How to Find the Best Student Accommodation: 10 Tips

It doesn’t have to be as stressful as it’s made out to be.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Best Student Accommodation

Studying abroad can be an excellent opportunity to experience a new culture, meet people from all around the world, and explore a part of the Earth that differs greatly to anything you’re used to.

But before you pack your hiking shoes, compass and bucket hat (like a true adventurer!), you’ll need to deal with the less exciting parts of moving away from home — such as finding a place to stay.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the different types of student accommodation, what you should bear in mind when choosing one over the other, and some tips on securing the place that suits you.

Types of student accommodation

Student housing can refer to three distinct accommodation types. Let’s describe each one, so you know what you’ll encounter once the search for a home commences:

On-campus accommodation

On-campus accommodation is in close proximity to university buildings, such as lecture halls and libraries. It’s the best option if you’re the sort of person to who has a bit of an unhealthy relationship with their snooze button.

These rooms are normally provided by the university itself, which can make securing your accommodation easier: you won’t have to worry about contacting several proprietors on your own.

Private residences

Private residences are houses and apartments you can rent directly from property owners or real estate agencies. They range from one-person studios to houses with several bedrooms, and they tend to be farther away from campuses than university-owned properties.

Purpose-built student housing

Purpose-built student accommodation (which you’ll encounter in its abbreviated form, PBSA) refers to spaces that have been designed specifically for university students. They may be on- or off-campus, and may or may not be owned by the university.

Types of student rooms

Depending on your budget and preferences, you can pick one of three types of student rooms:

Shared room

These student rooms have two or more beds in them, meaning they come with little to no privacy. Though sharing a room with another student can lead to a beautiful, lifelong friendship, it can also leave you wanting to tear your hair out — or theirs — at times.

If you’re an easy-going person who doesn't mind sharing their personal space, picking a shared room can save you money and help you make friends fast.

Private room

If you pick a private room in a student apartment or house, you’ll only have to share the kitchen and living room with your roommates. If your room doesn’t include a private bathroom, you’ll share one, too.

Private rooms tend to be more popular, as they’re less expensive than studio apartments yet provide more privacy than shared rooms. If you’re hoping to secure one, therefore, apply early!

Studio apartment

Student studio apartments tend to be small, open-plan spaces with their own bathroom and kitchen. You’ll have your own bed, couch, desk, dishes… no fighting over the last clean coffee mug in the cupboard: it’s all yours!

Out of the three types of student rooms, studios are the priciest.

What to consider before choosing student accommodation

Before you take to the internet in search of the ideal home away from home, think about the following things:

Proximity to college/university

Living in an apartment that’s farther away from university will likely be cheaper rent-wise. However, you’ll be spending more time out of your day commuting — and if it’s not within walking or cycling distance, you’ll need to pay for public transportation, anyway.

Consider your budget, therefore, and how much time you’re willing to spend getting to class each day, to see what’s sensible.

Proximity to amenities

Moving away from home to attend university can be both exciting and challenging. Your schedule will be quite full with studying, socializing, doing chores (they somehow never run out), and exploring your new surroundings.

When you’re pressed for time, it’s good to have at the very least a small convenience shop within walking distance from your house. The same goes for a pharmacy, a laundromat (if you have no washing machine) and transport links.


Regardless of where you’re moving to, there are bound to be some neighborhoods that are safer than others. You’ll need to do a bit of research on this so you know which parts to avoid.

While asking Google or ChatGPT for a tip can be a good starting point, no one can give you more spot-on advice than someone who has lived in the area. So, try and join social media groups and online forums that can connect you with local students and alumni, and strike up a conversation with them — you might even end up making a few friends before you’ve even moved.

Security deposit and lease terms

Different property owners might require different things from their lessees. (That’s the term for the person leasing their property, or in this case, you.)

In most cases, your proprietor will request one month’s rent upfront at least. As a student, you will likely also need a guarantor to cosign your lease, essentially vouching to step in and pay your rent for you if you’re unable to. This will typically be an older adult in your family.

Figuring out your budget and what arrangements can be made is, therefore, essential before starting to look at properties.


While it might be tempting to rent an older or poorly maintained apartment to save money, we don’t necessarily advise it. The time you’ll spend on the phone with the real estate agency or proprietor won’t be worth it. A faulty front door lock, a fridge that keeps breaking down, or mold on your walls will be the last things you’ll want to deal with when an important deadline is coming up.

Tips for finding student accommodation abroad

Following these 10 tips can make the search for student accommodation that little bit easier!

1. Start the process early

Some countries receive higher numbers of international students than others, and some places have far fewer housing options for students. It’s important to have an understanding of just how popular the city you’ve chosen is — or whether it’s in the midst of a student housing crisis — so you allow yourself enough time to find the perfect student accommodation.

It’s recommended that you start your search well in advance to the start of the academic year. Sorting it out three to six months prior to your arrival is a good window to aim for.

Private halls and university halls usually have recommended deadlines for applications on their websites.

2. Consider your needs and preferences

You can’t find the best student accommodation if you don’t first consider your own preferences and needs.

For example, if your priority is to meet fellow students and be close to your lecture halls, you might want to live on campus. If you prefer to have peace and quiet and not to share communal spaces, then you might opt in for an off-campus studio instead.

In other words, have a good think about what your needs are: your living space should be there to make your student life that little bit more enjoyable and not cause you additional headaches!

3. Calculate your budget

Whether you’re funding your studies with a loan or the help of your family, you’ll need to determine your budget for living expenses. This will help you narrow down your options to what you can realistically afford without having to barely scrape by each month.

As we’ve discussed, some student accommodation options, such as private accommodation farther away from campus, can be cheaper than on-campus rooms, yet bear additional costs in the long run, such as bus fares into college every day.

4. Do your research

As we’ve seen, you’ll want to find out as much as possible about your new, “adopted” hometown before choosing a place to stay. You’ll benefit from knowing where key amenities and services are, such as healthcare facilities, supermarkets and transport links, which parts are considered safe for students, and, generally, what a reasonable price range for a flat is.

5. Contact college/university admissions for advice

Although Google Maps can let you go on a virtual stroll around your potential new neighborhood, that’s only a glimpse of the bigger picture. That’s why we recommend reaching out to your university’s admissions office for further information should you need it.

They’ll likely be able to give you access to resources and answer questions regarding renting and living expenses in the area. They can also provide additional information on opening a student bank account or getting to the university from the airport, for example. The more you know, the less you’ll need to worry about!

6. Make use of social media and local platforms

Turning to both social media, such as Facebook groups, and local house rental websites can increase your chances of finding accommodation quickly. Sometimes you’ll also find people on online marketplaces who are looking for a roommate or flatmate, so be sure to check those out, too.

This is especially important if you’re looking to move to a city that’s popular with international students: as you’d expect, finding student accommodation in Barcelona, for example, is going to take a lot more time and effort than looking to rent in a small, grey, wet town in the north of England.

7. Ask questions about the properties

Before entering any sort of agreement, it’s good to ask questions. In this case, you’ll want to know how old the property is, when or if it got renovated, how and when rent is collected, whether any bills are included in the price, and what the duration of the lease is.

You might also benefit from asking about pets, sublets, and any guest policies. You don’t want any unpleasant surprises after you’ve signed your end of the agreement!

8. Make use of your contacts

Remember that aunt who got married to a man who has a sister whose daughter moved to the country you’re moving to? No? Well, your parents do.

In many cases, your family or friends will know someone who has relocated for work or to study. Even if it might feel slightly awkward reaching out to these strangers, it can be of immense help to have a contact who either still lives in the place you’re going to or has lived there in the past.

9. Watch out for scams

As you probably know, the internet is a minefield for online scams, costing victims billions of dollars every year. It provides an opportunity to scammers to steal personal information and money from victims all around the world. Since, as an overseas student, you’ll be booking your accommodation prior to seeing it in person, you need to be extra careful.

You should never send money to anyone without signing a legal contract, and you should never trust a(n alleged) property owner who says they’ll “send the keys to you in the mail” once you’ve paid them.

This is another reason we recommend requesting online viewings.

10. Be patient

According to the Migration Data Portal, there were around 6.4 million international students in the world in 2021, compared to 4.1 million back in 2012. With more and more students choosing to relocate abroad each year, finding an apartment that’s affordable, in good condition and located fairly close to university can take some time.

Leaving your home, especially for the first time, is bound to be stressful in some ways; so, try not to start panicking if the search takes longer than you anticipated!

Key takeaways

A concerning (yet sadly unsurprising) survey has shown that, oftentimes, college students live in houses and apartments that are borderline uninhabitable, or “unfit for habitation”. It is important, therefore, to familiarize yourself with your rights as a tenant in the country you end up moving to. As they say, knowledge is power!

To summarize what we talked about:

  • The three main types of student housing are on-campus accommodation, private residences and PBSA. First-year students are typically given priority for on-campus accommodation.
  • Sharing a room can be a cost-effective option, but only consider it if you’re truly comfortable giving up your personal space.
  • Online scams are on the rise. Always check verified reviews where you can, and ask your friends or parents for a second opinion if you’re unsure.
  • Finally, start looking early, be patient, and don’t forget to call Mom once you’re there!

Can you think of any other words of advice for young adults who are relocating for their studies? Let us know in the comments section below.