The UK is known to be one of the number one locations for people around the world who want to further their education. If you are from Nigeria or any other developing country like I am, you would understand and know that coming to the UK to either study, visit or stay is like a dream come true. In this post, we won’t be talking about dreams though, I will be giving you the definitive guide (from my personal experience) on how to come to the UK to further your education and get a masters and maybe we can even go further to talk about how to remain in the UK, if that is something you are interested in.
Brief story about me and my journey to the UK.
When I graduated from Uni at the age of 19 in 2013, I never thought that I will be able to travel “overseas” to further my education. Don’t get me wrong, I knew there was a chance it might happen in the future but it never occurred to me as something that would happen within 2 years of me rounding up my studies. One of the reasons why it didn’t feel feasible to me was because of the cost involved. Just like most people, I come from a middle class family where the basic things of life are provided but anything outside that is somewhat of a hustle.
However, something led to something and in 2015, I moved to London to get my Masters in Business Information Systems Management at the prestigious Middlesex University. As I write this post, I am getting flashbacks of the day I flew out of Nigeria.
The feeling is quite surreal because that was my first time ever on a plane, which also means it was my first time flying out of Nigeria! So, the feeling was crazy, to say the least. (Side Note; I actually got admitted to study Telecommunications Engineering but I switched my course about 4 weeks into the semester because I found out Telecomms isn’t my thing). There were a lot of things that happened during my time studying but this post isn’t for that. Fast forward to July 17, 2017, I was awarded my Masters in Business Information Systems Management.
6 Steps Involved In Traveling Overseas to Get A Masters (for International Students)
#1. Let’s Talk About The Money.
Money has to come first. Studying overseas is expensive especially if the school you end up choosing is based in an expensive city like London. Regardless of London or not, studying overseas is pricey! Some people might not think it’s pricey but for someone like me who had to pay my fees myself, that sh*t was pricey! Unlike citizens of other developed countries where education is either free or you are allowed to study and pay when you’ve gotten your degree and have a steady job, as an international student wanting to study abroad, you will have to pay upfront. Some schools will allow up to 3 installmental payments but at the end of the day, they are only just months apart from each other, so you still have to ensure that the school fees is ready to be paid when it’s time to avoid being kicked out of the school and your previous installmental payments going into the drain.
Most people think they can travel overseas and then find a job that can earn them enough money to pay up their fees but this is un-realisitic because of the limited amount of hours and types of jobs students can take on (I will talk about this in the section where I talk about working as a student). My advice is to ensure that you either have the school fees ready upfront or you have a very rock solid plan to pay up the fees. Another form of money that is important besides school fees is money for upkeep and accommodation. As an international student, it is very important to remember that you are going to be coming into a strange land – you never want to be stranded in a strange land.
Do not look at the UK or USA as a place where life is easy and if you can only be in the country, things will be good for you automatically – this is far from the truth. I have had friends who wanted to sell everything they had back in Nigeria in order to apply for a student Visa, their plan was to land in the country and start looking for jobs that will enable them be able to pay up their fees or afford to live in the country but the funny thing is in order for you to get a student Visa, you would need to show bank statements which shows you have access to your entire school fees and enough for accommodation / well-being for the time frame of your course (this is my personal experience with UK universities).
So, before even deciding to further your education overseas – make sure you have your money right for your own good!
#2. Researching Schools.
When you’ve decided that it’s time for you to further your education and you’ve decided your country of choice. The next step is to start looking at schools using 3 important metrics:
- School fees of school vs your budget
- If the school offers your course or something similar
- and the Location you would prefer the school in (e.g if the UK is where you want to study, you would need to decide if you want a London based Uni or one based in Birmingham or other parts of the UK.
These 3 metrics are very important and you need to pay attention to them closely because you might see a University based in your preferred location and their school fees is within your budget but they might not offer your course of choice.
The ideal situation is you would find a school that offers your course, is in your preferred location or not to far away and their fee is within your budget. Lets look at an example, say you want to study “Telecommunications Engineering” and you would like the University to be based in London and their school fees to be nothing more than £11,000. Your initial google search would be something like this “Msc Telecommunications Engineering London”, when you then see results of schools, you will want to open up at least 5+ tabs of Universities on your browser and then start outlining which of them falls within your budget.
This process can be very exciting and interesting because you will get to also read the school’s course descriptions, their ethos and even see pictures of the University but please don’t get carried away, remember the most important metrics; Location, School Fees and Course. When you’ve found the school that fits your metrics and you like it, take a note of it. Let’s move on!
#3. Contacting The School.
Once you’ve decided on the school or schools you would love to enroll in, your next point of action will be to make contact with the school. All schools will have a contact us page where you can get access to their email, phone numbers and even a contact form. The most advisable way of contacting them in my opinion is through email, so that you can have a trail of your conversation with them.
Your message should be short, sweet and straight to the point. It should basically tell them your name, where you are from, the course you intend to pursue and what start date you are considering. Most schools will get back to you within 24 hours, either with a phone call or a reply to your email where they will share some information about next steps to take from your side. They will tell you the documents needed which you will then need to prepare and scan back to them.
#4. School Documents.
You will need school documents and certificates from your first degree which will be used in the application process for your Masters. So, if you’ve been careless with your certificates, you might need to get them re-printed. Getting some of the documents I needed was not a big deal for me as I had them all in a cupboard, so it was just a matter of scanning and sending them over to the University representative. As a Nigerian, the documents I needed to process my application with the school were:
- WAEC Results
- Personal Statement
- Reference letter from course advisor of previous University
- BSc Certificate (must show you have 2:2 or higher)
- Transcripts of Results in previous University.
- Passport Data pages
Depending on what country you are from and the university you choose, your documents might be different. Once you send them the documents they asked for, they will get back to you within a week (depends on individual school’s response time) with something called a CONDITIONAL OFFER. What this means is that they have reserved a spot for you in the course and your start date but you will need to fulfill important things for them to offer you an UNCONDITIONAL OFFER.
I’m sure you might be able to guess what they will be asking for, one of the most important things they will ask for in order for them to give you an unconditional offer is a deposit of your school fees. Most schools always have some type of Payment plan, where you will be asked to pay a sum upfront and then pay the outstanding in 2 installments.
Mine for example was to pay £3000 upfront in order to get a solid slot and be sent my Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) and then I had to pay another £3000 before or on 28 of September 2015 which is my course kick off date and then pay £4700 before or on 8th of January 2016. (Everything adds up to £10,700; it should have been £12,700 but I got a reward of £1300) As you can see, the installment months are not so much far apart but they still give some type of room to breath.
If you’ve got the money, you can as well pay it all at once but its always good to pay in installment because you will still need to apply for Visa from your country regardless of your acceptance to the University – so you need to have some back up plan in case you don’t get a Visa.
They also asked me to take the IELTS exam and ensure to have 6.5 higher with 6.0 in each module. You will most likely get a Visa if you’ve been accepted to a University and you follow the Visa rules.
#5. Receive your CAS.
The CAS stands for Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). The University (The Sponsor) will be applying for your CAS from the UKVI. They will then communicate the CAS number to you once it has been approved via email. You can only use a CAS from one University to apply for a visa.
A CAS has a lifetime of only 6 months and is not valid for a visa once it has expired. Once you use your CAS this will be stamped in your passport with details of the University at which you will be commencing your studies. So, without fulfilling the rules of acceptance of the school, you cannot get a CAS and without a CAS, you cannot get a Visa and without a Visa, you cannot travel out of your country to study!
Once you’ve fulfilled all the required steps and actions required by the school, they will send you your CAS which you will need during your Visa application process.
#6. Apply for Tier 4 Visa.
You’ve gotten your CAS from your school which means you’ve fulfilled their requirements, the last thing needed is to apply for your Tier 4 student Visa. Some of the things required to apply for a Tier 4 Visa are:
- a current passport or other valid travel documentation
- one passport-sized colour photograph with your name written on the reverse side
- proof that you can support yourself and pay for your course – this will vary depending on your circumstances
- proof of parental or other legal guardian consent if you’re under 18
- your tuberculosis test results
You will also need a page in your passport that is blank on both sides for a visa. You may also need to provide additional documents depending on your circumstances. Read the guidance and appendix for the full list of documents and how much money you’ll need according to your situation.
Remember that the Home Office is strict and precise about the finances you have to have access to, and even with only £1 missing out of the required amount may cause a delay or refusal of your application. Also, you should be prepared for a credibility interview. The interview takes about 10 minutes or less and is held by video conference.
Expect detailed questions about the course contents and structure, your choice of university and also be prepared to explain why you need that particular qualification, why you want to study in the UK and what you plan to do after your course. When I did my interview, it was somewhat nerve wrecking but the interviewers are always nice and calm, so everything went smooth – they just wanted to see that I knew the courses I was coming to study, the University I was going to study at and why I wanted to study that course.
These are very easy questions and anyone who is planning on traveling overseas to study will know because you’ve had to cross a lot of hurdles before coming to the interview stage. All things being equal, you should get your Visa within weeks! I remember the day I got my Visa, I knew that was the beginning of a new phase in my life!
There are so many questions when it comes to what holders of the Tier 4 visas can and cannot do..
What is a Tier 4 visa UK?
What can I do on this Visa?
- work as a student union sabbatical officer
- apply from inside or outside the UK
- apply to extend your stay
- work – depending on what level your course is and what kind of sponsor you have
- get public funds
- work as a professional sportsperson, including a sports coach
- study at an academy or a local authority-funded school (also known as a maintained school)
You may be able to bring family members (dependents) to the UK. You can also extend your existing visa or switch to Tier 4 visa if you are already in the UK. The key to a successful student visa application is to carefully follow the rules that are set out in the official guidance and here
Can I work full time on Tier 4 visa?
Deciding to travel overseas to get a Masters is a very interesting journey. Besides actually getting your masters, you get to experience and explore a new country and the culture within and if you are smart and up for it, you can find a way to stay back in the country if this is something you would like. I hope you’ve been able to get some type of value from this post, if you would love me to write a post on ways to stay back legally in the country after your studies – please drop a comment below and I will cook something up for the blog.