Step by step: How to get into an Australian university as an international student

australian international student
Melbourne. Source: Shutterstock.

Dreaming of studying in the wonderful country of Australia? You’re not alone – Oz is one of the world’s most popular destinations in the world for international students.

Not only is Australia famous worldwide for its beautiful beaches, magnificent creatures large and small and friendly locals, but also for its exceptional higher education system.

Settled on studying in Oz, you should know the application process itself is long and among visa applications, examinations and a mass of paperwork, you will want to prepare as early as possible.

However, if you’re a New Zealander, rejoice as you are considered the same as domestic students when it comes to visas (you don’t need one) and fees (you don’t pay as much as international students).

Studying in Australia problems. Source: GIPHY.

So you know you want to get there but are a little confused as to how you can turn your dream into a reality…

Well, we have the answers.

You can access our printable PDF step-by-step guide here.

1. Ensure you meet all requirements

The last thing you want to do is to get your hopes up about your potential new life in Australia only to find you aren’t eligible to go. Keep in mind there are many, many hoops to jump through before you land on Aussie soil, but we are here to simplify things for you.

There are numerous documents you are likely to need but these can vary from university to university, and country to country so be sure to check with admissions teams via university websites. Universally, however, you will almost definitely need:

  1. An up-to-date passport
  2. An English language proficiency qualification (if you are from a country where English isn’t the national language)
  3. Proof of how you will be funding your studies

2. Find a course and select your universities

Australian universities tend to adopt the UK system where you select your course before you begin your studies. You can, however, apply to different courses at one or many different universities. It is important to choose a course (or courses) you are passionate about because you may not be able to swap this easily, if at all, when you arrive.

Certain states limit the number of universities you can apply to so be selective about where you want to study.

Have fun researching. There are a lot of options out there so explore our course finder to discover what Australia has to offer.

3. Work out how you want to apply

Unlike the US and UK, you have multiple options for how you wish to apply to university in Australia. You can either apply:

  • Yourself, directly through the university’s website,
  • Through a local university, or
  • Through an external agent

Go it solo, use your current university, or hire an agent. Your choice. Source: Shutterstock.

Your decision is yours alone. Using an agent can be costly but they will guide you through the entire process.

If you are a current university student – or even at school or college – your institution may be willing to or have services which will do this for you. Alternatively, go it alone and use our guide to make it through – we promise we’ve made it as simple as possible!

4. Take your English language exam

If you are from a country in which English is not the native language, you will need to take an English language proficiency test, the most popular being the IELTS. You can organise your test online via their website but expect this to set you back around AU$300 (US$230).

Scrub up on your English and practice by taking mock tests online. Once you have taken your exam (and hopefully aced it), keep evidence of your test results as you will need them for your visa application.

5. Send off university applications

How you go about this depends heavily on the decision you made back at step three. By now you should already know exactly how you are going to apply and decided on your course(s) and university(s) so now you (or you and your agent/institution) need to actually send off your applications.

You will need to apply to universities directly so check their websites and speak with admissions staff to understand their unique application process. For many, you may need to write a personal statement like the UK application to attach to your application.

Either your agent or university will send it off for you – or at least with you – or you will need to do this by yourself. Expect to fill out qualifications, personal details and your past experience as well as a lot of other information about yourself.

Wave goodbye to your applications and (hopefully) hello to Oz. Source: Shutterstock.

And then? There’s nothing for it but to sit back and wait…

In the meantime, you can stay busy by familiarising yourself with the visa application process and gathering everything you need should you be accepted.

Received an offer? Brilliant! Let the university know you are accepting as soon as you have decided to ensure you get your Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) letter in time to apply for your visa.

6. Apply for your visa

Now that you have secured a place at a university in Australia, you need to get that all-important visa pass. You can apply directly through the Australian immigration website where you will need to pay an AU$550 (US$420) fee and disclose a lot of information about yourself and your future studies.

First, ensure you have Australian-accepted health insurance that covers your stay in the country. You can secure this online.


Once you get your visa sorted you can reeeeeally start dreaming of your new home… Source: Shutterstock.

To apply for your visa, you will need the following evidence:

  • Confirmation of Enrollment (CoE)
  • Current passport
  • English language proficiency test results
  • Financial proof* you can fund your studies (enough money to cover return airfare, tuition costs, and a total of AU$18,610 (US$14,300) per year)
  • Australian accepted health insurance
  • Criminal record verification results

* Evidence should include: bank statements, loan documents and/or your parent’s financial history.

Make sure to give yourself oodles of time to get this bit sorted as visa applications can take around four weeks to process. Trust us, you do not want to spend your last few weeks before you are supposed to be moving to be spent panicking over your nonexistent visa.

You may be required to go to an interview and if this is the case, you will be contacted directly to set this up so don’t worry too much. It is not certain you will be invited to interview but don’t panic if you are, just make sure you bring all your documents and your enthusiastic demeanor with you.

7. Start planning your journey

So you’ve got your visa – finally! Okay, now it’s time to start getting excited.

It’s happening! Source: GIPHY.

You can arrive up to 90 days before your course begins so start booking your flights, trains and/or other modes of transport to get you safely on Aussie turf.

Have a think about what sort of accommodation you would like and contact the university for help if need be.

If you are leaving soon, check out our guide on what to take with you.

8. Arrive in Australia to begin your studies

Remember, while it might feel like everything is done when you land safe and sound in Australia, you still need to make it through immigration. Keep all documents on you for easy access when you are being processed through arrivals. All should go well if you have followed procedure, and then you really can kick back and relax.

Not so scary now, right? Wahoo! All done and now the real adventure begins!

Don’t forget to print out our visual representation of this article here.

**All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change so always ensure you check with your university and the Australian embassy if in doubt.

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