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How to Apply for Study Abroad

Aug 03, 2022Date Published
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UniSearch - How to Apply for Study Abroad

Studying abroad – the beginning of a big, life-changing adventure. If you’re considering setting off on this adventure yourself, you likely have your own compelling reasons to do so. Major study abroad destinations like the Canada, UK, the USA, and Australia have some of the world’s best universities. In turn, these universities have among the world’s highest graduate employability rates. Add to this the experience of soaking in a new culture, exploring new places, and creating lifelong memories and relationships, and studying abroad becomes a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! If you’re ready to embark on this journey yourself, we have you covered. Explore our comprehensive breakdown on how to apply for study abroad!

Everything You Need to Know About How to Study Abroad

1. Why Do You Wish to Study Abroad?

Answering the “Why” is an important part of the process. What you’re hoping to gain through studying abroad determines what and where you’ll study. If you’re hoping to work and settle abroad, you’ll want to look for countries with friendly post-study opportunities. If you’re looking for ease of entry, you might be heading for countries you can travel to and from more easily than others. Perhaps you want to study in a field needing a high level of specialisation. You might then want to look into the universities around the world that offer the best programs in that field. Ultimately, your priorities and preferences for studying abroad help you decide where to head off to and what to study. Take a look at our breakdown of why students choose to study abroad to figure out where you want to go!

2. Which Country Should I Study In?

Maybe you’ve always dreamed of studying in the UK. Perhaps you visited Canada or Australia before and fell in love with the people, lifestyle, and place. And perhaps you have no idea where you want to head off to. No matter which category you fit into, researching where you want to study is a big factor in figuring out how to apply for study abroad. The best countries to study abroad in may vary for you depending on:

  • University rankings
  • Subject rankings of local universities
  • Tuition fee ranges
  • Availability of programs
  • Availability of scholarships
  • Student visa procedures
  • Work opportunities for students
  • Immigration and post-study opportunities for students
  • Costs of living
  • Lifestyle
  • Language and culture
  • Climate and geography

To explore all your options thoroughly, check out our comprehensive country guides on the world’s major study abroad destinations. We go into what makes these countries perfect study abroad destinations, what to expect as a student in these countries, the best student cities, costs of living, visa guides, and more!

3. What Do You Plan On Studying?

You might choose where you want to study first and then explore what you want to study. You might also do it the other way around. Perhaps you’re on the lookout for your dream program within a specific tuition fee range. Maybe you want to study in the country that offers the best program in your field of choice. And perhaps you’re still trying to figure out which pathway is the right one for you, depending on your interests, academic background, and other factors. Just like looking into where you want to study, research is key when figuring out what you want to study. 

It might seem like a huge undertaking to figure out the right option for you from hundreds – if not thousands – of choices out there. To make your study abroad quest easier, you can start with UniSearch’s Profile Evaluation! Our AI-driven system will shortlist the programs available that fit your specific needs depending on study level, program field, country, tuition fee range, and more. This gives you a quick rundown of the best matches to your requirements from across universities in major study abroad locations! You get to cut down hours and days of research and narrow down the most appealing options in just minutes.

4. When Do You Need to Apply By?

So, now that you have narrowed down where and what you want to study, it’s time to get into the application process itself. And one of the things we’re constantly telling students is to start early. Seriously, we can’t stress the importance of this enough. Application processes can be lengthy – there might be exams you need to sit for, documents you need to arrange. To study abroad, you’ll likely need a student visa for most destinations. And this in turn has several steps you need to complete. Since you can’t apply for a student visa without getting acceptance into a program, you need to kick off the process months in advance. 

A good starting point is, then, to figure out which intake you want to apply for. How intakes work can vary across countries and across universities in these countries, too. Look into the program and university application deadlines for your target schools. These deadlines give you an idea of how to structure your application timeline. Take a look at our breakdowns for the major (and minor) intakes each of the top study abroad countries offer to get going!

5. How Can You Start Applying?

Okay – now that we’ve laid all that groundwork it’s time to get into what you came here asking. How to apply for study abroad will, again, depend on where you’re applying. Different conditions apply to different countries and universities. And the study abroad application procedure can vary quite a bit across universities in the same country too. At the risk of sounding repetitive, the key to making sure your application is a success is, again, research. What are the university’s requirements for international student applicants? What are the program’s requirements for each candidate? The minimum grade boundaries for different programs at the same university might be different. Requirements will vary depending on your level of study, too. Here’s a very abridged look at how applications work in top destinations for studying abroad.

How to Apply to Study Abroad in the UK

For undergraduate courses, all applications go through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) platform. Through this central application hub, you can shortlist and apply to up to five programs. Check out our thorough breakdown of how to apply through UCAS in our UK application process breakdown! For postgraduate students, you typically will apply to the university directly. In most cases, universities will host applications on their website, though some programs are also available through UCAS.

How to Apply to Study Abroad in Canada

Like the UK, applications for specific universities in the province of Ontario go through a central platform. If you are applying at the undergraduate level, you will be going through the 105 Undergraduate Application via the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC). Through the OUAC, there’s no limit to how many Ontario universities you can apply to! There is, though, a limit of three programs per university. In some cases, universities might have their own restrictions about how many programs you can include in your application. 

For postgraduate students applying to Ontario universities, you will also be applying through the OUAC. The difference here is that you will go through a dedicated application window for each specific university through that university’s website.

Elsewhere in Canada, you typically apply to the university directly, through its website. Find out everything you need to know about applying to Canadian universities through our Canadian university application guide!

How to Apply to Study Abroad in the USA

Universities in 50 American states accept applications through the Common App! This central application platform connects you to almost 900 colleges not just in the USA but in other parts of the world too. First-year or transfer students can apply for undergraduate programs to different universities, inputting the basic information all universities ask for just once. For each program and university, you’ll also be able to see the specific application requirements you need to fulfil. Again, since program and university requirements can vary quite a bit, it’s a good idea to thoroughly research each university and program before you begin your applications!

Many universities also accept applications directly, especially for postgraduate students. Since entry requirements are very specific for each school and each course, be sure to look into the admissions criteria before applying! For direct applications, each institution will have its own breakdown for prospective international students. Here’s our thorough breakdown of what to expect going into university applications for US universities


How to Apply to Study Abroad in Australia

Australia doesn’t have a central platform through which it accepts applications. Nonetheless, each school has its set of requirements for international students. Look into both the university and the program’s requirements before launching your application! You will be sending your application to the university directly, typically online. Have a look at our overview of the Australian university application process for more information!

General Entry Requirements for Most Study Abroad Destinations

While each university and each course will have different eligibility criteria, there are some recurring items you can expect in all applications:

  • Application form – citing your personal details, contact information, academic background, what you want to study, etc.
  • Proof of identity – passport, national identity card, etc.
  • Proof of English language proficiency – as an international student, you may need to prove that you have a working knowledge of English for both general and academic settings
  • Academic transcripts and certificates – you may need to get official evaluations for international qualifications (e.g. WES evaluation of secondary school leaving certificates)
  • Admissions essay 
  • Academic references
  • CV/Resume

The number of items you need to check off for an application may feel pretty overwhelming. Because the best study abroad destinations and universities are also the most competitive, it’s also imperative to put together a really solid application. To write solid admissions essays and personal statements, put together strong CVs, and work toward English language proficiency target scores, we recommend getting an expert’s help. A study abroad counsellor who has experience working with international students and universities can help you put together an application with the strongest likelihood of success. This is better than firing shots in the dark not knowing whether you’re on the right track with the more unfamiliar aspects of your application. 

6. Applying for a Student Visa

Once you have sent in your application and received an acceptance into your program, the next step is travel arrangements. As an international student, you’ll need to apply for a student visa for most study abroad destinations.

The UK

Each country has its own requirements and regulations for student visa eligibility. Since you have to account for both admissions applications and visa arrangements, we once again recommend starting early! To get you started on your research, take a look through our comprehensive guidelines for visa applications to the best study abroad destinations. Visa applications are serious business, involving multiple people and organisations. Again, having the assistance of an expert here can be a huge help in checking off the do’s and avoiding the don’ts.

7. Other Considerations

How to apply for study abroad is a multi-pronged process. And how this process looks can often differ from student to student. Alongside the main application and getting your travel arrangements in order, there are other things to consider, like scholarships and accommodation. Most likely these are things you factored into your university and program choice from the beginning. While some universities offer generous international student scholarships and on-campus accommodation, for others you might need to look for external funding and off-campus residences. Don’t leave your searches for these items to the last minute. You might have to set time aside specifically to look into all the scholarship and financial aid opportunities available. These may include additional paperwork and applications. It might take a similar amount of time to go through all the accommodation options and figure out the right one for you. It’s best to run these searches in tandem with your program and university search. You’ll need to factor these things into your budgeting for the time you spend abroad too. Look into scholarship availability, nearby residences, student support contact information, student jobs, and much more through UniSearch!

Our Concluding Thoughts 

There’s much to do before you can actually set off to study abroad. And to make sure you do it well and do it right, we have compiled as many resources as we can right here. We hope this guide is a helpful directory for you to start off on your study abroad journey. From helping you figure out the program and university you want to study in, to figuring out everything you need to know about your study abroad destination, our written and video guides have you covered. We break admissions processes and visa applications down to the smallest detail so you go in fully prepared! Scholarship search guides, costs of living estimates, part-time work and post-study opportunities – everything you need to know is a click away. And of course, our dedicated team of global counsellors is available around the clock to guide you every step of the way. So, now that you know how to apply for study abroad, when are you turning the page for the first chapter of this adventure?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the requirements to study abroad?

Universities have different entry requirements for applicants. These requirements might be specific to programs within each university too. You might have to fulfil different grade boundaries, provide relevant experience, submit portfolios or samples of your work, and meet different English language proficiency requirements. To know exactly what to submit for your application, be sure to look into the detailed requirements for each university and program you’re considering! A typical application will usually consist of:

  • Application form
  • Academic transcripts and certificates
  • English language proficiency test scores
  • Academic and/or professional references
  • CVs/resumes
  • Proof of identity
  • Letter of intent/statement of purpose/personal statement

What are the best countries to study abroad in?

Some of the best countries to study abroad in, with the highest-ranked universities, top student cities, and high graduate employability, are:

  • The USA
  • The UK
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Ireland