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How to Move to London as a Student

Moving abroad for college seems like a pretty sweet deal. After all, getting a visa as a student is a lot easier than trying to get a UK visa once you’ve graduated. That doesn’t mean that moving to London as a student is easy though.

There are a lot of choices to make and things to consider. So, as someone who’s been there and done that, let me help you with this short guide on how to move to London as a student.

Look at the Cost of the Programs You’re Interested In 

Just as different colleges in the states charge different prices, so do universities in the UK. In England, the cost of an undergraduate degree has risen dramatically to over £9,000 per year for home students.

For international students, it can be a lot higher, and that’s just tuition. Now, some places may choose to charge less, but they are few and far between, and realistically, not in London. 

The United States also allows loans to be taken out in the USA and put towards accredited universities in the United Kingdom.

There’s a list online of these universities, so when I was choosing which one to attend for my Masters’s degree, I chose SOAS University of London from the list of accredited universities. This meant that I took out a student loan with the US federal government to pay for my tuition, which back in 2016 was £16,000.

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In the UK’s devolved government setup, England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are each responsible for their own education programs, which means that different countries within the UK may have cheaper tuition.

In comparison, Scotland has remained a frugal choice for education and they still have programs for under £2,000 per year. 

Depending on your financial ability, you should make the decision that is best for you and your financial status. This might mean looking outside of London. There are plenty of great cities throughout the UK, so London is definitely not the be-all and end-all, especially if you’re on a budget.

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Consider the Cost of Living 

It’s no secret that London is super expensive. That doesn’t change if you’re a student.

Sure, you can sometimes get subsidized student accommodation, so that could definitely help you and your budget if money is a concern, but even the student accommodation in London is much higher than in other parts of the country.

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This includes the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh, which is also pretty notorious for living costs. 

The other things to think about are the costs of transport, food, going out, and more. In London, this is all more expensive, with the exemption of the city’s transport, which on the whole is affordable. The issue with London’s transport is that as the city is so big, walking is rarely an option like it sometimes is in other cities.

So even though a bus ticket might cost less in London than it does in Manchester or Liverpool, you’re likely to be buying more of them throughout the year to get around, so it all adds up. 

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If you’re looking for cities that have all the amenities, travel connections, and student vibes of London at a lower cost of living price point, check out Glasgow, Manchester, Cardiff, Liverpool, or Belfast.

Consider Moving Costs 

Finally, you need to think about moving costs. Unlike home students, you can’t just jump in your car and arrive. Flights are expensive, especially at the end of August/start of September when the semester starts. You also need to consider visa costs.

Currently, it costs ​​£363 to apply for a student visa from outside the UK and that rises to £490 to extend or switch to a student visa once you arrive in the UK. It’s not outrageous, but it’s also not cheap. 

You also need to factor in luggage costs. Are you just buying a couple of big suitcases on your flight or are you planning on paying a company to ship your stuff after you arrive?

Bringing stuff with you on the plane is normally cheaper, but it does limit the amount that you can bring. 

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All in all, there are a lot of things to think about if you’re planning to move to London as a student. The main thing is to look at your finances and find the course and location for you. There are tons of colleges and universities all over London with various tuition and living costs.

Start with the US-accredited UK university list to help narrow down your choice, and try not to get too attached to living in London if you can’t afford it.

It’s relatively easy to reach London from most of the UK, so even if you don’t go to school there, it doesn’t mean you can’t visit and hang out there on the weekends.  

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