By Esteban González
It is no surprise that many students from all over the world come to the UK to start their studies, but sometimes it is confusing what you have to do to get there. Let us make it simple, shall we?
It all starts with choosing your programme. The same course can be extremely differently in different universities. Some universities are more academic, others are more practical, and also some mix different courses. If you are looking for a Master’s or a PHD, there is even the problem with your research being the one they are interested in. In other words, your application should always show that you know what you want and also that that specific university has what you want.
After that, they also ask about how you can pay for that. If you are going to stay in the country for 4 years, you need a place to live and money for food. This can make things much more expensive. if you choose to study full-time, you can finish earlier, but you will not have enough time to work while you study. That is the reason why some students choose part-time as a solution. You can work and study at the same time, but you are going to study a bit longer.
Money usually is the biggest issue. All universities will ask for you to pay for both the course and accommodation for the whole year before you even start studying. Accommodation is something you can get through the university or even on your own. Many students rent a single room, but they share a house with other students. That alternative is much cheaper, but you are responsible for your bills, cleanness, and your own safety.
If you are lucky, you can also apply for sponsorships, scholarships, partial or full-grant. Those are programs that make the prices much lower or even for free. Remember what I said about knowing what you want? Sometimes your country helps paying for your studies, so you need to know what you can offer. Some companies pay for their employees to study abroad on the promise of your staying with them for some years.
GCSE and A levels are documents that prove you have finished your high school and what you are good at. Some universities ask you to have very high marks to qualify. The problem is that, if you come from abroad, even though you have finished your high school, you do not have the same documents, but do not panic. All you need to do is to get your documents validated. To do that, every university asks something different. There is a specific department that should help new students through the process. Some universities expect your documents to be translated into English by a sworn translator – a professional who can officially translate documents.
The next step is language. It is not enough to speak well if you cannot prove you can speak well. No better way than taking some international certificates to prove you are ready. Some of the most famous tests are IELTS, TOIEC, TOIFL, CAE and CPE. They are basically tests that prove you can speak, write, listen and read well enough to be able to do all the necessary work during your academic year. Just be careful that some universities prefer specific tests, so always double check which one is the best as well as how strong your English needs to be for your specific course. For example, a lawyer needs much more English than an IT technician. Those tests can help you with your citizenship and work permit.
All of that depends on the right time. Some language certifications stop working after a specific number of years, you can only apply for that course in specific months, or your visa is only valid for some years. If you do not want problems, always check the dates. You do not want to waste a whole year of your life and all the documents and money connected to them because you missed the deadline, do you?
Especially for higher education, they ask for a reference. It is a letter of someone saying that you are a good student and that you deserve to be there. This letter could be from your job, your school or from a teacher. Always make sure they look official, because it is a document. The person writing also needs time to check their documents to write this letter, so always ask them with a lot of time before you start your application.
After submitting all your documents and finishing your application, the university will look into all the applicants who wish to join their course. If you do not get an answer, relax. They are still working on it, and they always answer back even if it is to give bad news. If you are accepted, then you are expected to think about your visa.
Getting your visa with a letter from your university is easy, so do not worry. The student visa allows you to stay in the country for as much as you need to finish your studies and also let you work for 20 hours a week. The next thing you need is your National Insurance number (NIN), which you can only get once you are in the UK. Basically speaking, after being accepted, paying for your university, accommodation, visa, welcome to the UK!
I hope this all helps you during your process, and remember: keep calm and study English!
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