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How to Apply to Universities in Australia as an International Student

With parts of the world starting to turn again following COVID, millions of people will be considering where they would like to study. Some will go west searching for a place at some of the world's most prestigious schools; others will be more interested in the emerging economies and innovation hubs in the Far East and Africa; and many will head down under! In Australia, you will join over half a million other international students at top-ranked universities. You'll also discover a friendly and welcoming nation with lots of sun and scope for adventure. And it's been one of the most successful nations at tackling the pandemic. To get you started, here's how to apply to universities in Australia as an international student.

Mar 1, 2021
  • Study Abroad
How to Apply to Universities in Australia as an International Student

How to apply

Once you've found the right school and course, it's time to start your application. This can be quite daunting for international students. However, applying to Australian schools is relatively straightforward, although you should always begin the process as early as possible. Delaying could impact your chances of getting accepted, especially if you're applying for an oversubscribed program. Plus, completing the application before the deadline means you'll have enough time to fix or deal with any administrative mix-ups that may arise.

Most international students apply directly to the universities by post or online. If you have the option, using the university's online portal is definitely the best choice. It's quicker, safer, and you can track the progress of your application. Generally speaking, you'll need to provide the following:

  • Personal details
  • Evidence of English language proficiency
  • Your previous academic qualifications or academic transcripts
  • Course preferences
  • A personal statement

Most schools charge a non-refundable application fee of $50-$100. Some will waive the fee for online applications. You can find more information about this on the school’s website.

If accepted, you will receive a letter or email outlining the offer. Read this carefully, paying close attention to all the terms and conditions. For example, you may have to pay tuition fees before the school issues a Confirmation of Enrollment. Finally, you'll receive an admissions packet telling you when and where to enroll. It will also include some helpful information for international students; how to find accommodation or details of orientation events. On average, the entire application will take between four to six weeks. Postgraduate applications may take a little longer.

Applying for a student visa

Now you have your confirmation of enrollment, it's time to start your student visa application. Again, this is relatively simple. Australia wants to grow its international student market, so it’s made the student visa application as streamlined as possible. The first thing you'll need to do is set up an account with the Australian Immigration Authority. You can do this online by visiting the Australian government's website. You will then have to provide copies of the following documents:

Students from certain countries may have to show additional documentation, including:

  • Proof you can financially support yourself while in Australia
  • Evidence of previous employment, such as an employment contract or paycheck
  • A criminal background check

You can find a document checklist tool here. Just fill in your country of origin, and it will bring up a list of which documents you need.

All students can begin applying 124 days before the start date of their course. The application fee is just under $450. Applicants receive a decision by email within a few weeks and can track their application status online. Once approved, international students can enter Australia 90 days before the enrollment date printed on their confirmation letter. Every visa gives students the right to remain in Australia for 30 days after their course ends or 60 days if they studied for longer than 10 months.

Where and what to study

Australia has six schools in the top 100 Times Higher Education's World Rankings 2021. At number 30, Melbourne University is Australia's highest-ranking school. The University of Sydney and Australian National University ranked 51st and 59th respectively, followed by The University of Queensland (62), Monash University (64), and UNSW Sydney (67).

Thanks to these world-class schools, a degree from an Australian university is like having a passport to work anywhere in the world. Australian universities are staffed with award-winning academics at the forefront of their field and offer globally recognized qualifications in medicine, tech, engineering, computing, and business. Moreover, Australian schools put a strong emphasis on bridging the gap between academic theory and professional practice, meaning you'll learn all the skills you need to succeed in your chosen profession.

Karen Roldan, who studied business at Bond University after moving from the Philippines, says, "We were always encouraged to demonstrate or showcase what we learned through actual application rather than taking exams or quizzes. It helped me grow as a person, improve my communication skills, and brought out my independent nature. I discovered a lot about myself! And I'm confident I have what it takes to make my dream of being an entrepreneur come true."

Become part of a welcoming, international community

Every year, Australia welcomes around 700,000 international students. Many come from other English-speaking countries, but you'll also meet lots of people from Europe, India, the Philippines, and Singapore. There's also a vibrant Japanese community in all of Australia's major cities. Uttam Kumar, the author of a popular student blog, details his experience of life as an international student in Australia. "It's been fun meeting new people from all over the world with different value systems, cultures, and beliefs,” says Uttam. "There's a real sense of community among us international students."

Studying in Australia after a global pandemic

Given the continuation of lockdown measures, some students might be reluctant to travel abroad. After all, what's the point of paying for airfare, accommodation, and tuition fees if you're going to spend your days locked in a dorm room watching lectures on zoom? Thankfully, vaccine roll-outs and falling infection rates mean Australian universities are already looking forward to something like normality. The University of Canberra has confirmed two-thirds of classes will take place in an actual classroom from the first semester of 2021, while the University of Queensland has promised 90% of undergraduate courses will include "on-campus components" by the end of this year.

The University of Melbourne's student union even has plans to hold a socially distanced, in-person orientation week to give students a chance to meet in real life. These measures are part of a nationwide program to reenergize Australian campuses, ensuring students get the full benefits of a university education. "I'm optimistic about the way Australia is heading, says Professor Merlin Crossley, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of New South Wales. "If we can roll out the vaccine to at-risk groups and keep the lessons learned from hotel quarantine going, I am optimistic that we will be coming back, and 2021 will be a bit of a celebration."

The Australian government is helping the current crop of international students re-enter the country. More than 1,000 students who returned home due to the pandemic were fast-tracked back into the country after infection rates fell. The decision caused some controversy, given that many Australian nationals are still unable to return home. Vicki Thomson, chief executive of the Group of Eight, an organization of the top eight Australian universities, explained the practicalities behind the move. "If medical students can't get back into the country, then this will impact the pipeline of new doctors into the system over the next few years," says Thomson. "There will be a shortfall."

Australia is an excellent international study option. Its government has a strong commitment to welcoming and fostering international talent, while Australian universities have everything you need to reach your full academic potential. What are you waiting for?

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Ashley Murphy


After graduating with a degree in English literature and creative writing, Ashley worked as a bartender, insurance broker, and teacher. He became a full-time freelance writer in 2016. He lives and writes in Manchester, England.

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