options are most likely to be gone and finding compatible housemates may not be the easiest process, but you can find last-minute deals if you are lucky. But do you really want to settle for something less than ideal?

General tips:

  1. Talk to your friends: Discuss timelines and preferences with them early on so you can all start doing your research simultaneously.
  2. Stay informed: Check your university website regularly for announcements regarding hall applications.
  3. Plan it out: Shortlist at least 5 good options in order of priority (around November) and keep reviewing their website or subscribe to notifications for updates and deals.
  4. Reach out to a senior: The best thing to do (especially if you are not very familiar with the city you’re house-hunting in yet) is to ask somebody who has been through the process.
  5. PRO TIP: There is no single “right moment” to do this, but even if your friends aren’t conversing about accommodation by October, don’t let the peer pressure of being laid back get to you. Start looking out on your own. Most private accommodation providers, like Study Inn, allow you to book a virtual or in-person room viewing 3 to 4 months before you can move in.

Can you move into student accommodation early?  

There is a possibility for you to negotiate an earlier move-in date if you book in advance and make necessary arrangements, but it depends on the provider and their policies, so it is recommended that you directly discuss this at the outset.

Whether you can move into student accommodation early depends on a few factors:

  1. Type of accommodation: University halls tend to be stricter with move-in dates compared to private providers since it is strictly aligned with academic term dates.
  2. Availability: If rooms haven’t been filled or previous tenants are moving out early, there might be some flexibility.
  3. University policy: University house contracts typically last for the duration of the academic year, which is usually around 9 to 10 months. However, contract lengths can vary depending on the university and the specific accommodation provider. Some universities might offer early arrival programs for international students or those with specific needs.
  4. Private landlords are more open to negotiation: Private providers are often more flexible with move-in dates, especially if they haven’t filled all their rooms.
  5. Costs: Early move-in might come with an extra fee, so make sure to factor that into your budget.

If you do get the option to check in early, ensure that it is explicitly mentioned in your contract or documented online for future reference.

What to think about when you’re choosing second-year accommodation

Unlike first year where your rooms are often pre-selected, you have the freedom to explore more options. But you also have the responsibility of choosing the right one for yourself.

Let’s look at some crucial factors to consider when selecting your second-year housing: 

Location, location, location

The location usually reigns supreme when it comes to choosing your accommodation because it’s like your base camp. Imagine having to catch a bus to get to an 8:30 am class, or having to trek for 25 minutes to get some urgent groceries. It’s always good to find something mid-way.

However, on the off chance that these options are entirely booked, here are some things to remember:

  1. Proximity to campus: Consider how important it is to be close to lectures, libraries, and campus amenities. Or ask yourself if you’re willing to trade a shorter commute for a livelier neighbourhood and access to restaurants and shopping centres.
  2. Public transport links: Reliable public transport allows you to explore the city and reach essential services easily. Check for the nearest bus stops and train stations.

Did you know that the cost of living in Exeter is 56% lower than that of London? Learn more about Exeter as a student destination here


Being realistic about what you can afford or what you want to spend on is key.

  1. Rent and bills: As for private accommodations and university halls, most expenses are included in your monthly payment. However, if you opt for shared housing, it is essential to consider the rent as well as the various expenses associated with living independently such as utility bills.
  2. Living cost: Regardless of your choice, don’t forget to account for living expenses such as transportation (if you must take a bus to the town centre or uni every day), groceries, etc.

Check out our other post on tips for saving money during your university years, here, for more advice. We also have a post about the cost of student halls and private accommodation in Nottingham, if that’s where you’re headed.

Property features

Yes, location is important. But your accommodation has to be more than just a convenient address. You obviously want a comfortable, fun, and safe place to live in.

  1. Furnishing: Is the room furnished or do you have to BYOF? Private properties often have an edge here, as they typically provide kitchen utensils, bedding, and sometimes even entertainment options like gaming consoles.
  2. Amenities: A spacious study area, gym, common room, games, and security — how important are these things for you?
  3. Lifestyle considerations: Do you crave a lively shared flat or prefer the privacy of a studio apartment? Consider your personality and how much social interaction you desire.
Study Inn wellness spa

Beyond-the-checklist factors

  1. Read online reviews: Look for reviews from previous tenants to get a better idea of the condition of the property, the quality of offerings, and service. YouTube videos or vlogs can be really useful here!
  2. Book a viewing: We cannot stress enough how important it is to physically view your potential room before you book it. Getting a first-hand impression of the space, and surrounding areas is important.

If you’re still having trouble trying to find the right place, here’s a guide to finding the right student accommodation for you.

Help finding housemates

Choosing a place to live in is probably not the only thing you have to do if you’re looking for shared housing. The hardest part is looking for housemates that align with your needs and preferences.

Here are some tips to find your second-year flock:

  1. Online platforms: What do you do if you have no one to live with at uni? Well, you might find it interesting to know that there is a Bumble for flatmates! You can use SpareRoom or IdealFlatmate to browse through listings, post your own advertisements, and connect with potential housemates based on shared interests and preferences.
  2. Attend housing fairs and events: Your university or a local accommodation provider will mostly organise such events during your first year to bring students together and discuss living arrangements.
  3. Connect and communicate: Speak to your friends, course mates, or current housemates. Be clear about your expectations and any deal-breakers to avoid conflicts down the line.

While finding compatible housemates is definitely rewarding, it can require a lot of time and effort. Wouldn’t it be great to just skip the stress of housemate-hunting and focus on moving in?

Study Inn offers you this option: private suites and studios with all the amenities you need. Our expert team manages the housemate-matching process for you so you can have a harmonious living experience.

All-inclusive student accommodation at Study Inn

With luxurious and fully serviced accommodations, you can enjoy the convenience of all-inclusive bills, housekeeping services, WiFi, and amenities such as a wellness spa, gym, laundry, game room, and study spaces when opting to move into a Study Inn building. We host tons of social events from movie nights to game tournaments, giving you the chance to connect with friends and de-stress.

Feel free to reach out to us to schedule a viewing or if you have any other inquiries.