The basics
New Zealand: Applying to University - Must read

Applying to study in New Zealand

Our breakdown of the application process to study abroad in New Zealand


With flat horizons, ever-rolling hills and a thirst for extreme sports, New Zealand is a wildly popular study destination for international students. But as well as playing host to a number of internationally recognised universities, the nation’s tight immigration laws and strict tertiary application requirements may make the admissions process seem like a nightmare. However, if you do your research properly and meet all conditions, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be accepted into a New Zealand university. It’s important that you take the application process seriously, and our breakdown of what’s required should help get you on your way.  



Students are advised to begin researching institutions and course options as early as possible. University handbooks are generally updated yearly, but basic information such as entry requirements and areas of study offered typically do not vary too much. Unlike some other nations, undergraduate students in New Zealand do not need to meet general education requirements, and so it may be more difficult for international students to find subjects that meet requirements of their study programme back home. It’s important to confirm that the subjects you’ll undertake abroad will meet the right credit requirements with your home institution: coming home to find out that they haven’t been credited may extend the overall length of your degree and increase your tuition costs.

Some universities, such as the University of Auckland have online handbooks that detail particulars of all undergraduate and postgraduate programmes on offer. Most subject and study programme information can be found on university websites.


The academic year in New Zealand runs from around the end of February to mid-November, varying slightly across institutions. Most universities’ main intake of students is at the start of the academic year, but they will also have a smaller intake before second semester. Many universities will also have second and third round offers with smaller intakes for both semesters.

Application deadlines vary across study programmes and between institutions, but very broadly undergraduates will need to apply in October for a start in late Feb-March of the following year (semester one), and late April-June for a start in mid July-August (semester two). 

Prospective postgraduate students will typically need to apply by the end of October for a start in semester one of the following year, and by the end of April for mid-year intake. Students are strongly advised to pursue and confirm application deadlines and requirements with their institution directly.

After you receive your offer from a New Zealand university, you should apply for your student visa.

Learn more about applying for a New Zealand student visa

What documents will I need?

Whether applying for an undergraduate or postgraduate programme, New Zealand universities will require a copy of your passport, relevant academic transcripts and a completed application form specific to your host institution. You may also be required to provide an up-to-date copy of your CV, particularly if applying at a postgraduate level. It is recommended that students send these documents as photocopies, as universities are often unable to return them.

Depending on your particular programme, you may also be required to submit results of English language tests such as the IELTS score card. Your IELTS score is valid for three years from the sitting date, so if yours is set to expire you will need to sit another exam well before you plan on lodging your application. A minimum IELTS score of 6.0 is required for admission into an undergraduate programme, whilst you’ll need at least a 6.5 for admission at a graduate level.

Some institutions may also have other, unique requirements such as test results or further proof of identification.

Learn more about IELTS

How do I apply?

International students can apply directly to a university online through their website (you can click through to their site from their profile here on Hotcourses Abroad). You can also apply through our free i-Apply service.

Academic Culture

Academic culture in New Zealand is very much geared towards independent learning, and relies on students to take the initiative in managing their own courseload and academic progress.

As with education models in Australia and the UK, students are expected to treat material covered in class as a starting point from which to draw their own conclusions. In class, students are treated as individuals and are expected both to be able to formulate and express their own opinions regarding course content.

Professors will often set small reading or comprehension tasks that students are expected to complete prior to the following class. These tasks are seldom graded and students will usually not be asked whether they have done them or not. Rather, they are intended as prompts to help students get a better grounding for what will be covered in class so that they are better equipped to consider material critically.

Application Tips

It is not always compulsory to include a personal statement with your university application, but will express your enthusiasm to the admissions team and so may make you stand out. A personal statement also conveys a sense of who you are in a way an application form cannot, and thus may improve your chances of being accepted.

Academic writing in New Zealand avoids superfluous language, favouring clear, direct prose. What’s most important is the depth of your thought, and how well you’re able to explain it to the person reading your application. Using big words for the sake of it will make it seem as if you’re idea isn’t strong enough to stand on its own, and professors will take this as a sign you haven’t done your research.

Application dates and details of specific subjects differ considerably between institutions and even across semesters, so it’s important you chase up, double check and confirm all relevant deadlines directly with your institution. New Zealand universities will generally not chase up an incomplete application or accept one handed in late.

Now that the university application process in New Zealand seems less scary, why not browse courses in New Zealand now and start planning your study abroad adventure?

Useful Links:

Why applying to New Zealand universities is smooth sailing

Tuition fees in New Zealand

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About Author

Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.