How do I decide what accommodation is right for me?

Two students working at a laptop in a Park Wood House kitchen

Hello there! Welcome to our Accommodation blog.

Finding the right place to live is a key part of your university experience and we want to help find the best option for you. There are lots of choices to be made, and questions you’ll want to have answered, so we’re sharing advice on everything accommodation-related you need to know throughout your university journey via our blogs. You’ll also see special appearances from some of our students currently living on campus as well as our colleagues to give you an insight into what life’s like at Kent. So let’s begin.

How do I know which student accommodation is right for me?

With over 5,000 rooms available on our Canterbury campus, and 1000+ at Pier Quays in Medway, plus private accommodation available off-campus, it can be difficult to know where to start when first looking into where you’re going to live next year. To help narrow down your options ask yourself these four questions before trying to pick your accommodation.

group of students talkig and looking at notebooks

1. Do I want to live on or off campus?

Most first-year students choose to live in our on-campus accommodation at Canterbury or our partner accommodation Pier Quays which is a 15-minute walk from the Medway campus, however, there are also lots of private accommodation providers in the local area that accept students if you know that living off-campus will suit your needs better.

Obviously, we would recommend living on campus, especially in your first year. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people in the same situation as you starting University, often moving away from home for the first time and experiencing independent living whilst still having lots of dedicated support services nearby for you to access (not to mention it’s the shortest commute from your bedroom to your seminars you’ll ever have!).

If you’re looking for something quieter then we also have Lifestyle Moderate rooms available to group like-minded students together. For extra peace of mind, we’re proud to have a guaranteed room offer promise for our students (which the majority of new students will qualify for when applying before the deadline).

You’ll also want to try and visit where you hope to live, so take a look to see if you can attend any of Kent’s upcoming Open Days where (as well as meeting us) you can visit some of our student bedrooms on campus for yourself and have a chat with the occupants. If you can’t visit in person the second-best thing is to take a look at our online virtual tours – here all of our student accommodation, as well as facilities on campus are available to view at your convenience.

Hand putting a coin into a piggy bank

2. What’s my budget?

Not a fun question, but it is the most important one. Your maintenance loan, savings, and any bursary or grants you are eligible for need to be able to cover your accommodation rent and all your other needs so it’s worth grabbing a blank piece of paper and listing what you’ll be spending it on. For example, in addition to your rent, this can include shopping (clothes, course books etc), entertainment (dinner, nights out, cinema tickets etc) and groceries (if you’re living in off-campus or self-catered accommodation). Another bonus to living on campus is you can cross utility bills (such as water, heating, and electricity), Wi-Fi, personal possessions insurance and gym memberships off your expenses list as all of these are included with our accommodation!

Compare your predicted spending to your maintenance loan payment and you’ll get a good idea of what price band you should be looking at and have an idea of what your must-haves are and what you might be able to live without. There are lots of online tools from independent providers (such as Blackbullion or MoneySavingExpert) as well as the University of Kent’s specific tools and advice that can help with budgeting. A great place to start is Kent’s Student Finance Timeline, which takes you through what to do and when you should be thinking about money in the lead-up to starting university.

It may seem weird for us to say but there’s more to your university experience than your room – don’t blow all your budget on your rent so that you can’t go and enjoy everything else. For example, if the amount you have to spend after bills is looking a little tight once you’ve put everything into your budget (or an online tool such as Save the Student’s rent calculator) then consider looking at a different or shared facilities room (which are cheaper than en-suites) to see how much extra money that then leaves you to spend on other things. Don’t forget if you’re looking at an option where bills aren’t included, give yourself a little wiggle room, so that if costs go up you won’t be struggling. Whatever budget you’re working to, we have a wide range of accommodation options and prices in Canterbury so there is something for everyone on campus, and while there is only one option in Medway, Pier Quays has been competitively priced to the local area to offer you the best value.

If you’re looking for more info then take a look at our two blogs looking at affordability and saving money.

Wok bar meal

3. Do I want to cook for myself or have some meals included?

For some of you this will be an easy question, but let’s be honest while we may have all polished up on our baking skills over lockdown, some of us still burn toast, either way, you have options.

If you are comfortable in the kitchen then our self-catered accommodation options for undergraduates and postgraduate students have large communal kitchens that are fully fitted, great for cooking together and often become the heart of the flat/house. However, if you want the convenience of having your food already made for you, and maybe save a few pennies as well, we also have undergraduate meal plan options in Canterbury that could be for you where a meal package is included in the cost of your accommodation costs. In Becket Court, Keynes College, Rutherford College and Eliot College a meal plan is included which gives you £12 a day credit to spend in most of our Canterbury campus catering outlets. Becket Court and Keynes College are en-suite accommodations whilst Eliot College and Rutherford College offer shared facilities, however, they all also have access to a kitchenette so you always have somewhere to go and make a cup of tea or fix a snack.

Sometimes, it turns out you can have your cake and eat it too (and we recommend the chocolate fudge cake served in Rutherford Dining Hall), so if you are planning to live off-campus or have your heart set on one of our self-catered accommodation options (so that you have access to that large kitchen) but don’t want to rely just on your own cooking then you also have the option to purchase our Flex Catering Plan separately, which would entitle you to a daily £14 credit (2024/2025) to be used across our Canterbury campus catering outlets. This is separate from your accommodation costs, however, if you think you’re likely to buy food on campus a lot then this could be a cost-friendly option for you as students can save up to 50% if you purchased the same amount without it.

En-suite room in Woolf College

4. Am I happy sharing a bathroom with other students?

The question that everyone worries about! If you are a Medway student you can skip this as all our Pier Quays accommodation is en-suite, but if you are a Canterbury student this is something you will need to think about.

Around 60% of our 5,000+ rooms are en-suite however they can be in high demand so if having an en-suite room is a deal breaker for you our best advice is to apply as early as possible! We allocate all rooms based on your initial application date so the earlier you apply the more likely you are to receive your first choice (in case you were wondering applications open in mid-January every year). However, when you apply you are asked to give four accommodation preferences – only two of these can be en-suite so it’s important to have a look at our shared facilities accommodation (our virtual tours are great for this) as well so that you fill all your preferences with rooms that you would be happy living in.

The rest of our rooms are shared facilities meaning that you will share your shower and toilet facilities with the rest of your house/flat/corridor. The ratio of students to shower rooms is different in each area ranging from Turing and Keynes Houses where there is one shower room and toilet for every two students in the house to options such as Park Wood five-bed Houses where five students share two toilets and one shower room. A good general rule to remember is that the more people share the facilities the lower the accommodation fee/rent. How many people you would potentially be sharing a shower and toilet facilities with is available on each of our accommodation pages. One thing we will say about sharing facilities is that whilst most are worried about it first if you speak to students a few weeks into their course they’ll tell you it’s OK, often you’ll all have classes at different times so there’s not that morning school/work rush hour you may have at home.

And that’s it, once you’ve answered those four cornerstones you should be ready to go and pick the accommodation options that are right for you, apply and check if you qualify for our guaranteed room offer.

We’re tackling accommodation applications and when to apply next, but if you have a future topic suggestion for our blog or a question you want answered let us know in the comments or DM us on Facebook or Twitter.

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