Catered vs. non-catered: is one better than the other?

Choosing your accommodation when starting university is one of the biggest decisions to be made during the application process. Your first-year accommodation is likely to be where your social life is based, your friendships are formed and your future flatmates are found.

At most universities, you will have the choice of both catered and self-catered accommodation. They will vary in price and location (and obviously the way that you eat) but, at least in Edinburgh, the lifestyle encountered in each can be vastly different from each other.

Firstly, with breakfast and dinner catered for throughout the week and its provision of cleaning staff, Pollock provides a soft landing for those moving away from home for the first time. This relieves the pressures of budgeting food, cooking and cleaning for yourself that those in self-catered have to manage day-to-day.

Furthermore, having communal meals at the JMCC means that the students in Pollock have more daily opportunities to be social, as they can’t retreat to their bedrooms and eat in front of Netflix alone.

The social life in Pollock is also vastly different from that of self-catered halls. Pollock can often seem to be in its own separate social bubble, such as appearing to go to different clubs than those in other halls. For example, some seem to favour JuJu Club over WhyNot on a Monday night. With eight halls in such close proximity to one another and a shared dining area, living in Pollock enables first-years to create a much wider social circle much more easily.

On the other hand, the self-catered accommodations are more dispersed across Edinburgh, reducing the ability to socialise with people from other halls. Pollock is also a 20 minute walk from George Square, whilst one self-catered accommodation is 40 minutes away.

Nevertheless, there are positives to being in self-catered accommodation at Edinburgh, particularly with regards to independence. Although it may be initially overwhelming, having to budget food and learning to cook and clean for yourself is key for equipping you with the skills that you will need, not only for your remaining years at university but for life. Being self-catered also enables you to eat what you want, when you want, which is particularly beneficial to those with dietary requirements (or just those who want to have breakfast at three in the afternoon!).

Self-catered accommodations are also regarded as far less ‘cliquey’ and more diverse than Pollock Halls. It is likely you will encounter students from a wider demographic and a variety of backgrounds. Self-catered accommodation can be an ideal place to make friends as you share a communal kitchen and living area with your flatmates, perhaps providing a more homely environment than the corridors of Pollock.

Ultimately, the accommodation that you live in during your first year isn’t the be-all and end-all of university life. You will make friends wherever you end up, but if you’re not one of the lucky few who become best friends with their flatmates or the people on your corridor, then don’t panic!

You’ll meet friends in lectures or a society, and although you might have to put up with a walk to see them this year, you can always live with them next year.

 

Image: Ad Meskens via Wikimedia Commons

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