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The basics
Study abroad : Applying to University

Key questions to ask your university before you apply

Deciding where you'll study can be tough. It’s for this reason that asking the right questions is so important. We look at some key questions you should be asking your potential university.

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When choosing a university and studying abroad, there may be uncertainty and anxiety around your academic plans. This can be everything from whether the course you want to study will be available or if you can study at the university of your choice. It's important to have all the critical information available when making key decisions. This means asking the right questions. We outline the main student concerns and have some tips on what questions you can ask a university so that you understand your options.  


Is the university accepting applications for the year you want to start? 


This is the first and most important question you need an answer for. Universities across the globe have completely different cut-off dates for applications. While one university might give you a lot of time to get your application in, another might have a deadline that’s only a week or two away. Ensure you know whether they are still taking applications for the year you want. Get your application in as soon as you can.  


Have the university’s entry requirements changed? 


Knowing the criteria for being accepted onto a certain programme or course remains central to your academic ambitions. This is particularly the case for English language test results, entry examinations, and your grades. 


Many universities have expanded their entry criteria as to the types of English language test results they accept, including Duolingo and TOEFL online. The same is true of entry tests, with new evaluation tools to assess your suitability for a certain academic course, like previous examination results, portfolios, and academic references. 


For example, some universities in the U.S. and Canada are accepting applications without the requirement of SAT or ACT scores. Make sure that you ask for the exact details and specifications you will need to apply


Will university campuses be open before the start of the academic year? 


As an international student, you might need to travel to your new country a few weeks before starting your course. This can be a good thing in many ways, as it allows you to get a feel for your new home before everything begins.  


However, depending on your university, campuses and accommodation may only be ready for students just a few days before the start of term. Understanding what the timelines are is very important. Always check with your university.  


Moving to a new coutry can be difficult, having somewhere that you can go to ask all your questions can really help. Many universities have international offices, places that are set up to support international students there.



Will the institution be offering courses online? 


Remote learning has become much more common in the last few years. It gives students from all over the world the chance to study at university without having to leave home. 


If this is something that appeals to you, it might be worth checking whether the university you want to study at offers this. Online course offerings may also become particularly crucial if you can't travel for personal reasons and won't make the start of the academic year. That way you would be able to be all caught up when you arrive. 


Although studying online may seem to be a big adjustment, remember that there are experts who have taken the time to design the curriculum and curate resources so that you will receive a high standard of educational instruction. Online learning can be an enriching experience. 


Want to know what it's like to study in one of the UK's biggest cities? A Birmingham City University student answers so many questions about student life.



Does the university offer financial aid and scholarships? 


Many institutions offer scholarships and financial aid. Sometimes the terms and conditions and application requirements alter according to subject, scholarship type, study level and application deadlines.  


Unfortunately, you may find that some funding schemes or scholarships have closed, so it's best to be proactive when searching for funding and making your application. This is particularly the case for financial aid offered by companies, organisations, private donors, and governments allied to the university. Your best plan is to do your research, to see what’s available and contact an institution to get further details on specific awards.  


How a university can support you financially is one of the many things to really go through before applying. 


Does the university host virtual open days and tours? 


Being able to feel part of a potential university community, participate in discussions, and take a virtual tour to explore what’s on offer makes a real difference. Having the chance to speak to subject experts, admissions officers, alumni, and current students can be critical in informing your choice of institution. Seeing what your prospective university offers the service is important. 


This is not always easy to do as an international student. It’s not realistic to expect to visit each of the universities you’re interested in. Virtual open days allow you to get a feel for each institution and what life there may be like. 


Times Higher Education spoke about the importance of touring your university and much more.



Applying to university can be both exciting and daunting. There are several things to think about, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. However, by asking your potential university these questions, you will have a much clearer idea of what it will be like to study there. Having this information is crucial for making an informed decision and attending the university of your dreams. 


Still haven’t decided? Find the right university and subject for you with our course matcher tool

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