The basics
Study abroad : Applying to University

Studying an undergraduate course abroad

undergraduate student

After a lot of consideration you have finally decided to apply for an undergraduate degree abroad. Well done! This is the first step into an exciting journey. You will not only gain maturity and independence, but also you will expand an invaluable global perspective in today’s international marketplace.

However, take into account that from now onwards a lot of planning will need to be done.

Typically, it’s best to start planning at least 10 to 12 months ahead of time. Many undergraduate courses abroad require applicants to apply at least six months before the course begins, so having at least 12 months gives you time to research, find and apply to a course. Additionally, preparing your application early will give you the chance to qualify for scholarships, whose deadlines are often earlier than the enrolment deadline.

Then you need to find the course that best suits your needs. Check that you are able to prove the minimum entrance requirements for your chosen course(s). Though fulfilling the minimum entry requirements doesn't guarantee you a place in itself.

Before applying, you might want to consider a Foundation course or pathway to undergraduate degree, which will help you reach the required level to undertake a course in English.

Download a Uni prospectus

As you research your options, it is also important to find out more about what the universities or colleges offer, at what cost, and which services are or are not included such as airport pick-up, onsite orientation, housing, etc.  You can talk directly with the university or department of your interest or you can check the university prospectus for more information.

Things to take into account

  • What possible undergraduate courses are you looking at?  Are they any good references about that course? Can you speak to an advisor or alumni about it?
  • Is the country/city you are considering a safe place to live? 
  • What should we know about the health system? Do you have to get additional health insurance?
  • What sort of housing is available to you?  Will you be on your own to find an apartment, or will your university or college take care of it for you?  Are you interested in a home-stay (living with a local family) or would you prefer hall of residence?  What are your options and how much do they cost?
  • What is the exchange rate, and what is the average cost-of-living?  Are there scholarships or bursaries available?  In the end, is it a program and/or destination you/we can afford?

You can consult our database of courses abroad here.    

university campus abroad

Your current education level

You required to have completed 12 years of primary and secondary education or to have and International Baccalaureate Diploma before applying to a University abroad. When applying for undergraduate courses, you will need to check with your prospective institution regarding qualifications for direct entry to an undergraduate programme.

Proof of language ability

Most institutions abroad will offer degrees in English unless the state the opposite. If English language is not your first language, you will have to prove you have the relevant skills to undertake a degree in English for the duration of the course.

As part of the application process, you will need to have reached a certain standard in an IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam before the course begins.

Usually this is around 4.0 to 5.0 for an access course, 5.5 to 6.0 for an undergraduate degree and for postgraduate study a 6.5 or 7.0 is usually needed. Some universities may accept alternative English language exams such as TOEFL. Be sure to check with the university as to which English language qualification they recognise before you apply.

Immigration status

As international student you will need to check if you have any immigration requirements before being allowed to start your course abroad. As part of your application to university, you will be asked to prove that you have entry clearance to study at your chosen study destination. The best to do is to double check with the university you are applying to. The university or college will provide you with the necessary documents and the guidance you need to make a visa application.

About Author

undergraduate student

Aspiring journalist and Cambridge University graduate, Londoner 'by adoption'. Tweeting for @hotcourses_Abrd

Must read

IELTS vs. TOEFL: Which should you take?

If you aren’t a native English speaker, you’ll almost always be required to sit an English language proficiency test as part of your application to study abroad at an English-speaking university. The two most accepted English language tests worldwide are the International English Language Test System ( IELTS ) and Test of English as a Foreign Language ( TOEFL ).   Whilst both accurately test your level of English and are widely accepted across over


International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

When you apply to study abroad for a programme taught in English, you may need to complete a language proficiency test to prove your English is of an acceptable standard. Whilst different universities may require you to meet specific entrance requirements, your International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test score will be commonly accepted at institutions in the  UK ,  USA ,  Australia ,  New Zealand ,  Hong Kong  and