Navigating Student Housing as a Mature Student: Tips for a Comfortable Living Experience
When it comes to finding student housing, mature students face a range of unique considerations and challenges.
These include everything from integrating with your housemates, to finding options that suit you and, in some cases, the rest of your family.
Below, we’ve provided practical tips and insights into the student housing market, to help mature students make more informed decisions that align with all their specific requirements and personal preferences.
Understanding Different Housing Options:
When starting your search for student housing, the first question to consider is whether you want to choose on-campus or off-campus housing.
Both offer their own specific benefits and drawbacks, and the best-fit will depend on both your personal preferences, and the options that your university provides.
Some universities offer specially engineered on-campus solutions for mature students. These include providing housing that’s purely for mature students, the opportunity to choose housing in quieter areas of the campus, or grouping students based on the personal preferences that they have specified, such as how ‘extraverted’ or ‘introverted’ they would like their house to be.
If your university has this approach, then this may help you find a more suitable on-campus option.
The benefits and drawbacks of living in university-managed accommodation (versus private rentals) include:
The benefits of university-managed accommodation
- Easy access to your classes
- Easy access to on-campus academic resources
- High security
- Easily managed contract, which aligns with the academic year
- Options for more affordable 42-week rentals (in some cases)
- The opportunity to meet more people
The drawbacks of university-managed accommodation
- Reduced pricing options
- Reduced flexibility of options - such as area, amenities and floorplan, and the option to choose between a flat or a house
- Less opportunities to negotiate your lease terms
- An increased number of rules and living requirements
- Higher noise levels (in some cases)
- More competitive to secure
For mature students with families, it will inevitably be more challenging to find family-friendly housing options. But, although this means there will be fewer options that tick all your boxes, it’s certainly not impossible!
To counter the reduced availability, ensure you start your search for family-friendly housing as soon as possible. If you’re starting your studies in the Autumn term, we’d recommend starting your housing search in June-July.
To help you on your search, here is a list of common considerations when looking for family friendly housing:
- Average housing costs, and the cost of council tax
- Proximity to schools
- The reputation of the school district
- The availability of parks and playgrounds
- The availability of childcare facilities, such as daycare centres
- Safety and neighbourhood crime rate
- The security of the area (e.g. how lit the streets are)
- Transportation links
- The availability and reputation of a local GP
- Shops and supermarkets
- Restaurants and family-friendly activity options
Community and Social Integration:
Integrating into a student community at any age can feel daunting. But as a mature student, this can feel especially challenging.
Of course, some mature students will feel completely at ease integrating into their student community. But for others, the difference in age and life experience can present a challenging obstacle.
As a result, it is common for mature students to feel that their age isolates them from the rest of their cohort, to struggle to find people with the same interests or lifestyles, or to have to work harder to distance themselves from mature student stereotypes.
But, it is important to remember that these situations can certainly be overcome, and mature students are - of course - just as likely to forge lifelong university friendships as students of any other age.
Tips for fostering connections and building a support network within student housing:
- Be yourself - don’t feel like you have to change your personality to align with what you ‘think’ young people would appreciate. The right people will want to get to know you because of your personality and extra life experiences, not in spite of them.
- Find societies and events that align with your interests - these are a great way to meet like-minded people.
- See if your university offers dedicated events for mature students - it might help to boost your confidence, speaking to people in the same boat as you.
- Make your shared living spaces a comfortable, enjoyable place to be in - if you have them, ensure your shared living areas are a place where your house can spend time together, and get to know each other.
- Go on university trips - if you’re interested in sports, many clubs and societies offer day trips. These are a fantastic way to get to know people, and bond over fun physical challenges.
- Host study groups with the students on your course - these provide the perfect, relaxed environment (centred around a shared interest and focus) to get to know your cohort.
- Take your time, and be patient - forging new friendships doesn’t happen overnight!
Quiet and Study-Friendly Environments:
For any student, having a quiet living environment (at least some of the time) is key to ensuring a healthy, balanced lifestyle, and having a comfortable place to focus on studying.
Quiet living environments are conducive to focused and undistracted study, thereby helping to increase productivity, manage time more effectively, and keep stress levels down. Alongside this, having a peaceful place to live is essential for maintaining your health and wellbeing.
Mature students will have come to student housing after experiencing more traditional (and probably more peaceful!) living arrangements. As such, they may find a louder living environment particularly jarring or frustrating.
To navigate this, here are some strategies for finding or creating study-friendly spaces within student housing:
- Ensure your furniture is comfortable and supportive
- Personalise the space and add uplifting items, like photos or plants
- Try to sit somewhere with natural light
- Keep the space tidy and organised
- If space allows, try to position your ‘study’ space away from the space where you go to ‘relax’
- Speak to your housemates, and work to find a routine for studying and ‘quiet times’ that works for everyone
- If this approach works for you, arrange study sessions with your housemates
- Check out the study facilities and communal study spaces that your university campus offers
- Use apps to turn off distractions on your phone, and limit the notifications that ping through
Different housing options - whether you choose on-campus accommodation, or off-campus private accommodation - all have various financial implications.
The cost of student housing will be hugely dependent on the area where your university is based. In some areas, both options may offer cost-effective, affordable housing. In others, you may find that on-campus is much more affordable, and in others, you might get a better deal by going off-campus.
Either way, managing the cost of accommodation alongside living costs and the fees from your course can feel overwhelming.
When moving into student housing, you will need to manage the following financial and budgeting considerations:
- Your income - and whether you will need to continue your job full-time, part-time, or take on a new job
- Any existing financial commitments - such as a mortgage or anything that was bought on credit
- Any family members or pets that you are financially responsible for
- The change to your monthly rental payments - especially if they have increased
- The change to your lifestyle and routine - and how that impacts the money you are spending on a weekly basis
- The cost of any university resources - such as books and course materials
If you are struggling to manage the costs associated with university, then you can enquire about the financial support resources available to you.
Mature students have reduced eligibility for some types of financial aid, as they are primarily designed for students of a traditional study age.
However, there are still a number of financial support resources available to mature students. These include:
- Student loans
- Student grants
- Employer assistance or educational programmes
- Financial counselling
- Emergency funds and hardship grants
To find out more about the financial support resources available to you, speak to your university support team, and they will be able to guide you further.
Navigating Shared Spaces:
One of the biggest areas of adjustment for mature students will be moving into shared living spaces.
While shared living spaces often create a fun, sociable atmosphere, and greatly contribute to the overall university experience, they can also be a considerable challenge.
Particularly for mature students, it can of course be difficult to live with other people who are louder, messier or less conscientious than you. Equally, living with anyone - no matter how polite - can cause instances of disagreement or tension.
When managing your shared living spaces, and creating a happy, communal atmosphere, effective communication and conflict resolution are key.
It is critical that, when you face a disagreement with your housemate, you both address the situation with respect and politeness.
Effective communication and conflict resolution strategies include:
- Using ‘I’ statements - ‘I believe’ is far less aggressive than ‘you are’
- Don’t interrupt the other person when it is their turn to speak
- Clearly show that you are listening fully
- Put your phone away, to ensure you don’t get distracted by a notification flash
- Demonstrate your ability to compromise, and acknowledge their compromises in return
- Confirm what you decide in writing - even if it is just through a quick text, it helps to ensure there is no miscommunication or misunderstanding
- Don’t reference your age or take the ‘older and wiser’ stance. Instead, speak to your housemate on an equal footing
If you’re still struggling to find a middle ground after a discussion, then try to involve a neutral third party. You could speak to your student’s union, or see if your university has a housing coordinator who can act as a mediator.
Compared to students of a traditional age, it is often more difficult for mature students to find accommodation that ticks all their boxes.
However, with careful planning, a measured outlook and a positive approach to what the experience will offer, mature students can find student accommodation that fulfils all of their specific needs, and create an environment that contributes to a happy and comfortable living experience during their academic journey.