The basics
Study abroad : Applying to University

Applying to undergraduate study

Read our comprehensive guide to undergraduate study abroad, including researching and applying to a course, funding, immigration, and much more...

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Completing your undergraduate degree abroad is an incredibly exciting maturation process like no other. It means three or four years of immersing yourself in a new culture, and is very likely to change the direction of your entire life.

 

Researching a course

Many students dream of studying abroad years before they actually intend to commence their study programme. This may be because a particular destination has caught their eye and stuck with them, or simply because their home country does not have the adequate facilities to guide them in the direction they wish to go.

Ideally, you should begin researching your undergraduate options abroad 18 months before you intend to begin studying. This will give you enough time to make an informed decision about the course you wish to study, gather all the resources you’ll need to apply, take and pass the necessary academic and language tests, and secure necessary financing i.e. research and apply for scholarships.

You should attend education fairs taking place near you and speak to guidance counsellors at your school about your options. Closer to home, what do your family and friends say? Whilst your education should always be your decision, it’s always worth considering what routes others are taking (or have taken) too.

If you have an idea of what you want to study, you can begin looking at what courses are available at any time by searching from either our homepage or the search bar at the top of every page on our site. If something makes you think of a possible course or university, you can chase up the details in no time.

When choosing a course, you should ask yourself:

  • What am I already strong at?
  • What am I interested in personally and academically?
  • What career path would I eventually like for myself?
  • Where would I like to live for three years?

Alternatively, consider what you’re not strong at, interested in, or where you wouldn’t like to live to help narrow your choices down.

 

Required language skills

When you find a course which interests you, you will need to check what the academic and language requirements are for that course at that specific institution. That way, you’ll be able to best prepare yourself for the academic experience you’re about to immerse yourself in, as well as have a clear idea of the entrance requirements and not be disappointed.

The required language scores will vary according to institution and will sometimes depend on a specific department within a university. The most common language proficiency test required by universities is the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) test, which takes place at several locations around the world several times each month (so you should have several opportunities to take – and pass – this essential test). You may have to take another admissions test depending on the subject you wish to study too (this may only apply to some institutions).

Just as domestic students will be required to be of a certain academic standing for entry into an undergraduate programme, international students must prove the equivalence of their achievements in their own country.  Usually you will have to demonstrate this in your application to your host university. You should enquire directly with the institution as to what qualifications they accept well ahead of the application deadline. This will usually amount to either twelve years of primary and secondary education, or having completed an International Baccalaureate Diploma.

If you find that your academic grades from your country or your language skills are not strong enough to study at undergraduate level, you can always take a foundation, pathways or associate’s course that leads to an undergraduate programme. These typically last just one year, and aim to fill any gaps in a student’s academic or language knowledge which would prevent them from sufficiently working at an undergraduate level. Consider them a bridge to help you reach and succeed at undergraduate level!

Learn more about university admissions tests

Read our guide to choosing a course overseas

 

Applying

When putting together an application, distinguishing yourself from other candidates is of utmost importance, as well as making clear why it is that you want to study your specific course at your specific host university. You will usually need to outline this within your personal statement.

Once you’re ready to apply to your chosen institution, you may find it simpler to do so through our i-Apply service. This can be especially helpful if you are applying to several institutions or courses, or if you simply feel you would benefit from our step-by-step guidance. This way, you can check the status of your applications in one place any time, with assistance from our team when you need it.

Read our comprehensive guides to applications and interviews, including  writing a personal statement

 

Immigration

If your application is successful, congratulations! However, you’ll need to ensure that you have the correct authorisation to enter the country and live there for the duration of your study. The type of visa you need varies from country to country, and can also depend on your course, your age and for how long you will be studying. Accredited institutions will be able to sponsor your application for the correct visa. Your university will be able to provide you with more information about this step, including the documentation which you will need to complete. You should begin this process at least two months before your intended start date – processing all those applications can take time, and you don’t want to miss the beginning of your course! You should also read the terms of your student visa carefully so you don’t do anything you’re not allowed to do, or else you risk putting your immigration status at risk.

Have you browsed our Visa Guides section yet?

 

Funding

Unfortunately, education isn’t free. As part of your application, you will have to prove that you have the necessary finances to fund your study and lifestyle whilst in your host country. Some international students are lucky to have their fees paid by their family but if this is not an option there are many other possibilities to help you; these options include student loans, scholarships, bursaries and initiatives specifically for international students. These will vary depending on your nationality i.e. students from countries in the European Union will be eligible for loans which those outside of the EU won’t be to study in the UK etc. Check with your university about what financial assistance is available to help you, as well as what you can expect your outgoing living costs to be.

Check if you are an EU student

Read our guides to successful scholarship tips and how to ask about scholarships the right way

 

Do I have everything I need?

Here are some of the important documents you may be required to provide as part of your application. Usually you will need to provide these electronically when sending your application, but it’s always useful to have the original, printed versions (where possible) if anything needs to be resubmitted or verified. You should also always make photocopies and digital copies of all your important documents. All documents must also be translated by an official translator or organisation. Whilst some universities might have more specific requirements, you should have the following documents ready for your application:

  • Confirmation of your acceptance by your university
  • Transcripts of your recent academic grades
  • Certificate which indicates you’ve met the set language requirements
  • A current, valid passport
  • Your birth certificate
  • A few spare passport-sized photographs of yourself which meet standard regulations (e.g. a recent full-frontal image of your face, which is unobstructed by hair etc.)
  • Proof that you can finance your studies through bank statements or official letter from a body (this will depend on how you are planning to finance your studies, whether on your own, through your parents/guardians, a sponsor, or scholarship/grant)

Before you apply to study abroad, you should be sure you can answer the following questions confidently:

  • How much are my tuition fees?
  • How much will it cost to live in the specific area or region of the country which my university is located in?
  • Do I know two people who can provide me with an academic reference (on short notice if necessary)?
  • If a stranger wanted to verify that I am who I say I am, do I have the official documentation to prove this?
  • Will a busy admissions office be able to understand the documentation I am sending them?

 

Now that you’ve got an idea of the application process, why not browse undergraduate courses now and start planning your study abroad adventure?

Or are you interested in postgraduate study instead?

 

Read more:

'Applying online: Do’s and Don’ts’

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About Author

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.