Applying for college abroad

If you are considering applying to colleges abroad, it is a good idea to learn about the requirements and application deadlines.

Written by spunout


If you are thinking of going to college abroad, it is a good idea to research your options early. Third level institutions outside of Ireland might have different entry requirements and closing dates for applications.

Applying to colleges and universities in the UK

The process for applying to third level education in the UK is different to the Irish CAO system.

How can I apply for college or university in the UK?

If you want to apply to a college or university in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales or England, you will need to apply through the UCAS system

What course options are available through the UCAS system?

There are over 18,000 course options on the UCAS system. In addition to courses that you can find in Ireland, the UK also offers a number of very specialised courses such as animal therapy. 

How many courses can I apply for through UCAS?

You can apply for up to five courses through UCAS. Unlike the CAO, there is no order of preference.

What do I need to apply to colleges through UCAS?

The UCAS system is very different to Ireland’s CAO system. When you apply to colleges and universities in the UK through UCAS, you will know what grades you will need to meet in your Leaving Certificate before you begin the exams. With the CAO, the points required for a course can fluctuate depending on how many people apply for it. You will not know whether you meet the course requirements until the CAO offers are released.

When you are applying through UCAS, you will be asked to submit a personal statement, predicted grades and references.

What is the personal statement?

The personal statement is an important part of your application. It tells the college or university why you would like to study a particular subject and what skills or experiences (such as volunteering or attendance at open days) you have that show your passion for your chosen field. 

Before writing your personal statement, it is important to be familiar with the course and career area you are interested in. Find out more about how to write a UCAS personal statement.

When is the deadline for applying to colleges through UCAS?

The deadline to apply to college through UCAS is January 25 2023. The application fee is £22.50 for a single choice or £27 for more than one choice. ​

When will I receive my offers?

There are two types of UCAS offers: conditional offers and unconditional offers. A conditional offer is a commitment from the university that says you will have a place on their course provided you achieve the entry requirements. These entry requirements usually relate to exam results.

An unconditional offer is less common. This tells you that, regardless of the outcome of your Leaving Cert, you will receive a place.

Each university and college will make their decisions at different times. However, there are deadlines by which they will need to have decided. If you’re applying to study in 2023 and apply by January 25, the deadline for a response is May 18 2023.

How much will it cost to go to college in the UK?

The cost of studying in the UK will vary depending on where you are studying and what you are studying. 

If you want to study in the UK, it is possible to apply for a tuition fee loan. This loan will cover the full cost of your course and is paid directly to the course provider. You won’t have to pay this back until after your course, when you’re earning above a certain level.

If you are eligible for a maintenance grant from SUSI in Ireland, you may be eligible to retain this if moving to study abroad.

Applying to colleges and universities in Europe

If you want to study outside of Ireland and the UK, there are many college and university courses taught through English and other languages across Europe.

How do I apply to study in other European countries?

Application processes vary across Europe. It is a good idea to research the process for the country you are interested in studying in. Some countries have a centralised online application system similar to the CAO. In other European countries, the application is made to the college/ university itself or to a central body.

You can get help with your application through the EUNiCAS service. EUNiCAS is an independent application support service that aims to help UK and Irish students who are interested in studying abroad.

What course options are available in Europe?

There are thousands of college and university course options available throughout Europe. Over 1,200 courses are taught through English in Europe. 

How much will it cost to go to college in Europe?

The cost of studying in Europe will vary depending on the country and institution that you choose to study in. Some European countries offer free third level education.

If you are eligible for a maintenance grant from SUSI in Ireland, you may be eligible to retain this if moving to study abroad. Additionally, the International Education Financial Aid (IEFA) website provides financial aid information for students who want to study in a foreign country.

Applying to colleges and universities outside of Europe

If you are interested in applying to colleges and universities outside of Europe, it is a good idea to contact the Embassy of the country that interests you to see what the visa requirements are. You can then find out more about the application process for the country in question.

Find out more about choosing a college course.

If you want to find out more about your options after secondary school, contact our Youth Information Chat:

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