The main thing a lot of people might say tipped the scales towards a self-catered experience is the independence that comes with it. Not only are you unrestricted in your choice of ingredients and their (sometimes experimental) combinations, but you can cook and eat whenever you like. Unlike the catered options which have set meal-times, in self-catered you’re able to call the shots – or pour them into your food; tequila-fried chicken, anyone? – which frees up your schedule a little for joining evening clubs and societies, or staying toasty in bed for as long as you want without missing breakfast. However, cooking for yourself can be quite thyme-consuming, and after a long day in the library having a hot meal waiting for you is a great bonus. Plus, it’s an unfortunate truth that ‘independence’ usually translates to ‘spending loads of time washing up’.
Timings can be an issue if you choose Catered Halls...
With paying for catered accommodation comes the cost of wages for all the staff involved in the stages of preparing and serving your food. This means that overall, it will likely cost you a lot more dough than self-catered would. However, the standard uni accommodation cork-board filled with take-away leaflets can very quickly become the apple to your eve if you’ve forgotten to go shopping, and suddenly self-catered becomes a lot more pricey, and getting your meals made for you might save both your wallet and your waist some pounds. It all depends how much self-control you have!
Learn something new
By staying in self-catered accommodation your uni learning experience goes beyond the classroom. You’ll surprise yourself with how quickly you pick up cooking skills, and even picky eaters find themselves embracing new foods. Plus, cooking is an impressive skill and you might find your spicy meatballs wooing that special someone! It is, however, very easy to get stuck in a pasta-rut without the variety that the ever-changing catered menu provides, and you might end up eating so much jarred sauce that one day you’ll wake up an Italian-speaking puppet.
Some students have obvious concerns with the self-catered option
There are huge social advantages on both sides of the equation here. With everyone keen to make new friends, the kitchen becomes a social hot-spot which means you can chat whilst you chop, prattle whilst you peel, or gossip whilst you grill and get to know your new housemates remarkably quickly, even if it’s just that they like really weird foods. It’ll also provide ample opportunities for culinary collaboration, which often results in some great meals.
“One Christmas we ended up having an Indian/British fusion roast with curried potatoes,” says Jade, a University of Sussex graduate. “It took three of us an entire afternoon to put it together, but it was one of the best Christmas dinners I’ve had!”
The great advantage with the catered option, on the other hand, lies in the fact that you can meet tons of new people outside of your flat. Tom, a Keele University student, found that he met his closest friends in the canteen: “I didn’t get along too well with everyone in my flat, but met loads of people with shared interests at dinner time... It opens you up to new people you’d probably just walk past on campus.”
So what should you pick?
If you still doughnut know what to do, think about what your priorities are; if you’re excited to learn to cook or you’re a bit fussy, then maybe self-catered is for you. On the flip-side, you might decide those skills can wait for later in your uni career, and you want to spend first year with the comfort of having food made for you, ultimately giving you more time to study (yep, you’ll definitely spend the extra time studying)...
> How to Find the Right Student Accommodation
> 15 Types of People You’ll Encounter in Student Halls