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Student dormitory or flat share: what costs how much? Who fits where?

by Thorsten Schierhorn, February 3rd, 2020

The start of a degree is the start of a new life. Most prospective academics leave their parents' home for the first time and look for a new place to stay. Are you also going to university now? And do you want to live under one roof with like-minded people? This is not only more sociable, but also cheaper. You can choose between student dormitories and shared apartments. You can find out what you have to pay attention to here.

What will this cost me?

Student dormitories are mostly subsidized by the respective federal state or a private institution (churches, foundations, Red Cross). The rents are correspondingly low in comparison. Depending on the student residence, there are different types of accommodation: The cheapest - and most common - are single rooms on one floor with a shared kitchen, bathroom and lounge. As the next higher level, there are apartments with several bedrooms, which are similar to a flat share. Those who like it more private and have more money to spend can rent a single room with their own bathroom and kitchenette.

They are in smaller cities Cold rents sometimes still between 150 and 300 euros per room, in the metropolises mostly still less than 400 euros. In 2018, “Zeit” calculated an average monthly rent of 389 euros per accommodation for Hamburg's student residences. In the BAföG maximum rate, the flat-rate flat rate is 325 euros (as of January 2020). After all: the rooms are usually furnished.

In a classic shared apartment, on the other hand, the prices quickly go beyond this range. In smaller cities such as Giessen or Greifswald, rooms in shared apartments are still available for less than 300 euros. In metropolises, on the other hand, a room can easily cost 400 to 600 euros, and in some cases prices are even higher than 1,000 euros.

© iStock / M_a_y_a / 2017 In shared apartments, the group decides who is allowed to move in and who is not.

How can I find what I am looking for?

Apartments in a student dormitory are just as popular as any other living space in German cities. If you want to get hold of one, you have an extensive procedure ahead of you.

  • The first point of contact for applicants is the respective student union (sometimes also called student union) in the university town or region. There you will find an overview of the public dormitories and the information you need for your application. Are you targeting one of the three German cities with the most students? The following links lead to the dormitory portals of the student services of Berlin, Munich and Cologne.
  • As a rule, places in dormitories of private providers are not allocated centrally via the Studierendenwerk, but an application must be made directly to the home or the provider.
  • Proof of studies in the respective city is almost always required, either through the certificate of enrollment or the letter of admission. Church residences in particular often expect social engagement or require a letter of motivation.
  • For some dormitories, it is also possible to apply several months in advance and without prior approval, for example for new students.

You can find notices and offers for rooms in shared flats at any time. A few more can be found towards the end of the semester, when some of the flat share residents have finished their studies and move out. There are specialized portals on the Internet such as and But a look at notices at the university or in shops and cafés can also be worthwhile. Because: Many shared apartments try to narrow down the group of interested parties in this way. Anyone who visits the same locations may be more likely to be a new roommate.

When looking for a room in a shared apartment, the decisive factor is: do old residents and applicants fit together? Guidebooks on how to come across as the best, most natural, and most personable impression in a job interview fill entire libraries.

Video: 5 types of roommate everyone knows

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How long do I have to wait to move in?

A shared apartment usually decides within days whether to accept an applicant in its group. When the move-in can begin is usually already clear from the advertisement. Is the room already free or does the previous person have to move out first? Do you still need a new coat of paint? In the vast majority of cases, a maximum of a few weeks go into the country.

It looks completely different in student dormitories. Hardly anyone gets the job with the first application. The number of applicants for the vacancies is simply too high; in some cities there are up to 50 students per dormitory accommodation. You should therefore check whether it is possible to apply for several dormitories at the same time via the Studierendenwerk. At the same time, you can try private carriers. This increases the chance of finding accommodation in a house that attracts fewer interested parties.

It did not work? Then look carefully in the application conditions. In many cases, you end up on a waiting list. Then they usually have to confirm at regular intervals that they are still interested. A request for this is usually sent by email. Otherwise, patience is required: The waiting time at German student residences can be between two and five semesters. Caution: Some applications are only valid for the coming semester, the next time a new application must be made.

© istock / Geber86 / 2017 In most student residences, an in-house pub is only a few meters away.

How do you live where?

Student dormitories are located often in the immediate vicinity of the universities. In this way, future academics can sleep a few minutes longer in the morning and sprint quickly to the lecture hall on foot. That's why they don't necessarily have to go to the trendy districts in the evening - as the trendy districts have formed around the university in many cities.

But do they even have to leave the premises? One of the great advantages of student dormitories is their own party infrastructure. From your own pub to the fitness room to the garden for grilling and chilling out: many dormitories offer much more than just a roof over your head. It's always easy to find company here. Even if the faces are often the same.

As a rule, you cannot choose your roommates in the student dormitory. Because they are selected by the administration. You hardly have a say. Personal sympathy is therefore not guaranteed.

It's completely different in the shared flat. There is a good reason for the “casting” that many shared apartments hold. After all, you live here together in a very small space, sharing the bathroom, kitchen and living room. A harmonious coexistence can be more important than the perfect location. And as a bonus there might be a foosball table or a dart board.

What else do I have to consider?

Student residence:

  • Electricity, telephone, DSL and WLAN, TV connection, washing machine, caretaker: almost everything is organized centrally in the student residence and billed together with the rent.
  • In student dormitories there are usually strict rules on noise, hygiene and visits. Pets are almost always prohibited.
  • The public rooms and corridors are often cleaned by a cleaning company. In the kitchens, showers and toilets, however, it is often said that the tenants and users are responsible for this themselves.

Shared apartment:

  • Many shared apartments also see themselves as living communities. “Doing your own thing” is not welcome in the long run. You can quickly find a connection and someone to talk to if you have problems or to go to the cinema.
  • The shared use of the refrigerator, furniture, rubbish bin and the like saves costs. But it can also lead to anger. Because there are often different ideas about who owns what and how carefully you handle it.
  • The question of who bears what proportion of the electricity or heating costs is also often hotly debated.
  • Almost all shared apartments have a cleaning schedule, who is responsible for washing the dishes (or the dishwasher) and when, for example. And in almost all shared apartments, he causes disputes.

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