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how to apply for foreign universities
Kavitha Vijeyavelan

Hello there. Kavitha Vijeyavelan, is the lead content editor handling all editorial processes for Hotcourses India- an IDP company. Having started out an (other) engineer turned writer, she has a never ending hunger for chocolates ( & counting calories ironically), quotes, & stories worth sharing with the world. Her favorite quote at the moment: "why squeeze into glass slippers when you can shatter the glass ceiling?"


08 Sep 2022 66.4K Book icon 10 mins Share

How to apply to a foreign university?

Interested in applying abroad? Hotcourses India can guide you for free - taking tests, applying online, submitting documents and more.

08 Sep 2022 66.4K Book icon 10 mins Share
how to apply for foreign universities

What is covered in this article?

1. Preparation before applying abroad

       1.1. Research

       1.2. Getting your documents ready

             - Academic transcripts

             - Getting the test scores

             - Getting the SOPs ready

             - Getting the LOR ready

        1.3. Deciding on the number of universities to apply to

2. Getting started with your application

        2.1. Filling out the application form

        2.2. Paying the application fee

        2.3. Submitting the documents

               - Submitting proof of financial ability

               - Attending the interview

        2.4. Getting a response from the university             

Feeling a surge of excitement as you think about your plans of applying abroad and pursuing your studies in a foreign country? Quite a huge milestone, we know! There really is no reason for you to worry about how to apply to foreign universities — usually, it is quite a straightforward process.

 Currently, most universities have their complete application processes online to make things quick and easy for international students. The actual application process will require you to register on the university's website and complete a stepwise application process. If you are sure about which programme you want to apply to and have scanned copies of all relevant transcripts, then at the most, it will take you about 45 minutes to complete the application process.

Preparation before applying abroad

Before you jump to apply to universities, there are some preparatory steps, the first of which is, research. The application requirements will also include preparing some basic documents - your academic transcripts, test scores as required by your preferred course, SOPs and LORs.


The key is to start ahead. One year before you would like to start your study abroad journey, we advise you to start researching all available options.

  • Apply to abroad universities early - You should start the application process around six to eight months in advance.
  • Have an excel sheet or physical file to keep track of your progress
  • For those looking to get into study at the postgraduate level, this prepping process should commence during your final year of college. For students looking to study abroad at the undergrad level, the right time to apply to abroad universities will be in the mid of your twelfth grade.
  • For those of you who are below 18 years of age (UG level), we thought we’d give you a heads up — you will mostly require guardianship from a local citizen.
  • As part of the research phase, you have to decide on what you would like to study and at which destination. If you are open to any or a couple of destinations, you will have more options.
  • Next, shortlist the universities you would like to apply to. Make sure you pick the ones where you have greater chances of being accepted.
  • Go through the entry requirements and plan your next steps accordingly. Some might ask for particular test scores or might require you to take a specific English language proficiency test. Some might require candidates to get LORs specifically from employers, colleagues, professors or school principals.

The next step is getting your documents in order.

Get ready with the required documents to study abroad

Documents for applying abroad

All universities will require you to submit more than one document to support your application. The requirements might vary from one university to another. Since you will be applying to more than one institution abroad, make sure you follow each university’s directions carefully.

Academic transcripts

  • Institutions ask for your original transcripts or transcripts that are attested by your school or college.
  • For online applications, these will have to be scanned and uploaded within the form as required.
  • Some universities are particular that you send all your transcripts (be it from secondary school or college) for evaluation through international organizations such as World Education Services (WES), Education Credential Evaluators, Inc. (ECE), and International Education Research Foundation, Inc.(IERF).

Getting the test scores

English language proficiency is one of the common requirements if you are looking to study at universities in the USA, the UK, Australia, Canada and several others. Apart from IELTS, TOEFL, PTE, and Duolingo English Test are some of the test scores accepted by universities abroad. For example, English language test scores should be submitted for admission to MBA courses at U.S. universities.

Wondering which one to go for? IELTS or TOEFL?

Depending on your course, and the university, you might have to attempt other tests too; for example, the LSAT for studying Law at the University of Windsor.

SAT, GRE and GMAT are other popular test scores requested from candidates.

If you are wondering how to get admission to a foreign university, familiarise yourself with the score expectations. Expected scores for your tests should look something like this:

  • On average, an overall IELTS score of a minimum of 6 is required to study abroad.
  • A general score of above 1200 works for SAT
  • Aim for a score above 590 for a GMAT to get an edge over other applicants

Again, these will vary from institution to institution so run a check on the university website to know the exact requirements. 

Here are some resources from Hotcourses India that you might find handy:


Dos and don’ts for IELTS Writing

Dos and don’ts of IELTS Speaking

Study in Australia with a 5.5 in IELTS


How is TOEFL different from IELTS

Common mistakes to avoid while taking TOEFL


What is SAT?

How to prepare for SAT


GRE score required for scholarships in the USA


How to prepare for GMAT


How to prepare for the LSAT

Are you looking for the right resources to support you with IELTS preparation? Learn about the IELTS by IDP app and download it for free!

Getting the SOP ready

SOP is one of the most important parts of the documents required for applying abroad. An SOP can make or break the success of your application.

A well-written SOP should cover your reasons for choosing the specific programme at the university, your long-term and short-term goals, personal background and any internship experiences.

Stick to the length limits and make it as strong as possible using engaging language and brief stories.

 Ensure you personalize your SOP to make it stand out, as universities receive a ton of these. An average SOP will just not cut it.

Liven up a moment in a professor’s life, who may be up to his ears with applications. Along with your SOP, you can submit a resume highlighting any work experiences you have had.

Getting the LOR ready

Once you get your SOP ready, the next document in line is the LOR or the Letter of Recommendation (LOR). This letter should talk about your achievements and highlight your academic and overall attitude to prove that you have college potential.

It is important whom you ask for a recommendation letter. Some of the things you have to consider are:

  • your association with this person
  • how well they know you and
  • whether they will be willing to write an LOR for you.

Check the university entry requirements too, to understand how many LORs are required and from whom.

Give a deadline to your referee. (we advise you to ask at least a month in advance — they need time).

LORs, in most cases, are not mandatory for undergraduate students.

Hotcourses India has some free LOR samples for your quick reference. Along with all of these documents, you will also be required to produce a copy of your birth certificate and a copy of your passport.

Deciding on the number of universities to apply to

Do you think you would be doing yourself a favour by applying abroad to twenty universities? Not really! You don’t want all your hopes hanging on just one application. You should be looking at applying to a few schools, but not too many. Don’t agree?

The application processing fee for universities ranges from US$50 to US$100. This is roughly around 4000 – 8000. You can do the math to figure out how much you will end up spending if you apply to 10 different universities.

A handful of universities require you to still submit applications and documents by regular mail. So that's additional money to be paid to DHL or FedEx to send your application forms to the universities.

Doesn’t seem to be a good idea anymore to apply to a whole bunch of universities, right? Here are some tips to guide you on how to apply to foreign universities.

  • Apply to a university that has slightly higher grades and scores as entry requirements, than what you got. Even if it feels like a long shot if you feel there is the hope of landing an admission, you should go ahead and apply.
  • Apply to a university whose scores and grade requirements are in line with what you achieved.
  • Apply to a university that is sure to take you in, as their expected grades or scores are way below what you achieved. This is your backup option.

We also want you to ask yourself if you would be happy at the school before you apply to it. There are several factors to be considered – the international student populations, the comforts, climate and so on. Don’t succumb to peer pressure and apply because your friends picked that university. Make sure it is where you want to be for the next two or three years!

Let’s remind you of the process once again:

steps to applying abroad

Getting started with your application

Are you all set to get acquainted with the steps involved in applying abroad? Let us take you through the general procedure in simple steps. These steps could vary depending on the university and the country it is based. Make sure you have the scanned copies of your documents, ready for uploading!

Filling out the application form

Search the website for the online application form for international students. Unis generally have a portion of its website dedicated just to international students.

Though you would have read it during the research phase, go through the entry requirements section once again. You should know all that is expected of you than being caught by surprise later.

Filling up the form with full concentration can be taxing. You might want to take a break before you are done. Don’t worry, you can! Most of these forms offer the option to save the filled form and come back to it later.

Bear in mind that a few colleges (probably only a handful) still follow the paper-based application. In that case, take a printout of the PDF form to fill it out. You will have to set aside some buffer time with these applications, to get ready all the documents to be sent by post. Needless to say, this will be a more time-consuming process than the online application. So start working on this in advance.

Paying the application fee

Your application will not be complete without paying the application fee.

In most cases, the application fee is between USD 40 and USD 75. This fee will vary based on the universities you are applying abroad.

Some Unis may charge you less for online applications than they do for their paper-based ones. If you need details on online payment, look for the payment methods link on the Unis website — this is sure to take you through the procedure in detail.

Submitting the documents

There will be options to upload scanned copies of your documents in the form. Make sure you attach all the necessary documents. Having a checklist will help you in this.

Submitting proof of financial ability

Some universities ask for ‘Proof of Financial Ability’. They would want to know how you will cover your living expenses and educational costs (for your first year of study in most cases) while in the country.

Generally, a sponsor is required to provide this guarantee to the university on your behalf.

Make sure you have the amount required by the university in your account. Many a times, universities will not process the application without this.

Look for scholarships before you start wondering how to apply to foreign universities. Most universities offer scholarships to international students too. Scholarships can greatly reduce the financial burden. This will help you focus more on your studies.

Attending the interview

interviews as part of applying abroad

Some universities might want to personally interview the candidates. Once you know the date and timing, start preparing for it.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • dress formal
  • Look into the camera while speaking
  • Be prepared for any technical hiccup
  • Find a quiet place for the interview
  • Speak slowly and clearly
  • Have everything you need (such as your resume, SOP, and all your documents) at hand, and close all other applications.

Universities use different platforms for interviews. Familiarise yourself with the platform before the interview. If it is over any application like Skype, it would be a good idea to do a mock Skype interview to understand the platform better.

Getting a response from the university

Once you have done your part, just sit back and wait for a response from the university. Generally, universities will respond to your application within three to eight weeks. Once you receive a positive response, there is just one more thing to do:

Once you get the letter of acceptance, respond within the given time and confirm your place at the university.

 After this, the university will offer the required approval documents for applying for a student visa! And that right there is the moment you should start packing your bags — hurray!

FAQs on how to apply to foreign universities

FAQs on how to apply to foreign universities

1. What are the requirements to study abroad?

Academic qualifications, proof of English language proficiency, results of any competitive exams and admission tests, finances to support your education and life abroad, a convincing Statement of Purpose and supportive Letters of Recommendation are some of the basic requirements to study in countries like the UK, the USA, Canada and Australia.

2. Which country is best for studying abroad?

This depends on what your priorities are, for studying abroad. Going by the world university rankings such as the QS and Times Higher Education, the top 10 universities are from the UK or the USA.

3. What is the age limit to study abroad?

There is no upper age limit to studying abroad. In fact, you can study abroad even after working for a couple of years. This work experience will only prove beneficial to you. If you are looking for a lower age limit, several destinations demand that their students are above 18 years old to be eligible to enrol for degree programmes.

4. Can you study abroad with less money?

The cost of studying abroad varies based on the destination you choose, the university and the programme. A lot of state and federal governments, organisations and institutions offer scholarships to international students too. This can significantly reduce the financial burden. Check out the different ways to manage with less money abroad.

how to study abroad with less money

Do you have any questions or comments on how to get admission to a foreign university? Whether you are looking to apply for postgraduate courses or undergraduate courses abroad, just let us know — our advisors would love to hear from you and help you. They are available for any queries you may have about your study abroad process. You can fill out the form on this page and our experts will get in touch with you. They will offer you extensive guidance on all aspects of the study abroad process including tips about finding a university, completing your application, and even getting your visa. Contact us and we promise to help you!

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