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How to Study Abroad: 10 Steps for Applying to Foreign Universities

Matt Kefford

Matt Kefford - BusinessBecause

Matt Kefford is a writer for BusinessBecause and mba.com.


As a young professional, studying abroad is one of the best ways to experience the world and build your business knowledge.

You can immerse yourself in a new culture by meeting people and developing your language skills. It’s also a chance to gain a degree from some of the best education systems in the world, including the UK and the US.

Career opportunities are also a major benefit of studying abroad. You could land an internship or work experience with a multinational company, and may even take the first step towards launching a global career.

How to apply to foreign universities and study abroad

But while it might be your dream, it’s likely you have questions about how to study abroad at business school.

To help you out, here are 10 steps you need to take when applying for and starting your study journey at foreign universities.

1. Choose your business school(s)

The first step to studying abroad is choosing the country you aim to study in and the business schools you’d like to apply to.

You probably have a dream school in mind—which could be one of the top business schools in the world, like Stanford GSB, Harvard Business School, or London Business School—but it’s also a good idea to have some backup options.

2. Check admission and visa requirements and make a plan

Once you’ve chosen your schools, you need to get researching and find out all there is to know about their respective application processes.

For MBA and master’s programs, your application will typically involve submitting:

But requirements can vary between schools.

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You should also check the application deadlines for each part of the application process at your chosen schools.

You should be able to find out everything you need to submit and the various deadlines for each application stage on your chosen school’s website. If you can’t find what you need, reach out to the school and ask them to clarify.

Beyond the school’s application process, you also need to find out details about the student visa requirements for your chosen country.

Countries operate different visa application processes, with some easier than others. In the US, for example, you’re encouraged to apply for your F-1 Student Visa as soon as you receive your acceptance letter. But if you’re applying in the UK, you need to wait until you’re within six months of the beginning of term before sending off your Student Visa application.

After collecting all the relevant information, it’s helpful to create a detailed plan with a timeline to help you meet the various deadlines.

3. Prepare your application

With your plan in place, it’s time to start putting together your various applications.

This will involve securing your academic transcripts and test scores, along with contacting the people you plan to provide your recommendation letters—make sure you leave plenty of time for them to respond.

You’ll also need to write a personal statement or essay(s). This is your opportunity to show schools who you are and build your brand, so make sure you get your personality across. You should reflect on your goals and demonstrate how the program fits into your career plan, showing schools why you want to be part of their program.

Your personal statement is also a chance for schools to learn what you can add to their cohort. As an international student, make sure to highlight your desire to study abroad, and emphasize the diversity of experience you can bring to the classroom.

4. Take the GMAT alongside your study abroad exams

The admissions test is a key part of any business school application. The most popular admissions test is the GMAT, though other exams like the Executive Assessment and individual school assessments are available, depending on the program you’re applying to.

You should leave plenty of time to prepare for your exam. The GMAT can require anywhere between 50 and 90 hours of studying to be fully prepared. You should also aim to take the test three to four months before submitting your application, leaving enough time to retake the test if you don’t score as well as you were hoping.

For international student applying from India, you’ll also have to take an English language test to prove your language skills are sufficient to understand the course content. The two main tests are the TOEFL and IELTS, and you should check which test your school accepts before sitting the exam.

After you’ve taken your exams and received your test scores, you’re ready to submit your application.

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5. Ace your interview

If your application is successful, you’ll be invited to attend an admissions interview. This will likely occur via video link, although it’s possible that your chosen school also holds in-person interviews in various locations across the world.

Along with your personal statement, the interview is your chance to show the school your personality and give them a better idea of what you can bring to the classroom.

Be prepared to speak about things you mentioned in your personal statement. You should also have answers to questions around why you chose the school, how the degree fits in your career goals, and why you’re looking to study abroad.

If you’re successful at the interview stage, you should expect to receive an acceptance letter in the post. Then it’s time to make sure you’re ready to move your life across the globe!

6. Check if you’re eligible for a study abroad education loan

Studying abroad can be costly. The average cost of an MBA program in the US is around US$217,000, when you factor in living costs, healthcare, and materials, along with tuition fees. You could secure a study abroad education loan to ease the financial burden.

There’s a range of different financing options available. Fintech firm, Prodigy Finance, helps international students secure loans for postgraduate degrees at over 850 schools across 18 countries. Juno, a platform which secures private student loans at the lowest possible rates and is used by 88,000 people, also provides loans for international students.

7. Apply for study abroad scholarships

Along with loans, it’s also a good idea to check if you qualify for any study abroad scholarships that could help fund your degree.

Both schools and external organizations offer study abroad scholarships. Your chosen school should be the first place you check, as they often offer scholarships based on academic merit or financial need.

Many schools offer scholarships aimed at helping individuals from certain backgrounds get a place on their programs. The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, for example, offers the Ramakrishnan Family Scholarship and Akhtarali H. Tobaccowala Fellowship to help Indian MBA applicants with funding.

There’s also plenty of external organizations which offer financial aid. Outstanding students from India can apply for Fulbright-Nehru Research Fellowships, which offer help with funding to students applying to any accredited institution in the US.

8. Find somewhere to live

You’re going to need somewhere to live during your studies. Staying on-campus could be a simple option. Schools often provide housing for students: in the UK, for example, universities offer dorms specifically for international students. That’s not always the case, so you should research what’s available at your school.

If you need to find your own accommodation, you could either live by yourself (though this may be costly) or you could use social media groups or university message boards to find fellow students to house-share with.

You can also find a range of websites which list spare rooms available online.

9. Find a part-time job?

You may want to find a part-time job to help fund your degree. This is unlikely to provide enough money to live on during your studies, but it can ease the financial burden.

You’ll need to check on your school’s policy before applying, as some restrict students from working at all while they study. Many schools limit the amount of time you can work to 20 hours per week during term time, only allowing full-time employment in the holidays—this could consist of internships for business master’s and MBA students.

The type of visa you have can also dictate if you’re allowed to work, as some will only allow you to study during your visa period. Make sure to check what’s permitted before you begin your job search.

10. Brush up on your language skills

By this point you’ll have already passed a language test, but you’re going to spend a lot of time speaking a new language during your studies. So, it’s a good idea to get some practice in before you start.

Having confidence in your language ability will also help you immerse yourself in the local culture and ensure you get the most out of your study abroad experience. In different countries, like China, for example, employers often place a lot of emphasis on foreigners knowing the ins and outs of the local business language, so use your time ahead of your degree to brush up on that to stand out to any potential employers.

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Thousands of people are admitted to study abroad every year—you can too!

Applying to study abroad is tricky, and it can seem like a lot of hoops to jump through before you can begin your degree.

By following these steps, you should be able to successfully complete your application process and get fully prepared for a new and exciting chapter in your life. The final step is beginning the journey, taking a leap into the world, and experiencing everything it has to offer.

Matt Kefford

Matt Kefford - BusinessBecause

Matt Kefford is a writer for BusinessBecause and mba.com, writing stories and creating social media content covering business education. He's also a contributor to the GMAC Connect Blog.

Matt is an experienced media professional, he’s previously written for national news organizations including The Sunday Times and i News, as well as a number of regional titles. He’s also worked in social media for Sky News.

Matt has a B.A. in History from the University of Leeds and an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Sheffield. He is also a gold standard accredited journalist with the National Council for the Training of Journalists.