The life of a student is far from carefree: how prospective undergraduates are feeling and the support they want

Published 16 March 2023

98% of the prospective undergraduates we spoke to have some type of worry at the moment, according to our February survey by TSR Insight.

Each month, The Student Room runs the TSR Asks survey to gather the latest feelings and thoughts from a prospective university audience. Following the January Ucas deadline,  353 prospective 2023 entry undergraduates¹ surveyed told us their top worries were getting the grades they want/need (83%) and motivating themselves to study (71%). Worries also span broader global issues such as climate change (33%) and war/conflict (17%).

But it’s those imminent exams and revision time that prompt the most pressing concerns. These are study pressures that won’t be limited to the current exam season. As we’ll see later on, many students will expect support from universities in this area too.


The cost of living was also a worry for more than two thirds of prospective students surveyed (68%), highlighting an opportunity to support prospective undergraduates with money management, understanding the costs they will face and how to supplement their income. The Student Room’s forums are always busy with questions around the student finance system – any help universities can provide in understanding this is likely to be well received.

Blackbullion’s newest Student Money and Wellbeing 2023 report shows that current undergraduates are continuing to feel the pinch too. The report showed nine in 10 students are worried about money (a 12% increase on last year) and 76% of students are worried that the rising cost of living will have a negative impact on their final degree result. 

How are students feeling about making their application

With the Ucas deadline passed, we asked respondents in our TSR Asks survey to use one word to describe how they felt about making their university application. The most common words were ‘stressed’ and ‘nervous’. Encouragingly ‘excited’ was also featured as a popular emotion.

Respondents also had mixed feelings about starting university – More than half (57%) were equally excited and nervous about this. 

Making friends and loneliness

In June 2022 we ran a poll on The Student Room site to ask year 13s what concerns they had ahead of starting uni. The most common concern was about making friends at the start. We’re seeing a similar picture in our survey findings from February, where even though over half (54%) agreed that they were confident about making friends at university, more than two thirds (69%) agreed they worried about being lonely.

Universities can help by communicating with 2023 entrants and making them feel connected to the university community ahead of starting in autumn. Helping applicants in this way can show empathy with applicants’ anxieties.

Our TSR Asks survey also shows that students are still wary of the impacts of the pandemic on their university experience. Despite a move away from Covid-19 regulations, almost three fifths (58%) agreed their experience would be different to before the pandemic. However, fewer than one in five (18%) felt more comfortable forming connections online than in person, suggesting that face-to-face is still desirable for the majority. By keeping communication clear, universities can ensure any longer term impacts or hangovers from the pandemic are made obvious to prospective students.

So what can universities do to support students as they enter higher education?

When we asked respondents what support would be useful, budgeting continued to come up as a top factor (79%). There was also a high interest in support on how to find a part-time job (71%). Supporting some of the top worries highlighted in our first graph above, students are also keen for advice on time management (71%) and on how to stay motivated (60%).  

Each participant selected an average of around five different areas, showing a wide range of support would be useful. When we asked applicants about the importance of university support services when deciding their university application, 64% found this to be quite/very important. Communicating what is available to applicants and offer holders is really valuable for conversion.

Get involved in conversations

Official Reps on The Student Room provide a great opportunity to support prospective students on a whole host of topics.

In this thread the University of Portsmouth student rep provides peer-to-peer support to a student who’s struggling with motivation. They talk about their own experiences and relate them to actionable points. It showcases the university offering student support by having current students relate to an applicants worries and playing a part in helping to alleviate them.

Anxieties around communication from applications is also common at the moment. The support shown on the thread below from Keele Postgraduate Official Rep gives reassurance to the applicant as well as signposts them to relevant information.

Hi, When i applied for Keele i didn’t receive an email from the university saying that they received my application or any details for the student portal or anything for an interview. Should I be worried?

Hi ddebbie28,

It’s probably worth getting in touch with the admissions team ( / +44 (0)1782 734010) as you should have received some login details for the admissions portal.

It’s perfectly possible that these have just gone AWOL but, as you’ve not had anything off the university since submitting your application, it’s worth getting in touch with them to double check and get that rectified.

Amy, Student Ambassador, Keele University


Key takeaways from our latest TSR Insight summary

  • Almost all students feel concerned about something at the moment, largely related to their confidence in their own skills and abilities (as opposed to broader global issues)
  • The ability to make friends and fear of loneliness continues to feature in students concerns as they consider starting university
  • Life skills and money management are core skills students feel they need support in developing, along with getting a part-time job and learning time management techniques
  • The majority of students feel the support services offered is an important factor in deciding which universities to apply to



¹ All of the research in this article is from the responses of 353 prospective 2023 undergraduates in TSR Asks, February 2023. Download our TSR Insight summary – How students feel post-application and what support universities can offer

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