And now it’s time for yet another edition of Scotland Bound! Today’s topic?
So, you’ve decided you’re going to study abroad in Scotland. Great choice!
I’ve spoken at length about what I’ve gotten out of studying abroad in another entry, so I thought today I’d talk a little bit more about the process of preparing for studying abroad.
Choosing a University and Major
Okay, this one’s a little obvious, but it’s an important first step. I would encourage those who are planning to move abroad to earn a degree to really think about themselves; their needs and personalities; and ultimately what they envision their future to be while considering universities and degree.
For example, a year or so before I moved to Scotland—and several months before I even considered applying to school—when I still only daydreamed about a goal that I never truly knew if I’d accomplish or not, I’d been intrigued by the University of Strathclyde.
However, when I started looking at universities to apply to, even though I didn’t believe I was actually going—as I said in my To Scotland book, I was just applying to see if I could get in—I still took the application process seriously. I tried to think and plan based on who I was at the time.
I knew that I wasn’t good in big cities. To this day, I am not a lover of New York City, despite how much everyone seems to love the Big Apple. Knowing that about myself, I thought it might not be in my best interest to choose a school in the heart of Scotland’s bigger cities. At the time, I didn’t realize that big Scottish cities were not like big American cities, but it still felt like the right thing to consider at the time: finding a location that wouldn’t overwhelm me, but would allow me to visit those cities occasionally.
Which led to my heart settling on the University of Stirling. It was a fairly equal distance from Stirling to Glasgow or Edinburgh, but it was in an area that didn’t seem like it would be as daunting to try and navigate.
Then determining a degree that I felt would suit me and further my future. When I had been considering the University of Strathclyde, I had considered a degree in Creative Writing. By the time I was applying to schools, I had thought about trying for a different degree. The programme I applied for with the University of Stirling was a good programme and it wasn’t one that I saw a lot of universities offering, so again another point to the University of Stirling.
My point with all of this is to say: it’s really important you weigh all your options, pros and cons, on each aspect of your education—the university, its location, the degree you want and what you want to do with it, and combine all of these considerations with what you know about yourself and your personality.
So check out different universities. Look at each of their websites and all their different majors. See if you can find some images of their campuses. How easy is it to get around? Are there videos or vlogs of current students that can give you a better feel? Reach out to universities and see if they can put you in touch with someone who shares the major you’re considering and try talking to them.
You’re picking a school that you’ll be paying to provide you an education that you hope will lead you to your future career. That’s worth digging into. All of these elements will help you make the best decision for your future education, whether you’ll be studying abroad for a couple of months, or a year, or several.
Applying to Your University
There’s two ways that I know to go about doing this. The first is the way I did it the first time I applied for university in the UK, which is working with Study Across the Pond. Study Across the Pond was a great asset to me when I was starting applications—because I had no idea where to start, and their experts were able to keep me in line and calm while walking me through the entire process.
Study Across the Pond
Using Study Across the Pond made everything less daunting. They told me the documentation I would need for applying, put me in touch with different people at the universities, and even sent all of my documentation for my applications to the schools. They really did simplify everything, and I’ve heard they have even more resources for students today.
The one challenge others might find with Study Across the Pond is that, in looking at their website today, they only assist with applications for four Scottish Universities. If you’re looking to apply to one of those four—or any of the English or Welsh universities they’re associated with—than there should be no issues.
With other Scottish schools that aren’t associated with Study Across the Pond, you’ll have to apply through the university website itself. Luckily, that’s not too big a challenge either. Honestly, if it was, universities would have an issue because no one would apply!
Applying with the University
I don’t know the application process for each individual school (as I haven’t applied to each one), but I do know the process for the University of Glasgow, so if most other universities are the same—which I imagine they might be—then it’s rather simple. With the University of Glasgow, after you open your application, you’ll have a month to gather all the documentation you’ll need and apply. This documentation will include things like transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal statement on why you wish to study with the university and in the programme.
It’s a lot of standard stuff that you’d expect a university to want from you if you’re planning on attending there, but you’ll also need to provide some information on how you plan to fund your studies. You don’t have to have all the finer details hammered down—so don’t worry if you’re planning on getting a student loan, but haven’t gotten that ironed out yet. Just make sure you declare your intentions.
All of this documentation will need to be added to the application portal. You can add documentation as you get it and save the application, or you add all the documentation at once and apply. Once you’ve gotten all of your documentation together and it’s been added to your application, double check that you’ve provided everything you need, and hit that Apply button! After that, it’s just waiting to hear back.
For most students, you’re likely to get your accommodation from the university, but it’s still good to do some research on that. When I attended the University of Stirling, I had a few different accommodation options to choose from as a postgraduate student, so I looked through each one and weighed the pros and cons of each.
There were two in Stirling City Centre area, and one in Bridge of Allan. I ultimately chose Bridge of Allan, after looking at prices, location, ease of commute to university, and weighing the prices of commuting. For example, I could walk from Bridge of Allan to campus, but commuting in from Stirling would likely require a bus.
These are all important things to factor into your decision of choosing accommodation from the university. If you’re planning on getting accommodation that isn’t offered by the university, then you’ll also have to do research on the different areas for living within your university’s city, ease of commuting to campus, rent prices, etc.
This one I think will require a more in-depth entry because it can be a daunting process. I remember being a bit confused about it at the time, and because I was such a perfectionist, I wanted to feel more confident in what I was doing.
But the visa is very important because it states that you able to stay in a country for more than the six months that a traveler would normally be permitted to under just their passport, and it states that the university is sponsoring your stay. So the visa application is equally important.
At some point after receiving your acceptance, and you confirm with the university that you’ll be attending, you’ll receive what is called a CAS Form.
This CAS Form is VERY important. You need this for your visa application, which you need in order to be able to move abroad, but you’ll also need to present the CAS Form at Customs when you arrive abroad to start school (seriously, make sure you have that with you in your carry-on when you arrive in Scotland or wherever you end up studying).
But, again, this is a process that requires lots of documentation, appointments to get pictures and fingerprints taken—and then all that documentation and paperwork need to be sent to the British Embassy closest to you, along with your passport, so that you can get the visa on your passport.
Further, this all has to be done within a month before you leave. You can’t start the visa application several months before you leave. Take time to ensure you have access to the documentation you’ll need for this—for example, if you need a copy of your birth certificate for the visa application, go get the copy you need. Basically, be prepared, so you can make the visa application as smooth a process as you can, because it’s very easy to get to that month before you leave and feel overwhelmed by the concerns about visas, and honestly, you want to do whatever you can to avoid stress and anxiety when you’re getting ready to leave for university.
Final things you’ll want to think about are the things you’ll have to get excited about. Things like figuring out what types of clothes you want to bring with you; booking your one-way flight; figuring out if you’re going to need transportation from the airport to your accommodation (see if your university offers something for that); and thinking about what things you might want to do and see when you’re able to take a wee break from your studies.
Because first and foremost you are there for studies. A university sponsoring a visa is them stating that they will be your full-time employer for the time you’re out there, so treat earning a degree as though it is a full-time job.
But, like a full-time job, you do get breaks. You get weekends, you need time off, otherwise you’ll burn-out. So, dedicate yourself to the hard work of earning a new degree, but also make time to enjoy being in a new country because that too is offering you great experience.