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How to Study Abroad: Frequently Asked Questions

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Here you’ll find a collection of the most frequently asked questions regarding how to study abroad. Find information on where to study, how to apply, entry requirements, getting a student visa, tuition fees and funding, finding study abroad scholarships and other practical information.

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Browse the questions below to discover the answers to the mysterious secret of how to study abroad…

1.  Why study abroad?

2.  Where in the world should I study?

3. How do I get started?

4.  How long do study abroad programs take?

5.  When can I start applying for study abroad programs?

6.  What are the entry requirements for study abroad programs?

7.  What documentation should I submit with my application?

8.  Do I have to speak a second language to study abroad?

9.  Will I need to attend an admissions interview?

10. After gaining a letter of acceptance, what do I do next?

11.  Do I need to apply for a student visa?

12.  How much does it cost to study abroad?

13.  Can I get financial aid to study abroad?

14.  Where can I find study abroad scholarships?

15.  Where will I live during my study abroad program?

16.  Can I work while studying abroad?

17.  Further questions?

 

1.  Why study abroad?

There are many reasons why study abroad programs are becoming so popular. For most international students, the appeal is likely to be a combination of gaining a high-quality education, experiencing immersion in a new culture (and often a second language), gaining a global mindset and expanding future employment prospects.

For some, the prospect of leaving home and heading off into the unknown is daunting, but studying abroad is also an exciting challenge that often leads to improved career opportunities and a broader understanding of the way the world works. The type of experience you have during your time abroad will vary hugely depending on where you go, so make sure to pick a study destination based on your own personal interests as well as the country’s academic reputation, in order to keep a healthy work/play balance.

To get more of an idea of whether studying abroad is for you, read some of our blog posts:

2.  Where in the world should I study?

Choosing where in the world you wish to study is not always an easy task. As well as your own personal interests you should think about practicalities such as the costs of studying in that country (both tuition costs and living costs), your graduate career prospects (is there a good job market?) and your overall safety and welfare.

You should also think about what sort of lifestyle you wish to have during your studies. Do you want to live in a big city or a small university town? Do you want arts and culture on your doorstep or world-class sporting facilities? Whatever your interests, be sure to match them up with your study destination so that you really give yourself the best chance of loving your international experience.

If you need help making up your mind, take a look at some of the most popular destinations – Australia, Canada, Germany, the UK and the US  – or use the links below to view our university rankings and full range of country guides:

Related articles and blog posts:

3.  How do I get started?

Once you’ve made up your mind about where you want to study, you should start to think about choosing a program and a university, if you haven’t already. You can research leading universities with the QS World University Rankings®, use the subject rankings to discover universities which are best for your subject, and also consult national rankings of universities in your chosen destination. You’ll then want to look closely at the courses offered by the institutions on your short list, as well as researching the local area and lifestyle, admission requirements and costs.

Once you’ve firmly decided on your program and institution, you should start to think about your application(s). Application processes differ depending on the university and the country, but generally each institution will provide full details of how to submit your application on the official website.

In some cases there is a “two-step application process” for international students. This means you must submit two applications: one for a place at the university and one for a place on the course itself. This should be clearly stated on the university’s website. If you still have questions about the process, you should contact your chosen university directly.

If you think you might need a student visa, remember that in most cases you won’t be able to apply for one until you have received a letter of acceptance from your chosen university. Each stage can take several months, so allow as much time as possible.

For more guidance on choosing a course and a university, check out the links below:

4.  How long do study abroad programs take?

The length of time you spend studying abroad will depend on the program and level of degree you’re undertaking. Generally, an undergraduate degree will take three or four years of full-time study (for example, in the UK the typical length for most subjects is three years, while in the US the norm is four), while a graduate degree such as a master’s degree or equivalent will take one or two years. A doctoral (PhD) program will usually take three to four years.

At many universities across the world, there is also the option of studying abroad for a shorter period of time. Student exchange programs allow you to study abroad for a year, a semester or even just a few weeks. Information about these shorter programs should be available on the website of the main university you plan to enroll at, as well as the university you’d like to be hosted by.

5.  When can I start applying for study abroad programs?

Considering your application as early as possible is the best way to go. After all, the sooner you gain acceptance into a university, the sooner you can arrange your travels. To avoid disappointment, note down all the relevant application deadlines (set out by your chosen university) in HUGE LETTERS on your calendar.

Application deadlines will be different depending on the school, but generally speaking, for programs starting in the fall (September/October), applications will be open from early in the year (January/February) until the middle of the year (June/July).

Related articles:

6. What are the entry requirements for study abroad programs?

Entry requirements vary widely between universities and between countries, so be sure to check the information provided by your prospective university before submitting anything.

Speaking generally, however, if you are applying for an undergraduate degree you will be asked to show that you have completed your secondary education to a standard that is in line with the required grades (e.g. your GPA, A-level grades or equivalent) for the program you’re applying to. If you have an international qualification and are unsure whether this is accepted, you should contact the admissions department of the university.

For non-native English speakers wanting to study in English-speaking countries, it is also highly likely that you’ll need to provide proof of your English-language proficiency by taking an English-language test such as TOEFL or IELTS. Similar tests may be required for those studying in other languages. For more information about language tests, refer to question 8.

7. What documentation should I submit with my application?

You may be asked to provide some supporting documentation as part of your application. Once again, requirements vary depending on the country and university, but international students are often asked to provide the following:

    • Passport photos for identification
    • A statement of purpose
    • CV/résumé
    • Academic references/ letters of recommendation
    • Certificate and transcripts of your secondary education
    • Proof of English-language proficiency (e.g. a TOEFL/IELTS certificate, for schools in English-speaking countries), or other language test
    • Admissions test results (e.g. GMAT/GRE results, for graduate programs)

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8.  Do I have to speak a second language to study abroad?

This depends on the country you wish to study in, and the language your course will be taught in. If you are not a native English speaker but wish to study a course taught in English, you will have to prove you can speak the language to a fairly high level, by providing English-language test results. This is to ensure you will be able to follow your course without any comprehension problems.

English is also used as a language of instruction in a number of other countries worldwide, particularly for graduate programs and business degrees. English-taught courses will be advertised on the university’s website and can sometimes be searched for using a centralized database run by a national agency.

Common tests accepted as proof of English proficiency are the TOEFL and IELTS. If you need to prove your proficiency in a language other thanEnglish, there are also similar tests in other languages, such as the DELF/DALF and TCF-DAP (French) or the DSF and TestDaF (German).

Before taking a language test, make sure you confirm which results are accepted by your chosen school to make sure you don’t waste money on the wrong test.

Related articles:

From the blog:

9.  Will I need to attend an admissions interview?

As a prospective international student, it is relatively unlikely for schools to expect you to attend an admissions interview in person, although this is not unheard of – especially for the most competitive programs.

Some universities hold international interviews in various locations around the world, so you may be expected to attend one of these. There is also a growing trend of using video interviewing. This is like any other interview, with a prearranged time and date, but will take place online, via an application such as Skype.

Related articles and blog posts:

10.  After gaining a letter of acceptance, what do I do next?

Congratulations, you’re in! Now all that’s left to do is to prepare for your studies, pack up your life into a single (large) suitcase, get your travel documents in order, apply for your student visa, research your accommodation options, and look for funding… don’t panic, it’ll all be worth it!

In fact, as soon as you gain acceptance from a university, the first thing you should start to consider is your travel documentation. Ensure you have a valid passport and travel insurance, as well as a student visa if you need one. Make sure you have sufficient time to get your passport/visa approved so that you’ll be able to travel legally!

For more information on what documentation you’ll need to travel, you should visit the government website of your chosen country to find information for travelers, visitors and international students (e.g. Gov.uk for UK travel information). All the travel information you need should be listed on these official sites.

Alternatively, you can ask your university for guidance. Often, admissions departments will help you to prepare for your travels, and, in some countries, they even apply for the student visa on your behalf. Make sure you check with your university, however – don’t assume someone else is going to sort everything out!

Related articles:

11.  Do I need to apply for a student visa?

Student visas are a big question for those who want to know how to study abroad, though not all international students will need one. If you’re an EU citizen planning to study in another EU country, for instance, you do not need to a visa. However, as a rule of thumb, if you come from outside of your chosen country’s geographical region/continent, you will probably need to apply for a student visa. This usually only applies to longer periods of international study; if you’re participating in a shorter exchange, last three months or less, a tourist or visitor visa may suffice.

To find out for sure, check either with your chosen university or the government travel website of your country of study. For information on how to apply for a student visa, see the articles listed below.

Related articles:

12.  How much does it cost to study abroad?

To work out the cost of studying abroad, you need to consider the average tuition fees for international students in your chosen country, as well as the cost of living.

As a point of reference, the average tuition fees for international students studying in the UK are UK£12,000 (US$18,200) a year, with an additional UK£7,000 (US$10,600) per year needed to cover living costs. In the US, the average yearly cost is US$28,500 with an additional recommended budget of US$15,000 to cover your living costs. With these yearly figures in mind, remember that undergraduate programs in the US tend to last a full four years.

In some countries, there are no tuition fees at all. Notable examples include Germany, where undergraduate-level education is free for all, and a number of the Nordic countries such as Finland.

Related articles:

13.  Can I get financial aid to study abroad?

Although many international students may find it difficult to get a student loan to fund their studies, there are a myriad of other funding opportunities available to make studying abroad more affordable, including scholarships, fellowships, studentships, sponsorships, grants and bursaries.

Your chosen university is perhaps the best place to get funding information relevant to you, so make sure to scour the school’s website for advice, or contact the school directly. This is also where information about study abroad scholarships offered by the university and other external organizations can be found, along with details regarding eligibility and how to apply.

Many scholarships are granted based on academic merit, and are highly competitive. There are also lots of funding schemes targeting specific groups of students, such as students from developing countries and women studying male-dominated subjects.

Related articles and blog posts:

14.  Where can I find study abroad scholarships?

Study abroad scholarships can be found in many places! Your first port of call will be the website of your chosen university, where you’ll find information on available scholarships. Sometimes the university will also list external scholarships, such as those offered by the government or business partners of the school. If not, you should research governmental schemes in your home country and your country of study, as well as funding offered by external organizations relating to your field of study (e.g. an engineering firm might offer a scholarship for engineering students).

See our selection of scholarships articles for an insight into what’s on offer around the world:

Related articles:

15.  Where will I live during my study abroad program?

If your chosen university has readily available campus accommodation, it is likely that you will be able to apply for a place in these student halls. If this is not the case, you will need to find your own accommodation.

If money is no object, you can consider renting your own flat, while those on a smaller budget can find shared accommodation with other students or use spare room listings found online. In all cases, you should make sure you do your research before signing anything or handing over any money. Your university’s student support team and student union should also offer advice on how to find accommodation locally.

Related articles and blog posts:

16.  Can I work during my studies abroad?

This will depend on whether or not your student visa allows you to work. In some countries there are restrictions on the amount of paid work you can undertake during your studies; often there’s a limit of 20 hours’ paid work per week during term time, with full-time work permitted during holidays.

If you don’t need a student visa, it is more likely you’ll be able to work as many hours as you like, as long as this doesn’t affect your studies – but check with the university and/or official government site.

17.  Further questions?

If you have any more questions regarding how to study abroad, that haven’t already been addressed, feel free to ask them in the comments below and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can! You may also be interested in attending the QS World Grad School Tour, which offers the chance to meet universities from around the world and get advice for your application – find out more here.

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Written by Laura Tucker
Laura is a former staff writer for TopUniversities.com, providing advice and guidance for students on a range of topics helping them to choose where to study, get admitted and find funding and scholarships. A graduate of Queen Mary University of London, Laura also blogs about student life.

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18 Comments

hello , how can i contact students already studying in universities before i go there , to know much about the situation

hi...we've just immigrated to canada and I want to start going to university in toronto. And I've got the TOEFL dgree too. Should i take some exams of high school subject before going to university? Is there any special exam?

Hi Elaheh, you'll generally need a high school leaving certificate or equivalent to study at bachelor's level in Canada. I'd recommend checking the official website of the Canadian university you're interested in to find out more about entry requirements, including whether you need to sit any exams.

Hi there
I am from Iran, and I'm a freshman in law school
So I'm in a big dilemma whether to continue my mager in Iran then after graduation I study abroad for master or is it better to do it right now?
Please help me to choose the right way

hi there

very useful article

If you only want to study abroad in Europe for the last time to participate in the exchange program during the current school and colleagues in Europe can be the best way.

Do you want arts and culture on your doorstep or world-class sporting facilities? Whatever your interests, be sure to match them up with your study destination so that you really give yourself the best chance of loving your international experience.

Degree Recognized: Recognized by Medical Council of India (MCI), orld Health Organization (WHO), IMED of ECFMG- USA, MCI, FAIMER, USMLE and similar other bodies.

I am from india and i want to pursue mechanical engineering from Mcgill university Canada. What are the entry requirements? I am currently in class 12 th.

Hi Satyam, I would recommend checking McGill University's official website for information on entry requirements. 

Hello,I am from india and I want to do master in engineering in germany ..But I want study in english and I have ielts. Score 5.5 please give me full description

Hi Pardeep, the study-in.de website's search tool is useful for finding programs to study in English in Germany. 

nice post i got very helpful information from this post..i am looking for same information from many days one of my frnd also suggest me one more site to getting information about study in baroad www.msmbainusa.com

Hello,
Hello,
Now i am doing Ph.D.(management) in India. My area of interest "Emotional Regulation at workplace". I like to do my post doctoral after my Ph.D. I prefer abroad universities and I need stipend too. I don't know where we get all these details. Can you suggest or refer some university.

Hi Arul, we have a range of info on PhDs and PhD funding found here, as well as an area just for postgraduate studies. If you still need to choose a study destination, see our where to study homepage. We also have aScholarships FAQ which can help you with finding funding, or you can check out our range of scholarship articles Laura :)

I am 34 years old and graduated BS Computer Science in Philippines last 2002. However, I was not able to work related to my studies, I am working in Turkey as an ESL Teacher. I gained a 100 hrs TESOL Certificate, without background in teaching, It was so hard for me to teach. I've been thinking of studying an education course abroad like US but according to the agents here in Turkey it would be hard for me to get a visa or to be accepted in a university because of my age. My question is, does age really matter in studying university?

Hi Jennifer. It certainly shouldn't matter in terms of admissions, as long as you meet the stated requirements. In fact many universities have a separate set of admissions requirements for older applicants, which could mean relevant experience is accepted in place of academic qualifications, to some extent.