International College

A guide to choosing a college overseas for international students

Posted 27 November 2015
Students walking through Sheffield

Where in the world will you study?

The UK is the most popular European destination for today’s international students. There are over 140 universities and higher education institutions here to choose from and Sheffield is ranked as the best for student satisfaction in the Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey 2014-15. With more than 350,000 overseas students choosing to study in the UK each year - 20% of the world's share – the UK knows how to get it right.

Today’s universities are more welcoming than ever to international students. You will find a growing number of international colleges and centres at universities across the UK, which specialise in helping overseas students gain a place on an internationally-recognised degree programme. They work closely with established universities to ensure that students coming to the UK get all the help they need adapting to a new language, life and culture far from home.

If you have decided to take the leap and study abroad, how do you go about choosing your ideal college overseas? The choice may seem daunting, but our guide is here to help you simplify your search.

Think about you

The key to finding the right college overseas is actually less about the educational institutions on offer and more about you. The real trick is to know yourself, and what you hope to achieve with your studies.

It is important that you think about your own life, career and learning priorities first, as well as your interests and abilities. What do you want to get out of your overseas study experience? What languages do you feel comfortable using? What are your long-term study or career goals?

Outside of your studies, do you have any strong extra-curricular interests? What kind of lifestyle are you looking for? And are there any cultural considerations that are significant to you? Perhaps you love music and are drawn to cities that have a strong music scene, or you’re keen to find a place to study where you can continue enjoying a sport or hobby that you love – theatre, fashion, football – wherever your passion lies.

With a clearer picture of yourself and your goals you will find it much easier to spot the overseas colleges that best fit your individual priorities.

Your subject

Before you start researching or applying to institutions you need to consider what you want to study. When you’ve chosen a subject and type of course this will instantly narrow your search to a more manageable list of relevant colleges.


With access to the internet, there is a wealth of information at your fingertips when you are trying to choose a college overseas. The websites of international colleges are designed specifically for students coming to the UK from abroad, so they cover everything you need to know – from finance and accommodation, to course choices and student support.

Check out international university rankings for a sense of performance and reputation, draw up a shortlist of your preferred universities, then get down to business and research them in full. The more research you can do the better. When gathering information on viable universities be sure to check out:

  • Support – what kind of support does the college offer its international students? The University of Sheffield’s International College offers 24 hour support, 7 days a week, without the need to make an appointment to access the help that you need. Support staff and the international student body are on hand to help you for the whole of your course, from filling in Visa forms at the start, to what to do career-wise once you have graduated. It is always reassuring to know that the university and overseas college you choose is behind you every step of the way, and has years of experience in helping international students bridge the academic, cultural and language gaps needed to earn their qualifications. 
  • Accommodation – does the college have its own student residences, and what are these facilities like? Are they located close to campus, and what is included in the cost? If you plan to rent privately while you study, prices can vary dramatically from city to city, rising steeply in major cities like London. Sheffield is a very cost-effective option compared with other UK student cities. Take a look at average rental prices in your preferred areas to see whether you can realistically budget for accommodation costs. 
  • Study costs – check out the course fees for your chosen college, and what student finance options are available. Find out whether scholarships are available too. Scholarships may be limited, and vary depending on the particular college, course chosen, and your own individual abilities, but they are always an option worth investigating. The University of Sheffield’s International College offers a Made in Sheffield scholarship, with the best performing students eligible for up to £3,500 towards the cost of their studies. 300 of these scholarships are currently awarded each year, and all you need to do to apply is complete an online test once you have submitted your course application.
  • Entry requirements – whatever college overseas attracts you, you need to check that the qualifications and language skills you already hold are enough to gain entry to the international programme of your choice. There may also be visa requirements and work permits to be met as a condition of entry for study. This is where choosing to study at an international college can be a real advantage, as these colleges specialise in helping overseas students meet all of the entry, visa and work permit requirements necessary.

Get in touch

If you have any queries or questions at all, do not hesitate to get in touch with a college directly or speak with an agent in your country. A good college will always be happy to help. Check what options are available to let you get to know the college, its teaching staff and students better. For example, the University of Sheffield’s International College runs regular online open sessions where you can ask questions and speak to current students. The more information you have, the better placed you are to choose the college that is right for you.

Wherever your studies take you, you are about to enter an exciting and important chapter of your life. Keep an open mind, confidence in your abilities, and enjoy the search!

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