How providing the right support can bring more students to your university

group of students on campus

Published 25 March 2024 

In the 60 days leading up to January’s university application deadline, The Student Room had over 29 million page views, with more than 16 million of those within the study help, university and university courses forums. 

Trending topics included personal statement support, questions about offers, grade boundary worries and money management. That’s millions of students seeking help at all stages from enquiry to enrolment. So what support can universities be providing?

We looked at conversion activity throughout the recruitment cycle in our recent webinar, hosted by Barbara Bradshaw, senior market research consultant at The Student Room, and Paul Cernicharo-Terol, commercial director at The Student Room. 

This blog will cover highlights from that event. We’ll share the information prospective 2025-entry applicants require, what details mattered to prospective 2024-entry students and how frequently current first-year undergraduates wanted to hear from universities during the application process.

What information do prospective 2025-entry students need from universities?

Almost all (98%) of the prospective 2025-entry undergraduates we spoke to wanted information from universities right at the start of year 12¹. Respondents identified a range of details they would like to receive, with each selecting six options on average. 

The top six responses to the question: 'what Information do you want about universities now?'

Course information such as modules and entry requirements was the most popular option (91%), followed by information about the university like the facilities, student union and support services (80%).

Getting support with their application and personal statement was also welcome early on in the application cycle (80%), as well as information about accommodation (77%), open days or tours (74%) and the city or campus (72%).

Finances were a consideration too, with 64% wanting to know how to fund their studies. This was even higher (73%) among respondents who will be first-generation students, compared to 58% of those whose parent(s)/carer(s) had been to university. 

Potential barriers for prospective 2025-entry undergraduates

The majority of respondents (95%) had reservations about going to university². On average, each selected five things they were concerned about. 

Getting big decisions right was a key concern, with making the right university choice (57%) and choosing a course they will enjoy (52%) both in the top five responses.

The other main worries related to finances: the cost of living at university (57%), future employability (52%) and repaying student loans (49%).

Any of these concerns could make a prospective applicant question their decision to enter higher education. As university can be a big financial commitment, it’s important for applicants to feel reassured that they’re making the right choice.

What details mattered to prospective 2024-entry students before applying to university?

We asked prospective 2024-entry students what they wanted to know about a university before applying³. There were a number of essential factors, with each selecting an average of six options from a multiple-choice list.

The top six details that matter before applying to university

The highest proportion of respondents (71%) wanted to know about student satisfaction before submitting their application. It was crucial for them to know if current students are satisfied with their learning and having a good time at the university.

Accommodation (63%) was also key it became the biggest factor in decision making for students planning to move away from home (73%). 

In addition, prospective students wanted to know about course structure and flexibility before applying (60%) as well as what the city and local area is like (58%). Portraying the feel of a university is important throughout the application cycle, as students will want to imagine themselves living there.

Once prospective undergraduates have submitted their Ucas application, what information do they want about a university before selecting it as their first choice? Find out by watching our webinar here.

2023-entry students wanted regular contact from universities

Prospective students are open to regular contact from universities at each stage of the application process, and the desired frequency increases as they get closer to enrolment

We surveyed students who started university in 2023 and asked them how often they expected to hear from universities at different stages. After applying and before accepting a university as their firm choice, more than a third (36%) wanted contact at least once a week either every few days or weekly. The most commonly selected frequency was every few weeks (41%).

There was an increased interest in more regular communication in the build-up to results day once they had selected their firm choice, with more than three-quarters (76%) wanting contact from universities either once a week or every few weeks. 

And respondents wanted even more contact once they’ve confirmed their place on results day. In total, 82% wanted contact at least weekly during this period before enrolment, including 41% who wanted contact from their university every few days.

Prospective students want to hear from universities regularly throughout the process and they are looking for information that helps them know what they need to do and where they need to be.

Respondents also had preferences for how they were contacted. Our webinar details how 2023-entry students would like to receive communication from universities at different stages.

What’s important at applicant days – and how many prospective students will attend?

While there was an interest in applicant days (half of prospective 2024-entry respondents planned to attend two or three), only 9% said they would attend all five. Almost one in five (18%) weren’t planning to attend any.

It’s important to leave a good impression on those who do attend, as you are likely to be one of their top choices. So what do attendees want from these events? 

Of the prospective 2024-entry students we spoke to, each selected an average of five things they would find useful. Primarily, they want to hear from current students on their course (70%) and their potential lecturers (70%).

Hearing from a lecturer about the course was especially important to students who would be the first in their family to go to university (79%). 

When talking to current students, they also want to hear about university life (63%). And tours are still necessary at this stage – 74% of those planning to move away wanted to see accommodation during an applicant day.

We saw earlier how influential student satisfaction and accommodation can be on decision making and applicant events are an opportunity for prospective students to get a tangible feel of these aspects.

When is peer-to-peer support needed?

Finally, we asked respondents when they would seek support from other students

There was an interest in peer-to-peer support throughout the application process. The most demand was around key decision periods like where to apply (46%) and after they’ve got an offer, but before making their firm choice (43%).

But this help was also wanted when prospective undergraduates were initially shortlisting (35%) and making their firm and insurance choices (35%), as well as after their decisions have been confirmed; during the period after results day and before enrolment (28%). 

Peer-to-peer recommendation and support is key at every stage of the decision-making process. Your students can be great ambassadors, so providing any opportunities for applicants to connect with current students can showcase your university and aid conversion. 

The full webinar recording can be found here, as well as assets from the session.

You can access our summary looking at the influence of prospective undergraduates’ peers on their decision making here.


¹ This data is from TSR Asks, November 2023. We asked a base of 390 prospective undergraduates (2025-entry): ‘What information do you want from universities now?’
² This data is from TSR Asks, November 2023. We asked a base of 389 prospective undergraduates (2025-entry): ‘Do you have any reservations about applying/going to university?’
³ This data is from TSR Asks, December 2023. We asked a base of 227 prospective undergraduates (2024-entry): ‘What areas of university study/life would you consider essential to know about before applying to a university?’
This data is from TSR Asks, September 2023. We asked a base of 162 undergraduates (2023-entry): ‘How frequently, if at all, would you expect to hear from universities at each of the following stages?’.
This data is from TSR Asks, December 2023. We asked a base of 191 prospective undergraduates (2024-entry): ‘How many applicant days do you plan to attend?’
This data is from TSR Asks, December 2023. We asked a base of 224 prospective undergraduates (2024-entry): ‘Which, if any of these, would you find useful at an applicant visit day, after being offered a place?’
This data is from TSR Asks, December 2023. We asked a base of 418 prospective undergraduates (2024 and 2025-entry): ‘At what points during the application process have you/will you seek peer-to-peer support e.g. from current university students at a university, in person or online?’