How to qualify and apply for an English-speaking university
by Andrea Byaruhanga
August 20, 2020

Okay, you’ve finished secondary school, and you’re ready for the next step, which is… more school?!  Yes, you want to apply to university! On top of that, you’re considering an undergraduate (bachelor’s) programme at an international English-speaking university. 

How exciting!

To help you out, we’ve put together some information about the UK and the US. Read on to see what it takes to get into an English-speaking international university.

The basics about applying for an English-speaking university

Whichever institution you apply to, you have to meet certain criteria. Here are some of the guidelines:

Minimum academic achievements

First of all, you should check with the university to learn about grade requirements – and their equivalents – so you know what pre-university grades or scores you’ll need in order to be accepted. 

For example, if you want to study in the UK, you’ll likely need to know your country’s equivalent of the A-levels (a secondary school qualification needed for university).

Some applicants take a diploma programme such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) or an exam like scholastic achievement test (SAT) (for US universities only) to prove their eligibility.

English skills

As an international student at an English-speaking uni, you have to prove that your English is strong enough to keep up. There are various official English exams to choose from – such as IELTS, TOEFL or Cambridge C1 – but make sure you check which test results are accepted at your chosen university.

The university application process

Generally, you’ll have to include the following details on your university application: 

  • Personal information
  • Previous educational qualifications
  • Financial details
  • A personal statement/letter of intent – a written statement describing why you should be accepted to the programme (e.g., why you’re interested and which relevant skills you possess)

You’ll probably also have to pay a deposit (also called an enrollment fee) to secure your spot. It’s not uncommon to pay £2,000 to £4,000 (US$2,600 to US$5200).

Depending on the school, you might be required to attend an interview. Certain universities interview all potential students, while other schools don’t interview any.

Here are some specifics about the UK and the US:

UK

The UK has a convenient system called the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). Regardless of which institution(s) you’re applying to, you’ll go through the UCAS website. You can apply to up to five programmes through UCAS – either five programmes at the same university, or at different schools. 

Cost: If you apply for a single program, the price is £20. Applicants who apply for more than one programme pay £26. 

US

To apply to an American university, you’ll probably have to go directly to the school’s website; the US doesn’t have a central site like the UCAS.

Cost: Most applications cost between US$75 and US$100. 

Important documents needed when applying to English-speaking universities

A critical part of your application process is submitting all the correct documents*. You could be asked to submit copies of any or all of the following: 

  • Birth certificate
  • Passport or other identification card from your country of residence
  • Passport photo
  • A certificate stating your official English exam results
  • Previous diplomas or degrees
  • Scores from any entrance exams or programmes you’ve taken (e.g., IB or SAT)
  • School transcripts – a statement of your grades from secondary school or higher
  • Resume/CV
  • Writing sample – this is a more recent requirement, especially at many US universities
  • Passport photo

*You may need to have your documents verified to ensure they’re authentic. If your original documents aren’t in English, you might also have to get them professionally translated. 

Tuition fees

The cost of an undergraduate degree can definitely affect your wallet! Luckily, there are scholarships available to eligible international students. If you’d like to learn more about your eligibility, contact the university’s financial aid office.

Here are the average tuition fees you’ll be facing as an international student:

UK

If you’re from anywhere in the EU, you’ll pay the same as British students at UK universities – up to £9,250 per year. International students from outside of the EU will pay around £10,000 to £38,000.

US

The cost for an undergraduate programme at an American university starts at about US$24,000 a year and can go above US$50,000. This mainly depends on whether you’re attending a public or a private university (private ones are more expensive).

Your student visa

After you’ve been accepted to the international undergraduate program of your dreams, you can apply for a student visa. 

UK

If you’re an international student outside of the EU, you need to get a tier 4 visa. This student visa comes at a cost of £348.

US

International students headed to an American university need an F1 visa, which should cost you around US$510.

A lot to think about

Getting into an English-speaking international university definitely takes some extra effort. The details we’ve discussed will help you figure out where to start – and where you want to go!

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