Mistakes International Students Make While Applying Abroad


Studying abroad is always a personal experience, and it’s from word – of – mouth what we all know about it, so you ca n’t really figure out how it’s going to be at your university or how it’s going to go.

The number of students applying for colleges abroad is increasing annually–UNESCO forecast that the number could reach 7 million by 2020 in 2009. Over one million of these apply to U.S. colleges. More than 40,000 are accepted in the United Kingdom. Every year over 500,000 foreign students enrolled in Australia’s colleges.

But it’s tough competition. To increase your chances of being accepted into your choice college, avoid making some common mistakes that are typically made by international students when applying abroad.

Below are some essential guidelines to follow while applying:

  • Applying only to high schools and not having a lot of Plan B.

International students make the mistake of applying only to top – ranking colleges such as Ivy League colleges in the United States and colleges such as LSE, UCL and others in the United Kingdom.

You are very likely to give up when your application is rejected at these colleges and you do not have a Plan B. That’s the last thing you ought to do. If you haven’t been accepted by the university of your choice, perhaps a second will.

You should make your own rankings instead of going through the rankings that you find on websites run by educational counselors. Go through criteria such as how well the college fits your needs, how well the program fits your career choice, whether the culture of the campus fits you well.

For example, if you feel you’d prefer a college for your U.S. civil engineering program without the distractions of big city life, you might think of the University of Georgia in the beautiful city of Athens.

Remember, in a lesser-known college, which has an equally strong undergraduate degree as a second-tier or even a first-tier university, you are likely to have a better shot at acceptance. Not because they’re only going to take anyone, but because they’re getting fewer applications from foreign students who usually go with brands of names.

For example, the U.S. University of Illinois at Chicago has an excellent computer science program linked to Caltech in a recently published ranking list in the ACM’s Communications.

  • Depending on good and extracurricular grades only.

Gone are the days when it was enough on your “all-rounder” resume to get good grades and lots of extracurricular. You need to beat your very strong competition more these days. Instead of looking in the line of the applicants just like everyone else, you need to stand out from the crowd.

A wide variety of interests and achievements are a plus. But a special area of interest or passion where you think (and can convince the university) that you can shine is more important than those.

Unless you have a genuine passion, your application will be placed in the same slot as most other applicants sending generic applications. With the help of your school teachers and counselors, if you can identify your passions early in high school, you can start collecting accomplishments in the area for much longer than most students.

  • Not having to tell a powerful “story.”

You may not realize that your application for college is your story. How you present your college essay and history will determine how you make an impression on those who will review your application.

Remember, the college authorities will not remember the details at the end of the day, but will remember the strong impression that your story created for them. Telling your story in the most effective way is up to you. This means focusing only on one or two areas in which you are most interested and presenting your achievements in these areas in an effective manner.

Many of the successful applicants to college start putting together their “story” for college right from the moment they start high school. They’ve got enough time to prepare for this.

  • Starting test too late

It is highly recommended that you start studying at high school for your SATs as soon as possible. Take the subject tests of SAT II while the subjects are fresh in your mind, perhaps right after class 10.

  • Not checking if you can work while studying in the country

While we’re discussing documents and funding options, let’s mention this ‘work permit’, that a lot of students take into consideration.

If you want to work during your studies, you will only be allowed to work part-time, and you will definitively need a work permit for it!

And there are many facts that you should investigate: you may only be allowed to work on campus, with the university as your employer, or you may need to apply for your post-study work permit while you are still in your home country, or you may not be allowed to work at all if some requirements are not met.

Again, we don’t want to discourage you, but always be aware of and prepare for what can happen

  • Ignoring grants/scholarships

When applying for study abroad, there are a lot of scholarship options. Don’t be like most students and completely ignore researching this area under the impression you’re not going to qualify. Stipends can be offered for a variety of criteria, such as your gender, your country, the subject of your choice, your total income, and others. As long as you can prove that you are a good investment, with a little research, you can find an appropriate scholarship for you.

  • Forgetting budgeting for more than tuition fees.

It is common for students applying for their college course abroad to make budgeting errors. They sometimes think the fees for tuition are actually lower than they are. For example, there are two different types of tuition fees in some countries like Finland and the Netherlands. Non -EU students coming to the EU may have to pay more than tuiti students

You will also need to budget for things like accommodation, travel, transportation, etc. in addition to tuition. The cheapest tuition may not always be the best when you look at the bigger picture. For example, Denmark offers EU students tuition-free education, but the cost of living in the country is unlikely to be high.

  • Taking your visa for granted.

And with this, we don’t want to scare you, but many future students believe that the visa is a given issue, not a very important one.

Once you have received your letter of acceptance, you should begin to apply thoroughly for your visa and be in constant contact with the country embassy to which you have applied.

In addition to students coming from the EU to other EU countries, all countries require visas ; some may have more lax requirements, some may expect more documents, but you still need to get your stuff together and apply as quickly as possible.

  • Applying to a Master’s with the wrong Bachelor’s degree

We all live on hopes and dreams, and some of us tend to stick to it and change course randomly whenever we get a new idea. That said, though, is easier than done.

You can not apply to a discipline that is completely unrelated to your Bachelor’s if you apply for a Master’s degree. Or, worse, you can apply, but you will not receive any guarantees.

If you’ve been studying your entire Bachelor’s to become a psychologist and then you suddenly realize that you want to be an engineer, you can’t just apply for a Master’s in Constructions and hope for the best.

NO! NO! To build an education on, you need the right base.

You can build this base, don’t worry: take some independent classes, take part in some of your future university’s Pre-Masters, go to a Summer School or 2, but don’t throw yourself into a pool without knowing how to swim!


When applying for college abroad, make sure that you are fully committed and that your eyes and ears are completely open. It may not be the best option for you to apply to a college abroad at times. Some students get carried away by what everybody else (peers, family, counselors) tells them to do without really thinking about what they want. Do you think you’re going to be able to handle your own and missing home doing things?

But if you really want to study abroad, you’ll find it in you to make sure you send the right application documents, don’t give up after a rejection, look for quick and inexpensive money transfer options (such as MoneyGram or Western Union) so your college doesn’t have to wait forever for your bank to process a payment.

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