Is this your first time applying to a university abroad? Whether you’re fresh out of high school or already have a degree to your name, there’s a lot of unfamiliar and new things to learn about when taking on a study abroad application for the first time. There’s the research you need to do to choose the right program and university. Then there’s the actual application process, followed by visa applications, looking for accommodation, and so on. Considering all this, you might be wondering – can you take on your study abroad application on your own?
Can Students Apply to Study Abroad on Their Own?
This is a tricky question to answer. Technically, you can choose to take on several steps of the study abroad application yourself. For some components, like getting academic references and your transcripts, you do need to enlist help. But while theoretically, you can carry out a good portion of your application yourself, the question is – should you?
Here’s some perspective – study abroad numbers have been growing immensely in recent years. In 2022, over six million students were studying abroad. This, compared to the handful of major study abroad destinations that attract the most students, means study abroad applications can be very competitive. Universities around the world may receive hundreds or even thousands of applications every year. And this means that to stand out to the admissions committee, your application needs to make a statement.
So, if you’re wondering how to study abroad without others’ help – while it’s not wholly impossible, it’s not something we recommend. Enlisting the help of your school counsellor or a study abroad expert like one of UniSearch’s counsellors helps you build that excellent application package. These experts have experience working with both students and universities. They have insight about what admissions officers are looking for that you don’t. They know how to improve your application because they’ve handled so many of them. If your goal is to ultimately land a spot at a study abroad destination, you’ll likely need some quality help.
But this doesn’t mean you need your hand held through the entire process. How the application unfolds may vary from student to student. To help you figure out which steps of the application process you may need help for, take a look at our overview of how a typical application goes!
1. Starting Off Your Research
If you already have a university or country in mind to study abroad, that narrows down the focal point of your research. If you’re still not sure and are considering programs and schools, you might be feeling confused about the right choice. There are thousands of universities around the world offering tens of thousands of programs. It’s impossible for you to explore all of them and then choose the best of the lot.
To make the process simpler, though, you can tailor your search depending on what you’re looking for. Through UniSearch, you can set your preferences for program field, study level, tuition fee range, location, and more to shortlist universities matching your needs. Our AI-driven platform will also look at your student profile and match you to the universities looking for candidates just like you. In minutes, you’ll have a concise list of universities and programs to consider. This cuts down the legwork of manually searching up universities and figuring out whether they’re right for you!
The research step of the process can feel daunting. But that’s only if you don’t know what to look for or where. We built UniSearch to make the best universities worldwide accessible to you, depending on your needs. This way, you can make the best choice without relying on incomplete information.
2. Getting into the Application Process
Once you’re set on which programs and schools you want to apply to, next comes the study abroad application itself. How the application process goes varies from country to country and university to university. A good place to start to become familiar with what to expect is our application guides! We have thorough breakdowns of how applications go in major study abroad countries like the UK, Canada, Australia, and more.
From step-by-step guides walking you through application platforms to understanding the intake systems in each country, these resources are very handy in helping you learn more about the application process!
With these guides in tow, you can take on part of the study abroad application yourself. There are some components, though, that we recommend getting expert help on.
Here’s what a typical application package for most global universities looks like:
- Application form
- Academic transcripts and certificates
- Reference letters
- Personal statements/admissions essays/letters of intent/statement of purpose
- English proficiency test scores
You can, in most cases, follow a guide and fill out your application form yourself. The rest can be a bit tricky to do on your own. You’ll need your school or education provider’s help with academic transcripts and certificates. If these are international qualifications, you might need to get a professional evaluation from a service like World Education Services (WES). And if your documents are not in English, you’ll need official translations.
Then there are the reference letters, which by nature you need help with. Universities will usually ask for academic reference letters. Some programs also ask for professional ones. These letters are a chance for someone who knows you in an academic or professional capacity to recommend you as an ideal student for the program. It’s best to reach out to a teacher, school counsellor, or employer who is familiar with your ability, knowledge, motivations, and work ethic!
And what about the rest of the application?
You can put together a CV or resume following set templates by yourself. Knowing whether it’s a good one is a bit tougher. If you have some experience working, you probably already have a CV and know how to make one. However, a professional resume is not quite the same as an academic one.
The purposes of the documents are different. And this means that the contents need to be rearranged to highlight the relevant things in each version. If you’re applying for a doctorate program, for example, you’ll need to highlight your research experience, educational qualifications, teaching experience, etc. If you’re applying for work, you’ll need to highlight relevant work experience.
You can follow our CV and resume guides to draw up a document that best spotlights your achievements and abilities. Remember, though, that admissions officers have to read through dozens if not hundreds of these. So, to make yours stand out, you want to make sure it effectively gets across your ability and potential. We recommend getting a second set of eyes on the document! Your school counsellor or one of UniSearch’s guidance experts can help you on that front!
Personal Statement/Statement of Purpose
Many university applications request a piece – sometimes more – of written work. This could be a statement of purpose, statement of interest, letter of intent, personal statement, etc. Some schools also ask for an admissions essay or college essay on a given topic. The requirements of these documents may be different, e.g. the word limit, contents, etc. Nonetheless, any piece of written work a university asks for could be your key to a successful application.
While your academic transcripts and certificates are important, they don’t tell the university much about who you are. Your grades are just a part of your identity as a prospective student. A written submission gives you a chance to show universities what type of addition you’d be to their community. It’s a chance to stand out and showcase why you’re the right fit for their school! And that’s why we highly recommend putting in the utmost care for your statement of purpose and/or college essays.
Since you’re likely not used to writing such a document, even a prolific writer may feel uncertain about what to do. We have detailed guides to help you figure out how to get started! Take a look at the do’s and don’ts, the common mistakes, and what makes a good written piece of work.
To make sure you put together the most compelling essay or statement, we also recommend getting the help of a college counsellor. These individuals read and edit hundreds of essays leading to successful admissions. If you’re missing the mark on your essay, they’ll be able to help you switch to the right track! This is vital because written components in your application could be the key to cinching your admission.
If you’re not confident in your writing ability, this is all the more reason to get expert help.
Your essay or statement doesn’t just paint a picture of who you are. It also demonstrates your ability to express yourself, organise your ideas, and your ability in the English language. Speaking of which –
English Language Proficiency Test
Chances are, as an international student from a non-English speaking country, you’ll need to show proof of English proficiency. Most universities in top study abroad countries set their own requirements for this. And the immigrations offices of these countries do so as well. It’s a good idea to check both the admissions and visa requirements for accepted tests and score boundaries. This way you can work toward meeting both requirements in the same sitting.
Now, if you’re confident in your English abilities, maybe a few practice exercises for your chosen test will be enough to get your target score. If you’re not as confident though, you might need some extra help. Whether it’s prep guides and practice exams, online courses, or live workshops, you’ll need to spruce up your skills before sitting the test.
The English language requirement is pretty important to both universities and immigration officers. They want to make sure that you’ll be able to carry on in an academic and everyday environment in that university and country. Not getting the target scores could lead to application rejection. Even if you get a university acceptance, the immigration office could still reject your visa application if they find your scores don’t reflect the level of proficiency they require.
If you’re unsure about your English language ability, now is the time to seek help and start practicing! Take a look at our guides on the most widely-accepted English proficiency tests to get you going.
3. Working on Your Visa Application
If you put together a great application, your chances of admission success are already up! And once you get an acceptance letter, the next step is working on your visa application. Again, this might be uncharted territory for you. A visa application may involve multiple steps and documents you need to collect. You may have to coordinate with your university for the documents the immigration office needs to see.
You may have to renew your passport. Some countries ask you to take medical exams at specific centres or under authorised professionals. You might have to apply for a police clearance certificate and give biometrics. For some countries, like the UK and the USA, you may have to sit for an interview too.
The requirements list may be lengthy and require a lot of time and effort. But to make sure your visa application goes through, you must hit the mark for each. Visa processing can take a lot of time and a rejection can both set you back and complicate future applications. Get thoroughly familiar with the student visa application process of the countries you’re applying to. Since there are a lot of steps you may never have done before, it helps to connect with a counsellor who can walk you through the process. Collaborating with someone who knows how to handle the application and can guide you through can make all the difference!
4. Finding a Place to Stay and Settling Down
By the time you check off the university acceptance and student visa, you’ll be working to find accommodation. This isn’t exactly easy, especially when you can’t physically look around the places you are considering. Universities often offer on-campus residences that first-time study abroad applicants prefer. It gives them a home-base to work from as they get familiar with the lay of the land. In general, though, on-campus residences are pricier and might be harder to get into. Finding a place off-campus is also tricky when dealing with private landlords and residences.
To find out more about what to keep in mind when choosing a place to stay, why not ask someone who’s been there in person? You can connect with a UniSearch mentor studying in your university of choice or the country you’re heading to. These students can tell you from firsthand experience what to look out for, what to avoid, what’s a good deal, and more. You can make a more informed decision this way and know better about your options. When choosing your accommodation, remember to research the areas and types of housing on offer first! Only move forward with providers you can trust – and if you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to seek advice!
Our Final Thoughts:
Theoretically, you can choose to take on many parts of the study abroad application yourself. Our stand on the matter is – if help is available, why not take it? Embarking on the study abroad process is a big decision that requires a lot of resources and careful planning. You don’t want that time, effort, and money to go to waste because of rookie mistakes in your application. Perhaps you’re worried about the logistics of getting help.
Maybe your school doesn’t have a college counsellor you can ask to assist you. It’s because we want to make study abroad more accessible for students like you that we built UniSearch. Getting in touch with one of our counsellors can make the whole process go smoothly. You can rely on an expert’s experience, knowledge, and connections to be confident in your success! Plus, you can connect with current or former international students to get their own insights about questions no university or counsellor can answer. With online and in-person support and round-the-clock access, we have you covered no matter where you are and where you want to go.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How can I apply to study abroad by myself?
UniSearch has plenty of guides and resources to walk you through the study abroad application. You can narrow down the universities that best match your needs through our advanced search function! This cuts down hours and days of research into a matter of minutes. For the application process itself, we have a comprehensive collection of guides to detail everything you need to know! From how to apply for each country, intake dates, scholarship availability, and more, we recommend browsing through our library of student resources.
While you can take on many of the components of the study abroad application yourself, though, we recommend getting an expert involved. International student numbers are increasing rapidly, concentrating on a few key destinations. This means getting into your chosen university can be quite competitive. You want to make sure your application is as strong as possible. And a study abroad expert can help you ensure exactly that. From guiding you in putting together a strong CV and statement of purpose to helping you get credentials evaluation and apply for visas, UniSearch’s counsellors commit to making sure your application has the strongest chances of success.