Tips for Applying for a Degree in Your Second Language

One of the best ways to solidify your language proficiency in your second language is to complete a degree in it. This option is only available for those who have a good mastery of their second language but are looking to solidify it so that it is as natural as their first language. You will, after all, be learning in your second language, conversing with students in a second language, and so on.

One of the most common examples is when an international student attends an English-speaking university. As English is the unofficial lingua franca, it is very useful to prove your proficiency with a full degree and not just language credentials.

If you are interested in starting a degree in your second language, use these tips:

Understand Your Likelihood of Acceptance of Your Top Choices

Before we get into the additional requirements you’ll need to get before you should apply, start with understanding the base requirements. These requirements will be different from the minimum requirements listed on the university page, particularly if the program is popular and has a low acceptance rate.

You can find out your likelihood of acceptance online at sites like CampusReel.org. It does help, of course, to have SAT scores and to convert your grade to a GPA. This is just a framework to see how likely you are to be accepted. If you are likely to get in, move on to the next step. If not, work on how you can improve your grades or credentials.

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Standardized Testing

Always get in touch with the admissions team to see if they understand your country’s grading system and accept it. Even if they do accept your country’s grading system, it is always a good idea to consider taking on the additional standardized tests in the country you are looking to apply to.

In the United States, for example, this will be your SATs or ACTs. In Europe, however, it may be IBs.

Proving Your Language Proficiency

Many universities will want you to prove that you can adequately understand and communicate in the language they are teaching in. There are a few exceptions you may apply for. For example, if you have a high school degree in English, then they may take that as proof enough despite you only starting to learn English as a teenager.

For most, however, you will need to prove your proficiency with a simple test. These are available in every country, and you may already have the proof in question if you have the certificates.

Take Your Time with the Admissions Essay

One important thing to remember is that the essay style will likely differ based on the country and the language you are writing it in. Read up on how to write a great admissions essay from a publisher in the country you want to apply to, and use those tips to help edit down your essay into what they are looking for. Essays are very subjective, so don’t let technical errors get between you and being accepted to your top program.

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Getting Your Visa

You will need a visa actually to attend the program. To get your visa, you will need at least two things. The first is your college application acceptance. You need to have a spot at the university before you apply.

You will also need to prove you have the funds to attend. This can either be a private account or a loan. There are specific requirements for how long that money has been in your account and other rules you will want to read up in advance.

The good news is that student visas are rarely denied, so long as you have all their requirements. What they do take, however, is a long time to process. You can speed up the visa application process by paying for expedited processing. This can be costly, however, and the only thing that expedited processing does is put your application at the front of the queue. You could still technically be denied.


If you don’t want to pay for expedited processing, try to get your visa application in as soon as possible. This usually requires you to go to your country’s embassy or visa application center. Book an appointment as soon as possible and try to give yourself a few months before your start date. If possible, try to hold off buying a plane ticket until after you get the visa.

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