The United Kingdom has some of the best universities globally, nuzzled in gorgeous historic towns and bustling, lively cities.
So if it is your dream to a degree in the UK, it is no surprise why. But where do you begin?
First, you need to know this: UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) is your ticket to getting into a UK-based institution.
UCAS is different from the US system, where you need to make university-specific applications. In the UK, you would need to write one personal statement, apply to a maximum of five universities, and conduct it all through one online portal.
You think this is simple, right? Well, the answer is yes and no… Luckily the process should be easy, but at the beginning, it can be pretty tricky to know how to navigate the application process, visas, and all the other procedures and requirements you need to go through and clear to begin your new life in the UK.
If you are a resident of the European Union, you are treated the same as a British applicant, so many of these steps are not necessary.
Yet, the future of EU international students in the UK is still uncertain following Brexit, and you may have to complete the steps below for the 2019-2020 university admissions year.
1. Guarantee you meet all requirements
The first thing you need to do is start early – many things will be lost if you miss deadline days, and many times, you may have to wait another year if you are dead-set on studying in the UK. It is also crucial to make sure you meet all the requirements to be successful.
You will need:
- An up-to-date passport
- An English language proficiency qualification
- Proof of how you will be funding your studies
- A Tuberculosis test (certain countries)
To study in the UK, you will need to take the IELTS test or an alternative test to prove you have sufficient English language skills to complete your course.
If you wish to study in London, you will need to submit proof you have at least £1,020 (US$1,430) per month for living expenses throughout your studies as well as the means to pay for your tuition. Outside of London city, this expense comes down to £820 (US$1,150) a month.
Those coming to the UK from many countries need to have been cleared for Tuberculosis (TB).
UCAS continuously updates its website with all application deadlines, making sure you do not miss out on anything. Suppose you are applying to study doctorate, veterinary science, or some other courses, or applying to Oxford or Cambridge. In that case, your deadline is likely to be earlier than other subjects or universities, making sure you are going through the specifics.
2. Know your course and select your universities
In the UK, you have to choose your course before applying to university, and your interest in that particular area of study should be at the vanguard of your application.
You can choose up to five universities to apply to, so conduct your research on which institutions offer your course and explore their websites. And remember not to forget to make a note of your universities’ UCAS codes.
3. Create your statement
Your statement will set you apart from all other students, and it is possible to be critical to your success when faced with competitors with similar grades and backgrounds.
Write in detail what delights you, what your skills will bring to the university, why you chose that particular course, and what you have done to show you are committed to your subject area.
4. Apply through UCAS
UCAS’s website is user-friendly and super easy to navigate and will guide you through the process. You will need to fill out your personal information, the UCAS codes you got earlier for your course and universities, and your statement.
As I mentioned earlier, this is unlike the US, where each application is customized to a specific university, so identical applications will be sent to all the universities you apply to.
Right now, UCAS charges £13 (US$18) if you are applying to just one university for just one course or £24 (US$33) if you are applying to several universities or courses. Pay the fee, and then there is nothing to do but sit back and wait.
If you are fortunate, you will get your CAS form (Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies), a virtual document with a unique reference number sent to you by the university that accepted you.
Keep it in a safe place; never lose it as you will need it to apply for your student visa. Also, it will have all the essential information you need to know, including details of your course, start date, tuition costs, and official confirmation of a place at university.
5. Pay for Immigration Health Surcharge
To benefit from free healthcare for the duration of your studies, you need to pay a £150 (US$210) Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) fee, which will cover you for one year. You can pay this fee online.
Always keep your payment receipt safe as you will need it in the future to apply for your visa.
6. Apply for your visa
You must have a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa if you are studying for a full degree in the UK or a Student Visitor Visa if you are studying for six months or less, which you can obtain through an online application. You will need to have your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application center (to get a Biometric Residence Permit) as part of your application.
Always be careful with your timings for this one: the application needs to be in no less than three months before your course starts but no more than six months after receiving your CAS form, so never take your eyes off the dates.
For a Tier 4 visa, you will need to pay a £310 (US$435) fee and £83 (US$116) for a six-month Student Visitor visa.
Also, you may be able to get your visa quicker depending on what country you are in, so check with your visa application center.
7. Visa interview
You have to visit for visa interview, at a visa application center or possibly via video link, where you will be asked several questions mainly about your university, course, and financial situation. Have all your documents ready just in case, and be prepared to talk confidently in English about your hopes for your studies in the UK.
“I want to share something that made me happy.
This morning I interviewed to study abroad (in the UK), and I did well. the teacher said that I was very motivated, and I’m so happy; I thought it would be a disaster, but I made it, and i’m proud of myself.”
— lu ☀️ (@goldnmoons) March 2, 2018
You are likely to need:
- Tuberculosis Screening Certificate from UKVI approved TB Test Centre.
- CAS form
- Current passport
- English language proficiency test mentioned in CAS form
- Financial proof you can fund your studies
- Two passport photographs
- Academic certificates said in CAS form
- Original birth certificate (and translation if not in English)
- Proof of payment for immigration health surcharge
8. It is time to plan your journey
Now you can start to make your unique plans, including your means of travel, to get you securely to your new home in the UK. Speak to the university about accommodation if you have not already heard anything and make arrangements for your arrival.
If you are studying in the UK for less than six months, you can arrive in the country up to one week before your program begins. If you are looking for a more extended period, you can come up to 30 days before.
You will have been given a temporary visa to allow you to be in the country for that period. Your actual visa comes in the form of your BRP, which you will have to collect within ten days of when you said you’d arrive in the UK (even if you arrive at a later date), and you can face high fines if you forget, so make sure you remember. You will have arranged when you applied for your visa where to collect your BRP from.
If you are heading off to the UK for your studies soon, you might want to have a look at our handy checklist on everything you need to take with you.
9. Come to the UK and begin your studies
Go crazy, enjoy every moment, become accessible as you travel, and dream of what awaits you when you arrive: a whole new adventure.
It is crucial to keep all your forms and documents in an accessible place in your hand luggage to give immigration if required when you land.
Congratulations, you’ve done it– now the beautiful journey begins!