Okay, you’ve made your decision: you’re going to study abroad for a semester! Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity for college students not only academically, but also on a personal level. You get to experience a different country and its culture for several months, you’ll be living on your own, you might learn a new language, you’ll meet a ton of new people, you’ll get to explore new places… and the list goes on!
Now that you’ve made the decision of going forward, you need to start getting your application ready! I created a checklist to help you create the best study abroad application ever and to make you sure you don’t forget anything! And make sure you read until the end because I’m announcing some AMAZING news at the end of the post!
- Language test: See if you need to take a test to prove your proficiency in the language you’ll be studying in, if it’s not your mother tongue. And don’t wait until the last minute like me. I waited to book my test and then realized that it was all full before the due date. I almost had a panic attack. Thankfully, I found other centers who were offering the test, but I felt like crying for a second because I felt like I had screwed everything up. If you’re an international student hoping to study in English, I highly recommend you pass the IELTS. It can be expensive, but it’s recognized (and recommended!) by every institution. If you’re basically bilingual like me, the test requires little preparation and is quite easy to pass! (I got an 8.5/9 and did not prepare at all.)
- Passport copy: No matter where you go, (unless you’re going to be studying somewhere else within your own country) you’ll need to include a copy of your passport. That allows your future university to validate your identity and personal info, and it proves that you’re a citizen of your country of origin. You’ll need it for other things along the way too, so make a couple more copies while you’re at it! (both digital and physical copies)
- Letter of motivation: In most cases, you’ll need a letter explaining why you want to study abroad and how you can benefit from it on an academic level. The letter should be about a page-long and really concentrate on the academic aspect of the study abroad experience. How can you benefit from it? Why do you want to study abroad so bad? What I recommend is dividing your letter into three parts: academic goals, personal goals, other reasons. Make sure you explain why you chose this specific university. Was it because of their course offer? Its excellent reputation? If you want, you can briefly mention other more random reasons such as I once wrote an entire travel guide (book) about this country or you want to ski in the Alps. You can mention them, but don’t let them take the entire space! That’s not what the people examining your application want to know.
- Student exchange form: No matter what your program is, you’ll need to fill out a form with your personal information. That form changes from program to program, so I won’t go too in-depth, it normally asks for your personal info and more details on your education. Just make sure it’s filled out completely and correctly!
- Preliminary course choice: That’s probably the part that demands the most preparation and research on your part. In order to be accepted, you have to submit a preliminary course choice. It is suggested that you choose twice as many courses as you will need to do, as you might not be able to do the ones you submit, whether it is for logistics reasons or because the course is not given during the semester you’ll be attending. Adding more courses will prevent you from having to do more research in the case that some of your courses get declined. Also, always make sure to check you have completed the requirements or an equivalent before you apply for a course! You also want to check how many credits one course is worth and what it’s your worth in your school’s system. For example, I know that one credit in Quebec = 2 ETCS. So in order to meet your college’s requirement, you have to ensure that you are taking enough credits to finish your degree on time.
- Report card: Your grades might have a big role to play in your acceptance to the university of your choice. Always make sure you send an official copy of your most recent report card. Some universities are more strict than others and might only accept an official version. When in doubt, go to your administration and get the official copy. You might have to pay a small fee, but at least you’ll increase your chances of getting in!
- Letter of recommendation: Most programs require that you get at least one letter of recommendation from the Dean or a professor. Ask your study abroad advisor for help if you’re not sure who to get it from! The Young Hopeful wrote an amazing post about how to successfully ask for a letter of recommendation, if you need help!
- Program fees: All study abroad programs require that you pay a small setup fee so they can open your file and sign you up. Some programs ask for cash or a check only, so come prepared!
Applying to study abroad demands a lot of work and preparation. Therefore, if there are only two things you should remember about the whole process, it’s this: start in advance and do your research! I waited to book my IELTS test and almost cried when I realized it was booked. Thank God I found a solution, but moral of the story is: don’t wait until the last minute to do your things. You don’t know what challenge you might meet and you’ll be less stressed knowing you still have time to find a solution rather than feeling rushed and anxious. Also, research is important, especially when you’re creating your course choice. But honestly, you’ll have to research EVERYTHING. From the university you want to go to to the program you’re applying in, and everything in between. So do it and do it well. Make sure it’s thorough!
You can probably see me coming with this one, but… I’m proud to announce that I will be studying abroad in the UK this fall! You have no idea how excited I am about this! I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d be able to get in, and I’m so happy that I did! Of course, this is going to have an impact on the blog’s content. So get ready to see more traveling tips and blog posts about studying abroad! By the way, if any of you have ever studied abroad (whether it’s in the UK or not), please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! I have a million questions and while I have started doing my own research, I would also love to read about your experience!