For many students who are considering studying abroad, one of the first hurdles to overcome is the application process, which varies between countries.
While some countries have a central system that enables you to apply to a limited number of universities in one go (such as Ucas in the UK) other countries, such as Switzerland, allow you to apply to as many universities as you want to but these must be applied to individually.
It’s important to remember that some countries will charge an application fee, so you will need to work out how much that will cost in your local currency. Some places expect a personal statement while others will ask several questions to test your passion for the subject.
Others will expect you to take an entrance exam or do an interview to help determine your suitability.
Looking at some of the countries that have a strong international outlook and attract many international students per year, here I break down the application procedures with some advice from their admissions officers to help you navigate the process.
Universities in Hong Kong attract many international students and are committed to increasing this number in the near future. While domestic students can apply to all universities in Hong Kong through a central system known as JUPAS, the process is slightly different for international students.
International students can apply online via the International Admissions Scheme or via the university website and will have to upload a number of supporting documents such as high school grades and references.
Students must be able to demonstrate good English, which can be established through a number of different international tests. The application fee is HK$450 for a maximum of three programme choices for non-local applicants. Students can only submit one application form.
Applicants are also required to put together a personal statement of about 400 words that includes why they have chosen the course and university.
Admissions officers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong say that “applicants will be considered on the basis of their academic performance and other relevant qualifications and on individual merit by the programmes concerned”. Some students may also be invited to an interview, either in person or over Skype.
The UK is a popular destination for international students and as mentioned earlier in the article, students must apply to universities through a system known as Ucas. This system allows students to apply to up to five universities with just one application. It costs £20 for a single choice or £25 for more than one choice.
The application consists of a series of questions to determine the prospective student’s background, schooling and predicted grades. The biggest part of the application form is the personal statement. Here, applicants should explain their choice of course, their extracurricular interests and any extra reading or lectures they have attended that demonstrate an interest in their chosen course.
Canada is home to a number of great universities with a strong international focus and has a reputation as a welcoming country for international students.
Students looking to apply to university in Canada will have to write up a personal profile as part of their application. This is very similar to the personal statement required for a UK university application. According to the University of British Columbia website, this is the space where students can list the things “that are important to you, your significant achievements, what you’ve learned from your experiences, and the challenges you’ve overcome. It’s our chance to determine whether you’re a good fit for UBC and if you’ll receive an entrance scholarship”.
Students will also have to demonstrate English-language competency – there are nine ways to meet the English Language Admission Standard, which are listed on the UBC website.
A year abroad at university in Switzerland
Discovering my passion at the University of Hong Kong
International perspective: students from Hong Kong in the UK
International perspective: a French student in Switzerland
A day in the life of a student in Singapore
Switzerland has four official languages and is bordered by five countries so it is no surprise that its universities are among the most international in the world.
At École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne students may need to take an entrance exam if they have a foreign school certificate. Applicants must also prove that they have a good grasp of the French language, usually through taking a language exam.
A spokesperson for the university said: "In Switzerland, as a general rule, anyone with a Swiss upper secondary school certificate can go on to study at a Swiss university. The conditions put in place for foreign certificate holders are there to bring us as close as possible to the Swiss education system”.
The full application costs CHF 50 for a holder of a Swiss diploma and CHF 150 for holders of foreign diplomas. Students must also upload a photo, a passport or identity card, grades from the last two years of upper secondary education, transcripts from prior higher education institutions (if applicable), Swiss residence permit and certificate (if applicable) and a French-language competence certificate.
The application process for Singapore (at least at the National University of Singapore) does not differ greatly for international and domestic students, according to a spokesperson from the university.
All students will need to fill out an online application form and submit identification documents, supporting documents and an application fee of S$20.
For prospective students from EU/EEA countries, applications for all undergraduate programmes should be made via the Central Applications Office before 1 February of the proposed year of entry. Admission is based on published criteria and places are allocated following the publication of Leaving Certificate and A-level results in August. Results are converted to CAO points and places allocated accordingly. The application form asks for education history and details of examinations that have been taken and are yet to be taken. Students do not need to write a personal statement or submit a letter of recommendation.
Non-EU applicants should apply directly to their chosen university before 1 February of the proposed year of entry. Application is made via the university online application system. In addition to the standard personal and educational information, applicants will need to complete a 500-word personal statement and provide the names of two individuals who will be asked to submit letters of recommendation. Applications open on 1 October each year.
Although the application process vary between countries, it is safe to say that for most you’ll need to provide background on your education and some form of language proficiency.
Most will require supporting documents, so be sure to check which you might need in good time so you aren’t looking around for them close to the deadline date. Most will require a fee so ensure that you check how much you will need to pay and how you should pay.
Finally, a common warning from all the admissions officers is that applicants should never provide false information or lie on their application. Most things can be easily verified so it isn’t worth taking the risk.
Read more: Most international universities in the world