You will usually be in university halls for your first year at university, however by October or November, you may already be under pressure to make decisions about where you are going to live for the next academic year.
Each city usually has a specific date when all letting agents release their lists of available student properties and there is a rush to secure the biggest and best accommodation. Your students union will probably be advising you not to get involved in this rush as most areas will still be advertising available student housing long into the following year. These opposing messages can be confusing so the best thing to do is ask students in the year above you when they secured their second year accommodation so you can assess if you really do need to panic.
Even if you don't get caught up in the rush, it is a good idea to start thinking about suitable people to live with as early as possible - the average is 4 people but you can live by yourself or in a larger group. You will need to commit to these people for a whole year so consider this very carefully.
And don't forget - you can use Rightmove Students to do your research at any time of the year - you can browse by price, size of property and area.
You will usually want to be in a traditional student area so you can take advantage of the social scene. The more established student areas will have facilities and amenities specifically for students and you are less likely to experience issues with the wider community. If you do have any problems with your student accommodation, you can ask the university housing office for advice and support so by living in an established area, you are more likely to benefit from their advice and experience rather than if you go off and live in an alternative town centre location.
You do need to be aware that areas densely populated by students are high crime areas due to the shiny new laptops and gadgets that are readily available thanks to carelessly left opened windows and doors. Residential areas are less of a crime hotspot but you may need to deal with young children playing in back gardens early in the mornings and a more family environment that may or may not welcome students.
Wherever you decide, see if you can go back for a second viewing in the evening so you can see how the road is lit and if you would feel safe coming home at night by yourself.