5 Essential Factors When Choosing a Student City | Top Universities

5 Essential Factors When Choosing a Student City

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Dasha Karzunina

Updated Mar 18, 2021



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The university you study at is likely to have a significant impact on your future life – but getting the location right can be just as important. Choosing the right setting can make all the difference to your student experience, the connections you make, the memories you create, and the career path you follow.

During our research with prospective international students across the globe, we’ve heard time and again that location really matters. This encompasses the surrounding environment, personal and professional opportunities, local culture, language and much more. So what should you be looking for in your future student city, to ensure the best experience possible?

1. Safety


Safety first! Although this may seem obvious, safety is often voiced as a concern – particularly among international students preparing to travel far from home. You want to make sure you can have fun and access a range of opportunities, without putting yourself at risk or having to be overly cautious. Moreover, your parents will probably much happier and comfortable letting you go if they know the city you’re moving to has low crime rates, is student-friendly, and has a good reputation. There are several sets of statistics you can access in this regard, such as the Numbeo Safety Index (one indicator used in the QS Best Student Cities index), to put your mind at rest and reassure your parents.

2. Affordability

If there’s one thing that unites students around the world, it’s a focus on value for money and getting a good deal! The truth is, some cities are a lot more affordable than others, and especially for students. Interestingly, some of the more expensive cities (such as London) offer some of the best free activities and student discounts on travel, eating out and shopping. Elsewhere (such as Paris), high living costs are balanced out by low tuition fees. Be sure to check out the accommodation costs when planning your budget – this will be one of your biggest outlays, and can make all the difference between a city being affordable or not.

3. Friendliness

Does the city have a friendly vibe? Will the locals make you feel welcome? Can you fit in quickly and feel part of the community? Or is there a risk that you’ll feel lost in the crowd, unable to connect? Whether or not a city is warm and welcoming makes a big difference to how quickly you make friends, find favorite venues and begin to feel at home. Of course, this is difficult to judge without having visited the place, but try to get an idea by checking out online reviews, travel sites, expat forums and student groups on social media.

4. Employment opportunities

Employability is another key concern uniting students worldwide. Many of the students we’ve spoken to said they would select a particular city because of its links with industry, and the type of employers located nearby. This could mean more opportunities to gain work experience alongside your studies, as well as the chance to find a job nearby when you graduate. If you’re studying internationally, you’ll also need to take account of visa regulations, of course. Nonetheless, studying in a city plugged into your chosen sector could be a huge bonus.

5. Culture & lifestyle

We know that many students also choose their city based on personal interests and cultural factors. Because aside from practical considerations, your student years should also be fun! With this in mind, make sure you choose a student city which matches your personality – whether this means amazing nightlife, access to green spaces, a renowned arts scene, or a passion for sports and outdoor challenges. For many international students this means choosing a city which is also pretty different to anywhere they’ve lived before – studying abroad is an adventure, after all!

Which student city would be your #1 choice? Or have you already studied in a fantastic location? Share your experiences and help us create the next edition of the QS Best Student Cities index!

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