It is appropriate that I am writing this entry given that I am
about to begin the often stressful process of finding a new flat.
Accommodation is extremely important and has a significant impact
on your university experience. My chief advice would be don’t sign
up to live with a sociopath or someone who has a chronic aversion
to doing washing up, but that stems from personal experience.
Trust me; you will encounter people at university for which the
words ‘hygiene’ and ‘cleanliness’ are entirely foreign! These
individuals are often impeccably dressed, thus lulling you into a
false sense of security, but as soon as the lease is signed that
veneer of respectability evaporates to be replaced by someone
incapable or unwilling to do even the most basic of domestic
As a third year at Edinburgh
University, I have the gift of hindsight which although
ultimately useless for me may be of some help to others. For
undergraduates about to start your first year at university and set
on living in university owned accommodation there are two
options: catered or self-catered for which there are benefits and
draw backs to both. I opted for catered and stayed in Baird House
Halls. The benefit of Pollock is that it is where the majority
of first years live, making it an ideal environment to make
friends. I made a close group of friends all of whom I still see on
a regular basis. It is also beautifully situated right next to
Arthur’s Seat. As it is catered you don’t have the stress
of having to cook for yourself (though let me assure you the
cuisine is far from Michelin Star). You have your own bedroom with
a basin a cleaner gives it a once over every week, as well as
cleaning the bathroom that you will share (on average with three
people) every day. The disadvantages of Pollock are that it is more
expensive than the self-catered option you don’t set your own meal
times and because the rooms are on long corridors it has the
potential to feel isolating.
A good friend of mine opted for the other option, self-catered, and
stayed at Darroch Court in her first year. Self-catered at
Edinburgh entitles you to your own room with in a self-contained
flat (in Darroch five share and there are two bathrooms).
Essentially luck determines whether you get good flatmates or not
and Katrina was fortunate in that all of hers were very nice
particularly three American exchange students whom we are now both
good friends with. Obviously, with self catered, you have the added
hassle of having to cook your meals which may be something you
don’t want to take on it your first year. However, Katrina
considered cooking an opportunity to socialise with her flatmates
and they would often make meals together.
For most students what causes the greatest stress is deciding who
to live with in second year, when the majority of students move
into private lets. First years generally begin looking for their
second year flat in March; though don’t worry if you leave it late
there are always good flats available to let. S1 Homes is a good place to
start as it aggregates most of the flats available in Edinburgh
into one place.
When looking for a flat here are some things you should take into
1. Rent: The average monthly rent per person for a flat in
central Edinburgh is around £350.
2. Area: Edinburgh is a beautiful city and there are a number
of areas popular with second year students for example, Marchmont,
Bruntsfield and Toll Cross. Proximity to your lectures and a decent
supermarket is also important.
3. Letting Agents: When looking for a flat do not snap up the
first one you see unless you really want it. Letting agents have a
tendency to pressure students into taking a flat by making you feel
it is the best available and if you don’t act now you’ll lose it.
Don’t believe them. It’s a good idea to ask around about your
letting agent before signing your lease, as with any city,
Edinburgh has one or two who are notorious for treating students
4. Floor: What floor is the flat on? Ground floor or basement
flats have a higher risk of being broken into. Equally you don’t
necessarily want to lug all your shopping up five flights of
5. Heating: Does the flat have double glazing and central
heating? This is very important in Edinburgh given the arctic
temperatures. Be aware, whilst large rooms with big single glazed
bay windows and wooden floors may be aesthetically pleasing, they
are freezing during winter, and expensive to heat.
6. Size: Are all of the bedrooms roughly the same size? Is the
kitchen big enough? Does it have a sufficient number of bathrooms?
(In my flat there are two and five of us)
7. Appliances: Does it have a washing machine? Does it come
fully furnished (as most student flats do)?
8. Lease: Read it carefully, and question the agent over
anything you think is unacceptable.
9. Deposit: When you move into the property ensure that you
make a note of any damage and inform the letting agent so that when
you move on they don’t attempt to use your deposit to fix it.
Once you have signed the lease on a flat the fairest way of
allocating rooms is to draw straws and this should all be done
before anyone moves into the flat. If there is one particularly
small room it is not unusual for the person who occupies it to pay
slightly less rent, say ten or twenty pounds a month. Introducing a
rota can be a good way of distributing the cleaning fairly amongst
the group as well as encouraging those less inclined to help
without being asked. Ultimately, flat sharing is about compromise,
even if you live with your best friend I can guarantee that after a
couple of months one or other of their living habits will annoy
you. Tolerance and a frank conversation is always a better option
than passive aggressive post-it notes!
Matthew Macaulay University of Edinburgh