Issue 7 Study Abroad

UK college admissions

đź•’ 4 min

You’re thinking about studying in the UK? Great, because in this article we’ll go over the whole admissions process for UK universities and colleges.

In this post I’ll be writing from the experience of Lajos, an international student from Hungary, and Janko, an international student from Croatia.

This article is focused on bachelor’s (undergraduate) studies, and will approach admissions from an academics-focused student’s perspective.

I’ll use the word college to refer to academic institutions that provide bachelor’s programs.

Why study in the UK?

The UK is very similar to the US in terms of its advantages. Its universities consistently take up a few of the top 20 places in worldwide rankings.

The UK also places great emphasis on multiculturalism and has the most international students in Europe. The price tags for some universities might be hefty, but with a decent scholarship and a part-time job the financial stress can be reduced significantly.

An emphasis on internships and the presence of many tech giants in the UK makes for a very good introduction into employment and helps build an impressive CV.


UK college admissions go through the UCAS website, but there are some intricacies depending on which college and course you’re applying to. Make sure to look deeply into the details of the courses that interest you (but have patience, the college websites can sometimes be hard to navigate).

The UK admissions process stands out because it mostly has assessment-type interviews that take place in person. In these interviews you have to solve relatively hard problems, and the math is differentiation- and integration-heavy.

Admissions generally take place between October and March in your senior year of high school, but deadlines vary depending on the course and college.

Standardized tests

Many colleges have their own mandatory tests, most often for mathematics or natural science courses. For instance, Imperial College London requires the Mathematics Admissions Test for certain programs, Cambridge requires the Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment for Natural Sciences and Veterinary Sciences programs. These tests generally take place on fixed test dates during admissions, so keep those deadlines in mind.

You’ll also need an English proficiency test. Most often this means the TOEFL, IELTS, or Cambridge English tests.

Some colleges also accept the SAT or ACT tests, which you can read about in our US admissions guide.


You can apply to up to five programs through UCAS. There’s no preferred order and colleges won’t know where else you’ve applied.

You can’t apply to both Oxford and Cambridge in the same year. Oxford and Cambridge want to make sure that they can interview most of their applicants, so they put this rule in place to lower the number of incoming applications. Think of it like this: this way, you have a higher chance of showing one university what you have to offer in an interview, instead of getting rejected from both without getting a fair shot.

The regular deadline for sending your application is October 15 if you’re applying to medicine, dentistry, and veterinary science courses, or to Oxford or Cambridge, and 15 January for most other applications. Some colleges also offer rolling admissions, which last until every available spot is filled.

Like the US admissions system, some colleges offer Early Decision or Early Action admissions. Early Action means doing everything in admissions on deadlines that are around a month or two earlier than the regular ones. Early Decision is similar to Early Action, however you can only apply to one university using Early Decision, and it’s binding, meaning that you have to attend that college if they accept you.

In the UCAS portal, you’ll send them your personal information, family information, financial information, employment history, and personal statement.

The personal statement is, in short, a document where you write about why you’re a good fit for the university you’re applying to. It’s similar to a motivational letter, and in it you list your skills, experiences, why you’re applying to the college, and your achievements. It’s an important part of your application where colleges get an insight into what kind of student you’d make. You can watch this video from UCAS for tips on writing your own.


Getting a scholarship from a UK college isn’t very complicated, but it depends on the college you’re applying to. You’re best off sending an email to the college you’re interested in and they’ll fill you in. Apart from scholarships, student loans are popular. Because of Brexit, incoming international students from the EU can no longer apply for national financial aid, and have to rely on university-specific and college-specific financial aid.


The UCAS application fee is £20 if you’re applying to one program, and £26 if you’re applying to multiple programs.

UK tuitions (for selective colleges) for international students are in the range of ÂŁ20000 (which has recently jumped because of Brexit), and living costs are around ÂŁ1000 per month outside of London, and a few hundred pounds more in London.

To get a visa, you need to have a monthly budget of ÂŁ1020 if you’re planning to study in London, and ÂŁ820 outside of London.

What now?

Here are some resources to go from here:

  • Association of Croatian Students Abroad, who are helping us with this series of guides. They have a website and a YouTube channel. (sorry, Croatian only!)

Good luck!

Huge thanks to Janko and Lajos for helping me put together this guide.

Did I forget something? Do you have different experiences? Do you have any questions? Feel free to leave a comment.

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