How to study in the UK: A comprehensive guide for international students

How to study in the UK

If you’re an international student, you may have heard from your friends that studying in the UK is expensive and difficult. While this might be true, it doesn’t have to be that way! There are many ways to study abroad in the UK without spending too much or without having to worry about things like finding housing or getting financial aid. In this guide, we’ll teach you how to study in the UK and other essential tips on making the most of your time here!

What are Universities Looking For?

The process of gaining admission into a UK university involves more than just grades and SAT scores. Universities are looking for students who can prove they’re ready to take on demanding coursework and cope with a changing environment. So what are they really looking for? Here’s how you can tell if you’ve got what it takes.

First and foremost, universities are looking for you to be yourself. After all, they’re not interested in creating robots who will regurgitate facts on cue; they want students who can think critically and approach learning in an active manner.

In fact, unless you’re applying to a top-tier program at an Ivy League university, your GPAs don’t actually matter that much when it comes time to look at admission applications.

What universities are looking for has much more to do with who you are and what your interests are than it does with your grades. They want well-rounded students who can deal with new situations, people, and problems — which means they’re looking for adaptable learners who will fit right into their environment.

Finally, universities are looking for students who are more than just good test-takers. They’re looking for students who can express themselves well and make an impact with their written word.

So even if you don’t have stellar grades but you manage to write an amazing personal statement, admissions officers will notice — and it may end up working in your favor.

Do I Need a Personal Statement?

All international students applying to undergraduate programs at English universities must submit a personal statement when applying. Your personal statement will be your opportunity to show off your English skills, so make sure it’s flawless!

But what about other parts of your application? We answer all of these questions and more below.

All undergraduate students applying to English universities are required to write a personal statement. This is your chance to show off your abilities and skills, so it needs to be both well-written and proofread.

Once you’ve written your personal statement, you may be wondering what else is expected of you. Your university application will include other forms and documents, such as a CV or resume.

While it’s important to follow each university’s requirements when submitting your materials, we have some general guidelines that will help make your application more successful.

There are a few basic requirements you’ll need to follow for all applications.

First, make sure your contact information is up-to-date and complete, and that you know where you will be living while studying at university.

Additionally, you’ll need to write a personal statement in which you express your reasons for wanting to study at university — and why your chosen university is a good fit.

You’ll also need to submit a CV or resume that showcases your most important qualifications. CVs are appropriate if you have professional experience, while resumes are better suited for students with little work history.

Be sure that each of these documents is complete and error-free before submitting them, as incomplete or sloppy documents can impact your application negatively.

Whether you’re a recent high school graduate or an older student looking to return to school, it’s important that you provide schools with a complete picture of your skills and qualifications.

What are My Degree Options?

Your first consideration is probably what type of degree you’d like to study. The most popular types of degrees in the UK are accounting, business, nursing and computer science.

Make sure you know what kind of degree you want before getting started on your course search — different institutions have different requirements and courses vary widely.

For example, while one university might offer a bachelor’s program in business administration, another might only offer postgraduate degrees.

You’ll also need to choose between an undergraduate degree or a postgraduate degree. Undergraduate degrees are more flexible and allow you a greater variety of subjects, but can take longer than postgraduate degrees.

Postgraduate degrees tend to be more specialized, allowing you to focus on one area. However, it’s important to remember that each institution has its own individual requirements.

Some subjects are only available as postgraduate degrees, and many institutions require you to choose a specialism before starting your degree.

For example, it’s not possible to study engineering as an undergraduate degree at a British university — you’ll need to complete a postgraduate qualification if you want to specialize in engineering.

There are also some universities which don’t offer undergraduate degrees — instead, they offer foundation programs designed to prepare students for degree-level work.

If you’re interested in a specific field, it’s important to ensure that your university offers a suitable course. For example, studying business at a college which only offers postgraduate degrees would be pointless.

When considering your degree options, it’s important to think about what you’re hoping to achieve.

Are you interested in a career in academia? Do you want a career where a postgraduate degree will help you earn more money? Or do you simply want experience working at a particular organization, even if it doesn’t require a postgraduate qualification?

You should also think about how much time you want to spend studying. Do you have a full-time job and want to study at night? Or do you plan on travelling or working overseas while completing your degree?

Most bachelor’s degrees take three years or more, so if you’re working full-time it can be hard to study full-time as well.

Can I apply with Lower Grades?

The general rule is that you need at least five GCSEs (grades 9-4) at A*-C or four grades of 4 or above if you don’t have any GCSEs. There are, however, other routes – see below.

This is called a subject-based route and it’s one of two ways you can study at university without GCSEs. The other is called a functional skills route, and that’s where you’re assessed on non-GCSE qualifications, like NVQs.

For example, if you’re applying with AS-levels or an Access qualification and have no GCSEs, you’ll need three grades of 4 or above. You can also apply with an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) and as long as you get a distinction grade, you won’t need any GCSEs.

If you’re applying with O-levels or an Irish Leaving Certificate, you need two grades of 4 or above.

However, note that if you’re from Northern Ireland, there is no functional skills route – so that only leaves subject-based routes. There are some universities and courses which will accept fewer grades than others, but it’s always worth having a look at individual course requirements.

For example, if you’re applying with A-levels or an Irish Leaving Certificate and have no GCSEs, you’ll need three grades of C or above. The subject requirements will vary depending on which course you’re applying for, but most are based on specific combinations of subjects.

For example, if you’re applying with a BTEC First Diploma or an International Baccalaureate and have no GCSEs, you’ll need three grades of 4 or above.

However, it might be worth looking at individual course requirements because some courses will accept fewer grades than others. Generally speaking, universities will expect three A-levels or equivalent qualifications.

If you’re applying with a Foundation Diploma, you need at least two grades of 4 or above and you must also be under 19 years old on 1 September of your application year.

So, while you don’t need GCSEs to study in some cases, it is worth noting that there are age restrictions.

If you have no formal qualifications, you’ll need one of two things. Either you’ll need an appropriate level of English (you can check that on your university application), or you’ll need two references.

One must be from a designated teacher who has taught you English within your primary or secondary school; and one must be from an employer who knows your work record.

When Do I Apply?

The application deadline differs depending on which country you’re applying from.

For example, for international students from within Europe, that deadline is May 15. For applicants from outside of Europe, it’s September 15. The best thing to do is check with your college of choice and see what their deadlines are — it could mean a big difference if you apply a few months earlier or later than recommended!

You’ll need to submit your CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) form and pay your application fee, which varies from one university to another but usually ranges between $75-$125.

You can expect it to take anywhere from 2-4 weeks for all of your paperwork (including transcripts and test scores) to be processed, after which you’ll receive an email letting you know whether or not you’ve been accepted.

Universities also accept students throughout their programs, so if you miss one application deadline but have a good reason why you’re applying late, you can apply at any time during your program of study.

Many universities have special admissions counselors who specialize in students from non-traditional backgrounds and will work with them on a case-by-case basis. Keep in mind that there is no guarantee that you’ll be accepted once you submit an application after your initial deadline.

If you’re applying from a non-native English speaking country, you’ll also need to take one of these tests by January 15 if you want your results reported by February 1.

It usually takes anywhere from 6-10 weeks after your test date to receive your scores. You’ll need these scores on hand when submitting your application, so make sure they get sent directly to you (rather than going through an agent) and that they arrive no later than December 1.

Once you’ve submitted your application, it’s important that you maintain a positive relationship with your college throughout your program. One of the best ways to do that is by staying on top of deadlines!

If you miss a deadline, don’t fret! Most universities will let you make up any late work or tests if you ask nicely and have a reasonable excuse.

If you miss a final exam because of your own fault (for example, you didn’t attend class regularly and didn’t make up work when you could have), chances are good that your college will fail you.

You might be able to appeal if it was a one-time incident and can explain how it won’t happen again, but otherwise it’s best not to risk missing that important test!

Once you’ve finished your degree, though, it’s time to think about other options. If you have already applied and been accepted at another college, you’ll need to follow a similar application process.

Some universities have a rolling admissions process, so you can apply at any time. Others, however, have an official deadline that all applications must be submitted by (which is usually around mid-October).

If you miss that deadline and are still interested in studying at that university, your only option might be to wait until next year and reapply. You’ll also need to check their website closely because they may request particular documents or forms depending on when you apply.

The University Application Process:

The first step to studying at a university is gaining admittance into a program or department. This may require you to take part in an entrance exam and provide letters of recommendation from past teachers, as well as complete an application form.

If you are applying from outside of your home country, you will also likely have to submit your high school transcripts and pass any required English proficiency exams. However, most universities do have English language programs that can help you prepare.

Once you’ve applied, you may need to submit further documents such as your passport and I-20 form, which will indicate your program of study. This document also ensures that you can receive financial aid if needed.

Once all your papers are submitted, international students typically go through an interview process with university officials or members of their admissions team. You can expect questions about why you want to study at that particular university, as well as your prior education and any research interests or hobbies.

You will also be asked about your plans after you graduate. Some universities ask you to submit a resume or samples of your past work.

Once your application is complete, you will receive a notification of whether or not you’ve been accepted. This notification may come through via email or even a letter.

You can also call or check their website to see if they post notifications online. Most universities don’t contact students with rejections unless they feel that there was a mistake made during the admissions process, such as an error on your application form.

Once you have received your acceptance letter, you will also be able to see if there are any fees associated with registering or enrolling in classes. Usually, there is a deposit or registration fee as well as a tuition fee. Be sure that you understand what these fees are for and when they’re due.

Once you’ve completed your application and paid any applicable fees, you will be able to register for classes. This can be done online via their portal or during a designated registration period on campus.

If you need help choosing classes, talk with an academic advisor about your educational goals and which programs will fulfill those requirements. Most college or universities also have orientation sessions when students first arrive that provide more information about important college rules, resources and departments.

Most international students will also need to make arrangements for housing. Many universities have dormitories, but you may also want to consider living off-campus with a roommate or joining a student house.

Look at your college’s website and social media platforms as well as local classified ads or online roommate matching services to see what options are available. For example, some universities have Facebook groups where other students offer room shares and sublets.

Studying Abroad or Working While Studying:

There are many reasons why you might want to study abroad — to gain international experience, take on new challenges, study a subject that isn’t offered at your home university or simply because you want a change of scenery.

If you’re interested in studying abroad or working while studying, make sure that your college is accredited by an agency recognized by your home country. This will guarantee your degree will be accepted back home and is a good way to avoid costly mistakes later on.

Most universities have their own career services, which can help you identify jobs, internships and even volunteer opportunities.

They also provide students with advice on how to write a resume, create a professional LinkedIn profile and prepare for interviews. You can sign up for free workshops or subscribe to newsletters from your university’s career services or alumni association.

Having a job while studying is a great way to make extra money and gain real-world experience. It can also help you get on your feet financially if you have limited savings or need some extra cash, but aren’t yet earning at a full-time salary.

If possible, try to pick up part-time work rather than taking on an internship that takes away from study time. Your grades will be better and you’ll feel less stress as well.

The best way to find a job is through your college. Most universities will have a list of available jobs and internship opportunities on their website, and some even organize events specifically aimed at connecting students with local employers.

If you’re having trouble finding work locally, try using social media or applying directly to companies you’re interested in. There are also numerous websites that list job openings all over Europe, so don’t be afraid to reach out!

Some universities have strict policies about part-time work, and may even prohibit it altogether. If you’re considering working while studying, be sure to double check your university’s policy. You don’t want to jeopardize your place because you weren’t fully aware of their regulations!

If you’re an international student studying in Europe, be sure to check out Europe’s unique Erasmus program. Erasmus provides students with opportunities to study and work abroad at another university, helping them gain valuable experience, networks and foreign language skills along the way.

Studying abroad can be a stressful experience, but it helps you learn new skills, build your network and get exposed to different cultures.

Studying abroad can be a life-changing experience, but it can also be stressful and difficult. There are many things you’ll need to consider before you choose where and how long you want to study.

Keep your goals in mind and make sure your plan fits into them so that you end up with a positive, memorable experience!

Surviving and Thriving on Campus:

It might seem like you’re just another student who is going to school, but at a university or college, you are actually part of an elite group. You will soon become aware that studying on campus can be quite different from your high school experience.

In order to prepare yourself for what lies ahead, here are five tips and tricks you can use today to help ensure your success as an international student.

It’s important to keep in mind that university life isn’t just about your studies, it’s also about socializing. You will find yourself spending a lot of time with other students, and you need to be prepared. Make sure you get involved as soon as possible; otherwise, you might regret not doing so later on. Join some clubs or societies and stay active while attending college!

One thing that many international students struggle with is how they will communicate. Unlike English-speaking countries, you won’t always be able to rely on English to get you by. Whether or not your university or college offers language lessons, it’s a good idea to take some yourself. You can do so either online or in person; both have their advantages and disadvantages.

If you have applied and been accepted into a university or college, congratulations!

However, while you are incredibly excited about your new life abroad, it’s also important that you stay realistic. The best way to ensure a smooth transition is by doing as much research as possible before arriving on campus.

You want to know where all of your classes will be held, which dorms are available and how often you can visit home during breaks.

If you’re already attending a university or college, your biggest struggle is probably finding time to study. It’s easy to think that it will be much easier than high school; however, with no assigned tasks and deadlines looming overhead, it can be difficult to motivate yourself.

Fortunately, there are a few strategies you can use today that will make studying less stressful and more enjoyable — even if you’re busy!


Studying abroad is an incredible experience and if you get it right, will be one of your fondest memories of your university days. Keep these tips in mind when studying in the UK and you’ll be ready to hit campus with confidence!

Good luck!


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