Skip main navigation

I’ve never lived with this number of people before – how does it work?

Helping students navigate communal living in halls or shared accommodation.
A group of young adults sitting round a table
© University of York

For anyone moving away to university the thought of living with lots of new people can feel quite daunting but there’s no need to worry (are you sensing a theme here?) – hundreds of thousands of students have successfully navigated this new environment before you, and you will too!

Before heading off to university it is worth trying to prepare yourself for some of the new challenges you might face so that you’re ready for whatever communal living may throw at you. You might even find yourself pleasantly surprised when none of the scenarios arise.

However you and your flatmates approach living together, you will certainly want to spend some time getting to know each other in your first few days. There will be lots of comings and goings on the first day as everyone battles with seemingly endless boxes of belongings and this is an ideal time to start chatting to people – it might sound obvious but just saying hello as you pass people in the corridors and on the stairs will go a long way!

Once you’ve unpacked a few of your things a great tip is to grab a drink and sit in the kitchen ready to chat with anyone or prop your door open if you don’t feel ready to face the kitchen or lounge on your own. You’ll soon find the rest of your flatmates gravitating towards a friendly face!

You will hopefully find that you and your flatmates are patient, kind and tolerant with each other as you settle into life together. In time, you might find you agree on some shared guidelines for your flat but your first week is probably not the right time to establish cleaning and shower rotas!

Top tips for preparing yourself for living in halls of residence:

  • Respect: It goes without saying but respect your house/flatmates and their belongings, it makes a huge difference to harmonious living. Try to treat others as you would like to be treated.

  • Keep an eye out for each other and take time to talk to each of your flatmates even if it’s just for a quick chat whilst making a drink. You might find yourself spending more time with friends you make on your course or elsewhere at the university, which is absolutely fine but it is still important to keep positive relationships with your flatmates.

  • Enjoy spending time all together. This could be cooking a meal together, having a night out or a games or film night. How often you do this will depend entirely on you and your flatmates but it can really help bring you all together.

  • Understand that your flat is likely to be noisier than anywhere you have previously lived. More people means more comings and goings, everyone will have different lecture times, different friends, some will be night owls, some will be early risers. Don’t worry if it takes you a bit of time to get used to all of this.

  • Everyone will have different levels of tolerance and approaches to cleaning and washing up. Communal areas will usually be cleaned on specific days by university cleaning staff but you will still be expected to do your own washing up and keep things in a pleasant state. Some flats will choose to have a washing-up rota, especially if they cook together but as a general rule clean up after yourself!

  • Share tasks where you can. This could be taking it in turns to cook for each other, shopping together (you could even arrange an online shop for a group of you), cleaning and washing up or organising a social activity.

There is no blueprint for the ideal shared living experience but if you stick to the tips above they should stand you in good stead for a successful flatshare. However, if you find that things are not going well in your flat and there are serious compatibility issues there is always support and advice on hand.

At the University of York

Here at York, you can speak to your College team for help with any issues that might arise. Your College Tutor may be able to help you tackle small problems through a flat meeting and more serious issues may be escalated to your College Manager. For more information about living with others, have a look at our accommodation pages.

Dos and don’ts in your flatshare

You will probably have some good ideas of what to do (or not do!) when living with others so share your thoughts in the Comments below.

© University of York
This article is from the free online

Next Steps to University: From Choosing A Course to Your First Assessment

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education