College life costs more than you think - but budgeting helps

Once that hard-won college offer has been accepted, figuring out paying for it is next step

Tue, Aug 26, 2014, 08:56

It may be the best days of your life, but going to college may also be one of the most expensive times, particularly if you are not in a position to take on a part-time job. Food, travel, accommodation, books, computers, not to mind a hefty student contribution charge and a packed social life, can all conspire to make third level a pricey experience.

But doing a bit of research, and remembering the word “budget” – and how to apply it – can stand you in good stead to make the most of these years.

Your bed

If you still have to make a decision on where you are going to college (or have it made for you perhaps in round two of the CAO offers this week), it might be wise to take a quick glance at how much studying in various cities around Ireland will cost you.

A cursory look at the table shows that it is typically far cheaper to live off-campus with a bunch of fellow students than it is to pay for an on-campus residence.

However, for first-year students in particular, the security of living in a campus residence with its proximity to college and the ease with which it can be booked, compared with finding off-campus accommodation, means it will always be a popular option.

One thing to note however, is that residences can be strict when it comes to overnight guests; good if you don’t want to end up living with your flatmate’s boyfriend as well, but not so good if you want to bring someone home yourself, or have a friend stay over.

Most student residences request that you sign in any “guests” you wish to accompany you home. Residents of Trinity Hall for example, must sign in overnight guests before 11.30pm, while DCU now offers an online guest check-in service.

But back to the costs. If you plan on attending UCD, you have a selection of on-campus accommodation. The cheapest option is the college’s Blackrock Halls which costs €4,901 for a single room for the academic year, including utilities. If being well-fed is a priority – and you don’t want to yet rely on your culinary skills or live on beans and toast for a year – then Muckross Halls and Roebuck Castle could be an option. Both offer breakfast and dinner mid-week in the on-site restaurant, with brunch and lunch on Saturday and Sunday, and cost €7,277 and €9,067, respectively.

Alternatively the new Ziggurat residence, developed on the site of the old Jury’s Montrose Hotel across from UCD, promises three-to-four star standard hotel accommodation. It has 192 ensuite bedrooms built in a series of five and eight bedroom “cluster flats”, with students sharing living and dining facilities. Standard rooms cost €180 a week, rising to €230 for a “superior room”, and €265 for a penthouse, based on a 43-week academic year (ie, €11,395). Note that construction of the building has been delayed however, and two floors will not open until two weeks into UCD’s autumn term, affecting 58 students.

Outside of Dublin, student residences are still expensive. In Limerick for example, a room in a six-bed riverside apartment in Dromroe Village will cost €4,680 a year, rising to €5,070 for a room in a less cluttered two-bed apartment. In UCC’s University Hall, you can expect to pay about €4,600 a year.

Further afield and prices drop. At GMIT’s Castlebar Campus for example, accommodation in Nephin Halls costs €60 a week, or €3,030 per academic year, including electricity and utilities.

If the words “penthouse” and “hotel-style” student accommodation don’t mesh well in your mind however, you could consider renting a room in a house near your chosen college. In Clonskeagh for example, which is close to UCD, you can expect to pay upwards of about €100 a week, plus utilities, for a single room in a house.

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