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Five common mistakes UK international students make

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6 minutes

Studying in the UK as an international student gives you the chance to immerse yourself in another culture. You will improve your English, make international friends, and see another part of the world. Yet, like any new challenge, it can be difficult and you might make some mistakes when you first arrive. 

The good news is that millions of people have studied in the UK before you. They’ve faced all the same highs and lows – and you can learn a lot from their mistakes. 

So, if you are planning on studying abroad in the UK, here are five common mistakes international students make (and what you can do to avoid them). 

1. Not planning the timings of your application  

University applications in the UK can take a long time. It’s important to start the process early to avoid disappointment.  

Keep in mind that the deadlines for applications run from October to January, and you’ll have to apply through UCAS - that’s the Universities and College Admission Services in the UK.  

Within your application, you’ll also need to prove you have the right English language skills to live and study in the UK. For this, you will need to take an approved Secure English Language Test (SELT) like PTE Academic and show evidence of your result in your application.  

Luckily, PTE is also accepted by the United Kingdom Home Office for all visa and immigration applications. It can help you gain access to 99% of UK universities. And you get your score in 48 hours. So that’s one less thing to worry about!  

Find out more about using PTE to apply for your student visa. 

2. Getting the wrong student visa 

All international students who want to study abroad in the UK must apply for a visa. What many people don’t know is that there are two types of UK visas for students: 

  • Short-term study visa  

This is available for 6 or 11 months and is ideal for students who want to take part in a short language course or research project as part of their degree. 

  • Student route visa 

Formerly known as the Tier 4 General student visa, you need this if you want to study for an undergraduate or higher-level degree at university. 

When you can start the application process will depend on whether you are inside or outside the UK. If you are outside the UK, you can apply up to six months before the start of your course and you should get your application approved in three weeks. If you are inside the UK, you can apply up to three months before your course begins, and you’ll get a decision within eight weeks. Don’t forget, if you’re applying from inside the UK, you must apply before your current visa expires.  

Learn more about the different types of student visa. 

3. Not packing carefully  

Many students struggle to know what clothes to pack when they are moving to the UK. It’s not surprising, after all, British weather is very changeable. It can vary a lot depending on your location and the season. It’s therefore, a good idea to research the area you are studying in and select a range of clothes for different times of the year.  

Generally, the further north you go, the colder and windier it is likely to be. The west of the UK also tends to be a lot wetter than the east. You can buy some more winter clothes when you arrived as they tend to take so much space. As an alternative, you can buy a second hand winter clothes But don’t just pack rain jackets and sweaters. Believe it or not, the UK can reach temperatures of 30 degrees celsius in the summer. So bring your sunglasses too! 

Don’t forget to pack any medicines you take regularly. And, if you have space, make sure to put in a supply of your favourite snacks from home in case you get homesick! You could also pack spices and dried herbs that might be difficult to find, so you can cook your favourite dishes from your own cuisine.  

4. Not preparing for class tutorials 

Most universities teach through a combination of lectures, seminars and tutorials. Lectures happen in a large lecture hall and are delivered by a professor. Seminars and tutorials are much smaller (fewer than 10 people). Tutorials and seminars are often led by a postgraduate student or lecturer.  

While you can often sit and passively listen and take notes in a lecture, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to speak in a tutorial. You’ll be expected to complete a set amount of reading, and be given different essays and assignments each week.  

Make sure that you have done the required reading in advance of your tutorial - otherwise, you might get asked to contribute your opinion and have nothing to say.  

We recommend creating a study timetable to make sure you stay on top of the work. It will help you prepare better for your classes. More importantly, you won’t get caught out by a question you can’t answer. 

5. Facetiming home too much  

It’s good to stay connected with friends and family, and there are lots of tools to help you do so. But lots of video call home all the time can actually make you miss people more, and stop you from going out in the real world and experiencing a new culture. 

Of course, we know being far away from home is hard. But often the remedy to homesickness is staying busy. Step out of your comfort zone, and try new things. Join a society, head along to a student meet up and make some friends.  

And, if you are really suffering, don’t be afraid to reach out to your student counselling service. They can put you in contact with the right people, and give you some strategies without judgement.  

Studying abroad in the UK is the adventure of a lifetime, and it’s only natural to make a few missteps along the way. So even if something does go wrong, don’t worry - everybody makes mistakes sometimes!

How PTE Academic can help you study in the UK  

PTE Academic is accepted by 99% of UK universities. So, you’ll be able to use your PTE Academic score to prove you have the level of English you’ll need to study in the UK. Each university has different English language requirements.  

This article shares the English language requirements of some popular UK universities.  

PTE Academic is also accepted by the UK Home Office in support of your student visa application. So, find out more about booking your test today and planning for your study abroad experience in the UK.