apply for university
It's easier than ever for Indian students to apply for an overseas education / OLI SCARFF / AFP

So you’re looking to apply for university. First of all — congratulations! Studying abroad can be a daunting task for any Indian national, and taking that first step is something you should be proud of.

Choosing where you’d like to go is already overwhelming enough, and that’s not considering the lengthy application process. However, don’t be deterred. Despite the long process, studying abroad can be an extremely rewarding experience for Indian students.

Still, it’s always useful to have some guidance on what you need to do. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide for Indian students looking to apply for university abroad. 

Universities require a number of documents as part of your application, including academic transcripts. Source: Spencer Platt/ Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

Gather your transcripts

Every university will ask you for a number of transcripts as part of your application. They may differ according to where you’re applying, but typically, these documents are standard throughout all major higher education countries. 

These tend to include: 

  • Your academic record
  • Your employment history
  • Your personal statement 
  • A reference letter
  • English proficiency test results 

Don’t worry if these seem unfamiliar — we’ll go through all of these documents to make sure you understand everything that’s required of you.

Academic record

Your academic record is a history of your schooling experience. These are all your previous academic qualifications, including any degree or diploma certifications, exam results (e.g. CBSE, IBSE, A Level, International Baccalaureate or equivalent), and secondary school education. 

You may also be required to provide any academic or end-of-year reports that are written by your teacher or principal. 

If these are not already written in English, you should look to get it translated. Have a look at a translation service for Indian students here

Employment history

If you’ve previously worked, you’ll be familiar with writing your own CV. Not all universities require work experience, as universities understand that many of their applicants are young and fresh out of secondary school. However, there’s no denying that having an employment record related to your field of study can give students a huge boost. 

That doesn’t mean that Indian students who haven’t worked before will be at a complete disadvantage. You’ll be asked to include your extra-curricular activities (such as the clubs and societies you were part of in school), any non-academic qualifications you may have received (e.g. music theory grades), or competitions or awards you may have won. 

You should gather all of this information into your own CV. We’ve also written a guide on how you can write a successful one here

Personal statement

Many of the world’s top universities receive thousands of applicants a year. Because of this, they need to narrow down the candidates who are not only best suited to their programmes, but those who will contribute to campus life, student societies, and more. To do this, universities will ask for a personal statement or statement of purpose. 

A personal statement or statement of purpose is a one to two page-long document that gives the university an impression of you as an individual. It should include an explanation of why you want to study the programme you’re applying for at the specific university you’ve chosen. You should display an appropriate amount of passion for your programme and be able to demonstrate this through related experiences or activities. Some universities may also require an extra essay to be submitted in place of or alongside this. 

The most important thing to remember about submitting a document of this kind is that it should tell the university why you think they should pick you out of all the other applicants who are vying for a place. 

Here’s a guide on how to write a perfect personal statement. We also have a guide on how to write a personal statement for a masters application here

You need a letter of recommendation from a teacher close to you as part of your application. Source: Damien Meyer/AFP

Letter of recommendation

A letter of recommendation is a short statement written by a professor or teacher who knows you well. They’ll need to have spent a significant enough amount of time teaching you a subject related to the programme you’re applying for, and be able to provide their impression of you as a student. 

Typically, you won’t see what your teacher would have written. Instead, you’ll be asked to include your teacher’s details as part of your application process. Your university will then contact your teacher directly to ask for a letter of recommendation. 

You should always ask your teacher in advance if they would be willing to be your reference. Make sure to email or speak to them directly about why you’ve chosen them and what would be expected of them. You should also give them plenty of time to consider your request, so don’t leave it to the last minute.

English language proficiency test results

If you apply for university at a major higher education country, chances are you’ll be asked to demonstrate your English language abilities. This is to ensure that you’ll be able to keep up with English-taught programmes without compromising your academic performance. Common tests include IELTS and TOEFL

Before you decide on which test to take, you should check which would be most preferred by your university. Usually, US universities will ask for TOEFL, while the majority of other English-speaking countries will require IELTS. 

You will usually be asked to demonstrate your English ability through four portions: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. For information on how to prepare for your IELTS, have a look at this guide.

Indian students can register online for an IELTS test here for TOEFL here. The application process is easy — all you need to do is pick a time slot, choose which city you’d like to take the test in, complete the online application form, and make your payment. 

You’ll be required to travel to a designated centre to take your test. Indian students can check their IELTS test centres here and TOEFL centres here

Other documents

Your university may also ask you to provide proof about how you’re going to fund your studies. If you’ve managed to land a scholarship, you can request a confirmation of funding from them. If you’re a self-funded student, you’ll have to provide a bank statement showing that you have enough funds to cover the cost of your tuition. 

We hope that this guide was useful and wish you the best in your application!