September Intake vs February Intake

A Guide for International Students: September Intake vs February Intake

When embarking on your journey to higher education it is important to consider everything, in this post, I’ll share with you the pros and cons of each intake for a master’s student at the University of Surrey. It is important to note that not every program offers two intakes, some only offer September or February. 



1. Traditional Start Time

– Starting in September means you follow the natural order of modules, starting with introductory courses in semester one and progressing to semester two modules, allowing you to absorb knowledge better. However, this is not the case for all programs, as some start with their semester one in February.

2. Fresher’s Week & Orientation

– Although Fresher’s Week and orientation are offered at both intakes, the September intake orientation has more activities and extends to activities and events hosted by other organisations as well. As it is traditionally known that students start in September, there are loads of activities and a welcoming energy in September that can’t be replicated.

3. Warmer Weather:

– Arriving in September means you’ll experience autumn and gradually get into winter, allowing one time to adjust rather than arriving in the middle of winter in February.

4. Free Resources:

– The University of Surrey provides various free resources for September intake students, including language learning resources, which can be particularly beneficial for international students. Whereas a February intake student might have to pay to have access to the same resources.

5. Better Accommodation Options:

– As this is the primary intake, there are more housing options available, allowing you to secure the best accommodation. You can find your perfect home-away-from-home early on.


1. High Competition:

– The September intake is highly popular, making admission to competitive programs more challenging. Be prepared to put your best foot forward in your application!

2. Crowded Settling Period:

– The influx of new students can make the initial weeks hectic, with crowded orientation sessions and social events. It’s a busy but exciting time.

3. Visa and Preparation Time:

– The visa application process and preparations coincide with peak times, potentially causing delays and stress. Start your preparations early to avoid the rush.



1. Less Competitive Admission:

– With fewer applicants, you might find it easier to secure a spot in your desired program. This could be your golden opportunity!

2. Smaller Cohorts:

– Smaller class sizes can lead to more personalised attention from faculty and easier access to resources. You’ll feel like you’re getting a VIP experience. With new students arriving, university staff may have more time to offer personalised support and guidance due to students missing the introductory courses offered in September.

3. Easier Transition:

– Arriving when the campus is quieter can make it easier to adjust to your new environment without the rush and busyness of the September intake. You get to settle in at your own pace.

4. Unique Opportunities:

– February starters may have unique opportunities to engage in specific projects, internships, or research that are not available to the larger September cohort. You might find niche opportunities that others miss.

5. Flexible Timing:

– For those who finish their previous studies or commitments at the end of the calendar year, February intake provides a seamless transition to higher education without a long gap. It’s perfect timing if you need a short breather after finishing high school or another program, as most programs in Africa run their school years from January to December.


1. Limited Course Availability:

– Not all programs are available in February, limiting your choices. Make sure to check the course availability before making your decision.

2. Fewer Accommodation Options:

– Accommodation options may be more limited as most spaces are taken by September entrants. It might take a bit more effort to find the perfect place to live.

3. Disadvantage for Final Project/Dissertation:

– Completing your final project or dissertation in August after doing only one semester can be challenging and potentially impact the level of quality of your work due to a lack of the knowledge acquired in the September semester. This also puts a lot of pressure on students and requires a lot from them.

4. Graduate Roles Hiring Cycle:

– Most graduate roles hire in September, which can disadvantage February starters as they might miss the prime recruitment period.

Making Your Decision

When deciding which intake you would like to begin it is important to ensure that it is available for your desired intake. Other factors you should take into consideration are your academic and career goals. Consider if you want to partake in graduate internships in September, or if you want to further your studies and how the timing would impact that. Also, take into consideration the social factors like activities and events available at your intake. Lastly, take into consideration if you want to join in September just after summer or if you’re strong enough to start in the middle of winter in February.

Whether you choose September or February, the University of Surrey offers tons of student support and an enriching environment for you to thrive.

I hope this helps you critically analyze your options and come to a decision.