Catered Halls vs. Self-Catered Halls - Which Should You Pick?

Catered Halls vs. Self-Catered Halls – Which Should You Pick?

Before moving to university, one of the most important decisions you have to make is whether you want to live in catered or self-catered accommodation. While self-catered is the more common option on a national level, there are advantages and disadvantages to both options. This list will hopefully help you to decide between catered vs. self-catered halls. 

Catered Accommodation:

Catered Halls vs. Self-Catered Halls - Which Should You Pick?
Source: University of Exeter

PRO – It helps to bridge the gap:

Moving to university can be daunting. You’ve moved out of home for the first time and now have to look after yourself with all the responsibilities that come with it. Catered accommodation can help to bridge the gap in a sense. For the first year, you won’t have to worry about cooking for yourself or budgeting for the weekly shop. In this way, catered accommodation helps to make the transition to independent living and adulthood less daunting.

PRO – Don’t have to worry about cooking:

After a long day of lectures, the last thing you’ll want to do is cook dinner. Fortunately, with catered accommodation, this is not a worry. Breakfast and dinner are provided in the dining hall, along with plenty of options for lunch on and around campus.

CON – Don’t get a choice in what you eat:

While you won’t have to worry about cooking, catered accommodation means that you won’t get to choose what you have each meal. While there are different options that cater to vegetarians, vegans and those with dietary requirements, you won’t have the same level of choice that you could have in self-catered accommodation. 

CON – Set meal times:

In my experience, the meal times in catered accommodation are too early. While it is nice to come back from lectures to a nice hot meal straight away, the dining hall is only open for a few hours. It can also be difficult to make food outside of mealtimes without opting for takeout, as appealing as that may seem, as most halls will only have an additional microwave. 

Self-Catered Accommodation:

Catered Halls vs. Self-Catered Halls - Which Should You Pick?
Source: University of Reading

PRO – Sociability:

If you’re more of a social person, then self-catered halls may be for you. While you get a social aspect in catered halls with the dining hall, the communal space of the kitchen and living area can become a social hotspot for you and your flatmates. It’s a great way to get to know your flatmates, to learn about who they are and their unique meal choices. 

PRO – Prepares you for life:

One of the benefits of self-catered accommodation is that it prepares you for life. As much as we all would prefer not to, you will have to cook for yourself after uni, so self-catered accommodation gives you practice. Whether you want to improve your cooking skills or try some new foods, this is a great way to expand your culinary tastes. 

CON – Finance:

While catered halls may appear to be more expensive at first, this is because it includes the catering costs for all your food. In self-catered halls, meanwhile, you have to factor in the costs for a weekly shop into your budgeting. Check out this article with tips on how to save money as a student. 

CON – The hassle:

The last thing any student wants to do after a long day of lectures is cooking a meal. Even if you enjoy cooking, living in a self-catered hall comes with having to do the washing up, which I can guarantee that no student enjoys. 

To summarise, if you don’t want to have to worry about cooking, washing up, budgeting, or anything to do with cooking your own food for your first year, then catered halls is the one for you. However, if you want the independence to choose what you eat and when you eat, then self-catered halls may be your preferred option. The decision between catered vs. self-catered halls is an important one, but no matter which you choose, I’m sure you’ll meet some amazing people and make some amazing memories.

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