MSc Health Policy, Planning & Financing student Astrid Grant shares her advice for preparing your application to the School, and how to plan for your year in London after receiving your offer:
You will probably fill in the application form and have your supporting documents even before the application process is open. That’s fine, but even though you submit all of it the first day, you have to be aware that there are many other anxious students-to-be waiting for an answer just like you. It took nearly 5 months for me to get an answer… although some others got it just 2 months after. This will depend on how many choices you have and if you are offered a place to study in your first, second or third programme of choice. So don’t panic, your answer will come.
2. Don’t email unless it’s necessary
As I said many people will be in the same situation as you so probably email will just collapse the system a little bit more. If you have to email do so, but bear in mind it will take a while (normally a week or so) to get an answer. For urgent matters I would recommend you give a call to the School. I’ve always received friendly person on the other side of the line and useful information immediately, without having to wait for a week.
3. Don’t try to find a place to stay before you are in town (unless you are going to a student accommodation).
So, a lot of people (me included) hear that we will spend a year in London and quickly become familiar with all the housing websites (spareroom, gumtree, zoopla among others). Well, my friend it’s just useless because unless you are available to go to a viewing, the room will be gone in front of you and you will just get frustrated. My advice is that you check the neigbourhood and try to match it to your budget so you can know where to look once you’ve arrived. Things you need to know though about renting in London is that, if you go to an agency this is going to happen: if you don’t have a UK guarantor because you are a student – this basically means no work related income . The UK guarantor is someone who lives and works in the UK and can vouch for you in case you weren’t able to pay your rent, or you will have to pay 3 to 6 months in advance (it depends on the agency). Also, if you see a property you like, they will ask you for (about 1000 pounds) to stop the viewings and make an offer to the landlord (this is totally refundable but be aware you will need to make this money transfer quickly).
If you can’t afford 3-6 months in advance because you don’t have a UK guarantor you can always go for Gumtree or Spareroom ads which tend to be a bit less formal about it (some private landlords that don’t rent through agencies for example) and might be easier for you – IMPORTANT: never make a payment or agree to a rent if you haven’t seen the property, you would be surprised about the wonders of some landlords photographic skills.
In the case of student accomodation is different as you can make a reservation before you go and make the whole payment when you arrive. This is normaly the most expensive choice for accommodation but it’s also very smooth and tend to be in central London (around 250 pounds a week I’d say).
4. Have a realistic budget
Ok, we all know London is expensive. But we don’t realise how exaggerated it is until we try and live there. Rent varies between areas but for sure you will be spending 600 pounds a month minimum for a room in zone 1-2 in a shared house. If you want something cheaper zones above 3 offer lower prices but you will have to pay a higher rate for public transport (which by the way it’s around 119 pounds per month without a student card and around 84 pounds per month with a student card for zones 1 and 2). So rent + transport + eating + social life I’d say around 1000 pounds a month might be what you need. There are obviously cheaper ways to get around (if you share a twin room with a friend in a shared house for example, you will be paying half of the rent which is always a nice option for tighter budgets).
5. You’ll be broke but never bored
So, as you can see after reading the previous 4 tips life in London isn’t easy but it can be amazing. As a student you will get a lot of discounts and freebies (which personally I try to take advantage of all the time). And obviously London is an amazing city to be at because there is always something going on and it isn’t always expensive. All the big museums are free entrance and you can always walk the city as well – believe me you think you’ve seen all the important things but every day there is some new awesome area to be discovered. There are places where you can go and eat/drink without spending much (Wetherspoons is one of my favourites – it’s always full of “older” people, but what the heck, they know better than us!), there are lots of places where you don’t have to pay to come in (mostly pubs as clubs will normaly charge you for an entry). There is always some poetry or music event going on (Shoreditch – East London is a great place to enjoy art and music for free every single day of the week) and a long etcetera of activities that you thought you would never do but because they are free and you are broke you’ll give them a go (thus, will never be bored – plus, you are studying at the LSHTM, so will be probably very busy anyway!).
I hope this tips have helped you make up your mind a little bit about coming to this wonderful city and this first-class university. If you had any questions or needed any advice please don’t hesitate to contact any of the Student Ambassadors or the Study Team as we will be happy to respond to them.