If you're leaving home to go to a college or university in another city or state, one of your primary concerns will be where to live. If you don't want the troubles that come with renting a flat (negotiating with the landlord, coping with nosy neighbours etc), a hostel or paying guest accomodations are your best choice. They're usually close to your college, your neighbours are fun college-goers and you don't have to worry about cooking or water. But how do you go about finding a good hostel?
Step 1: List your options
If your college has a hostel, apply immediately even if you don't intend to stay there. Next, make a list of all possible hostels located near your college. Where do you get this information?
The internet is a starting point: websites like 99acres.com can be used to search for PGs and hostels around a particular area. Most websites provide you with the phone number of the person involved. However, the real-estate information on the internet is as well developed as you'd like in India.
Another good source is local real estate agents as well as posters and advertisements placed around the college.
But the best sources of information, by far, are your seniors and people who work at your college office. Not only will they know where the local hostels are (by the virtue of living in them or knowing people who do) they will also be able to tell you stories about the unpleasant parts of the hostel that your landlady will gloss over.
Note that a lot of colleges -- especially engineering and medical colleges -- build hostels large enough to accommodate every student in the college and many make it mandatory for students to live in them, even if your family stays in the same city (for example the IITs). In such a case your options are quite limited, especially if the college is not located within or near a city.
Step 2: Evaluate your options
Most colleges have college hostels, situated right next to the college. Usually, it's a very good idea to join your college's hostel. Besides being much cheaper than other hostels (this is usually true of central universities where the bulk of costs are for the mess and rent is as little as Rs 500 per month) you save priceless time travelling and you can approach your seniors if you have any doubts with your studies.
One of the downsides of joining a college hostel is that one is exposed to politics at a level that isn't experienced by day scholars. Find out about how heavy the politics is in your college and weigh your options.
Of course, it isn't always easy to get a room in the college hostel. Most over-subscribed hostels use cut-offs and admit students based on marks. You'll have to turn to a private hostel in such a case.
It's vitally important that you find out how much your hostel actually costs. For example, some college hostels only take a certain amount in advance and then compute the total amount at the end of the year and make you pay the difference. Ask your seniors how much it's expected to cost. The rules for computing mess charges also vary from hostel to hostel. In some places you only have to pay for the meals you eat. In others, the mess expenditure is totaled up and divided by the number of students and you have to pay even if you didn't eat a single meal all year.
It's also vital you find out about the rules governing the hostel. Some important questions include:
- Is there a curfew? (Many girl's hostels have curfews of 7:30 or earlier)
- Are visitors allowed?
- Are visitors allowed to stay overnight? (some colleges permit overnight stays but limit them to for example 3 days)
- Are visitors of the opposite sex allowed? Is there a deadline?
- Are there dedicate "study hours": a time in which one is required to stay in one's room and not allowed out?
- Is one allowed to smoke or drink? (Even if you don't, it's good to know what your neighbours get upto)
- What items aren't allowed? (Some hostels ban items like steam irons, heaters, coolers etc because they consume energy)
- Is there a television or radio?
- How bad is the ragging? Are there rules against it? Do the authorities take a serious view of it?
- How much will commuting cost? Can you walk or share an auto or cab?
- How good is the food?
- How clean are the toilets?
- How reliable is the electricity and water?
- Are there restrictions on what kind of clothes you can wear?
But a far more important question is: how strictly are rules enforced? Does the warden make frequent rounds? It's not common to find hostels where heaters are banned but every single room has one. For this kind of information, you're going to have to ask your seniors. There are probably many other questions you've got based on your tastes and values. Make a list and ask each one.
Remember the 'cost' of something is also measured by what freedoms, conveniences etc you're giving up.
Step 3: Move in
And have fun. Remember: these are the best years of your life.