The 2021 matric exams are not over yet – but with demand for accommodation in proximity to South Africa’s leading universities in high demand, it’s never too early to look at your options for the 2022 academic year.

While budget may be the defining factor for students when looking for accommodation, it’s worth comparing ‘apples with apples’ when you’re researching places to stay – and be sure that the accommodation provider offers a clear and concise contract that protects you and them.

According to Bronwyn Boavida the managing director of Respublica Student Living, which has student residences across South Africa, students have to read the fine print before signing any contract they are offered.

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“Make sure you read the fine print in any contracts to be clear on what’s included and what items may incur extra costs,” she explained.

“Check that there aren’t hidden extras or exclusions that will add up once you’ve moved in – as that may make your accommodation costs add up to more than you can afford,” added Boavida.

She suggested a few questions to add to your checklist when deciding which accommodation to go with.

Is the residence safe and secure?

In a time when gender based violence colours every decision we make, does the residence you’re considering offer 24/7 biometric access control? While apartment blocks and house-shares may have some level of security, that’s likely to cost extra, they seldom have the same level of security offered by a specialist student accommodation provider.

Is there place to study?

While campus libraries are a great place to study and research, it’s important to have facilities in your residence where you can complete your academic tasks.

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Make sure that your residence of choice has study areas where you can either work in privacy, or where you can collaborate with other students to complete your work. Make sure that these study areas offer access to computers too, especially if you don’t yet own your own PC.

Is there free Wi-Fi access?

Between online learning and the global need for access to information to support in-class lectures, it’s no longer possible to study without always-on access to the internet.

Make sure that your residence of choice offers all-inclusive Wi-Fi online access, so that you can access the resources you need, whether you’re in your own room, or in the common study areas.

Are there sports and recreation activities on-site?

All work and no play makes for a sad university life – so find out whether your residence of choice offers social and sporting activities. A building that includes a swimming pool or a gym is even better – then you can have fun and keep fit, even if there aren’t any formal activities on the go.

Is the accommodation close to classes?

Make sure that your residence of choice is close to campus – so that you don’t spend all your ‘savings’ from a cheaper option on transport costs.

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Look for a residence that’s on a public transport route, or that’s close enough to campus that you can walk safely to classes. If not within a walk-able distance from campus, is there free transport available?

Does the accommodation have clear COVID-19 protocols?

While all student are eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, it remains vital that everyone takes the necessary precautions to avoid the spread of the virus.

Choose a residence that has a clear COVID-19 protocol, for the protection of all students and staff, and even better – choose one that helps students access vaccinations when they’re eligible to do so.

Does the accommodation offer any kind of non-academic support?

Many first year students are living away from home, and from their support structures, for the first time. Choosing an accommodation provider that provides ongoing support and counselling that helps them adjust to university life, like Respublica’s ResLife programme, is yet another way to support academic success.