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How to Study in UK University as an International Student

Recently there has been a huge influx of people who are asking me this, so I decided to write a blog post. Plus this is a good time to start thinking about it for those hoping to start university in autumn 2018. To start in September 2017, now (August 2017) is a bit late, especially if you are an international student because there is not enough time to apply for the university AND get a visa in 1 month, but in exceptional circumstances it might be possible, for example if your course starts in January (which is uncommon) or you want to study English instead.

This article is written for international students who are entering the final year of their high school and planning to come to study undergraduate level in at a UK university in September 2018. I’ve done that process before since I’m now studying at the University of Manchester, UK and hopefully my experience can help others in some ways. Remember that this post is only an advice and I’m only sharing what I’ve experienced, you might have different case. For example, I am studying engineering. If you wish to study medicine/dentistry/veterinary medicine/veterinary science/music and some other courses then the process would be a bit different, which I wouldn’t cover in this post since I have no experience in it. If you plan to study at University of Cambridge or University of Oxford then that’s going to be different than what I’m going to describe as well, so you might need to look into different sources. There are other special cases as well.

Step 1: Research the course you want (until around November/December 2017*)

If you have international qualification (not A-level), you are likely to need a foundation year before starting university. I chose to do a foundation year instead of A-level before going to university. So this process starts when I start my foundation year in Manchester. I started researching on which university and which course exactly I want to apply from around September and then make my final decision in November while doing my UCAS application as well. I decided to apply to (University of) Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Nottingham and Leeds.

Step 2: Apply via UCAS (September 2017 – January 2018)

UCAS stands for The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, which is the main pathway to apply to universities in the UK. The website is As far as I can remember, the application involves answering a long list of questions about yourself and your qualification, writing a personal statement and getting a reference from your school, all online. Writing a personal statement was a challenge for me, I started writing my personal statement in October and revised it 5 times before I submitted it in December after getting input and advices from my teachers at school. I submitted my application on December 19th before I went on holiday, but the actual deadline is normally mid January.

Step 3: Take IELTS test and attend interviews while waiting for university reply

I heard back from the first university around early February, but Manchester asked me to attend an interview in March. In the meantime I also figured out that I could possibly not able to use my TOEFL test and so I decided to take an IELTS test (it’s a long story). After going for my interview in March 31, I got al 5 conditional offers from the universities I applied to in April.

Step 4: Choose your first and insurance choice

Since I got 5 conditional offers, I needed to choose a first and insurance university choice. It’s basically a way of me saying, if I get my grade, I will attend my first choice university, but if I don’t get those grades I was required to get to and I get the grades for my insurance choice then I’ll go there instead. I chose Manchester as my first choice and Birmingham as my insurance choice. Manchester asked me to get 85% average and Birmingham asked me to get 75% average. So basically if I get 85% or above, I’ll go to University of Manchester, if I get between 75-84% then I’ll go to University of Birmingham instead.

Step 5: Fulfil my conditional offer until it becomes unconditional offer and sorting out accommodation

In my offer letter from the universities they all ask 2 things: a minimum grade in my foundation year and a minimum grade in my IELTS test. I took my IELTS test and finished my foundation year with a good grade, so University of Manchester accepted me by changing my conditional offer to unconditional offer. Yay!

Also once I know that I got a conditional offer from Manchester, I started to look for a place to stay while I’m studying and chose to live in a student hall from the University of Manchester. I also chose my dorm in Birmingham just in case I didn’t get my grades and had to go to Birmingham instead.

Step 6: Apply for my visa

Yep, one of the most frustrating part as a migrant is VISA. It’s not supposed to be complicated, but since I lived in Nigeria but I’m an Indonesian citizen and other stuff that happens in my life, it was pretty complicated. It was so much stress but then thankfully I got my visa.

Step 7: Board your plane and off you go!

Once you got your visa, you are set to go to university 😊


So do you think it’s pretty complicated or confusing? If yes, drop a comment below or ask me questions in the comment section below. I hope it does give a general overview on what you are supposed to do, but this is the most general case and of course there are some special cases. I’ll cover each step in details in future posts. If you want me to cover any topic, feel free to shoot below. See you next week!

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