In their words: what do international students have to say about the admission experience

During the 2020/2021 academic year, there were 5, 236 international degree students studying at Estonian universities, notwithstanding the impact of the pandemic. Being that Study in Estonia chose DreamApply as the national admission management system for international students, we decided to find out what some of the new international students have to say about their admission experience. 

Whether you are a marketer or a recruiter for a higher education institution, getting some personal insights into international students’ admission experience can help you design a more personalised and convenient experience for your potential applicants as they navigate the pre and post-admission journey.

Check here the most recurrent themes described by them when choosing their study destination, how they submitted their applications, and what they loved the most about the experience. 

How students narrow down their options 

International students have a wide array of choices and options to consider when deciding the overseas study destination, course of study, university, and other related factors. The order of priorities differs for almost each one of them. Some first consider the type of programme they want to study and then find countries with colleges with that particular course. Others start by considering the career advancement and stay-back prospects of each of their potential study locations before finding relevant study courses in those countries. This, in particular, aligns with educations.com’s international higher education survey 2020 insights which revealed that the top motivator for international students wanting to study overseas was to achieve their career goals.  

For some others, the size of their pocket, particularly the affordability of the cost of living and tuition fees of a particular country, decides where they head. Some other students noted that family and friends piqued their interest and directly influenced their decisions.  “I choose to study in Estonia specifically because of the digital culture. Among STEM students in the US, Estonia is quite popular. The country is known for its well-developed digital society,” said Elena, an American studying at the University of Tartu.  

“My very good friend graduated from Taltech and so had recommended the uni to me at some point. When I started thinking of where to pursue graduate studies and heighten my career, the school came to mind. I perused their website and found just the right course for me, and here I am now. Do you know my department, the Department of Computer Engineering, received the IBM Faculty Award in 2011?” that was Tee from Nigeria. 

The application process 

While some students might be certain about this or the other country or institution where they are headed, others are not and so apply to several institutions and programmes in all their highlighted countries. They then play the choosing game after gaining admission to numerous colleges. In this situation, the simplicity of the application process, the user-friendliness of the portal, and the access to multiple programmes all in one application portal are some of the defining factors that influence where they apply to.  

“My sister, who had gotten admission into Tallinn University the year before, told me that I could apply to multiple programmes and universities through DreamApply. So, Estonian institutions were the only ones I applied to, but I applied to multiple programmes within the colleges. I got admission into all programmes I applied to and ended up choosing the University of Tartu because they gave me a tuition waiver,” Cynthia from Kenya said.

Similarly, two other students admitted that DreamApply’s coverage of multiple programmes and institutions in the same portal made it easy for them to apply to more than one programme or university without much hassle. 

“Compared to US and UK schools, I love that Estonian universities all have their applications housed on DreamApply… I mean, especially for postgraduate admissions. I also love that the portal is so easy to navigate. I completed all three of my applications in less than three days because I got to finalise my decision on where to study only at the last minute,” said Chuan Li, a Chinese currently studying at Tallinn University. 

Making the final decision 

As always, several factors influence students’ final decision on where to study. Many students admit that when considering multiple colleges, they compare their academic programmes, suitability of the overall institution, college reputation, financial aid packages, proximity to family and friends, and more before making the final decision. “If possible, you should choose the one that provides you with the best fit in terms of academics, campus life, and overall quality of education. That is what I did, and I believe I made the right decision,” said Farhad, an Iranian studying at Tallinn University. He noted that playing Tallinn University’s virtual tour multiple times and liking the campus’ overall look sealed the deal for him. He chose Tallinn University over a school in Poland and another in Italy.  

“I knew I would most likely choose the University of Tartu over other colleges where I had gotten admission because it is a top school but speaking to one of the student ambassadors gave me further clarity. She introduced me to someone who had just graduated from my intended programme, and he shared his experience with me. Immediately after that, I went to DreamApply and accepted the admission offer,” said Onyeche, a Nigerian studying at the University of Tartu. According to another student currently studying at Tallinn University of Technology, “college is a journey, not a destination. Keep your career goals in mind, and you’ll be in a good place in your chosen college.” 

Challenges they face pre and post-admission 

For students, both the pre and post-admission stages are tough. Most students noted that their anxiety started right from the application stage. According to them, it was daunting sending the certified hard copies of their degrees and transcripts to the Estonian Education Information System board in due time for validity verification, mostly due to bureaucracy from their alma maters or delays from the local courier services.  

For most, getting admission and having their documents verified is only the beginning of another hectic phase due to uncertainty about their visa and temporary residence permit applications, eligibility for financial aid, ever-changing regulations and even access to job opportunities while studying. A couple of students, even those from other universities, specifically noted that they found the University of Tartu’s detailed web page on visa and residence incredibly helpful.  

In all, they agreed that processing their temporary residence permit (TRP) upon arriving in Estonia was fast and stress-free. “I was able to book my TRP application date fast, and on my application date, I got everything done in less than 20 minutes. The officials there were quite friendly. And you know what, in less than a month, I got an email that my TRP was ready. I could not believe it!” said Amar from India, currently a student at the Estonian University of Life Sciences. 

Progress update 

“I am loving it here. Really, I am glad I decided to study here,” said Jade from South Africa. She is currently working and studying in Estonia. She noted that the decision was life-changing for her and hopes to settle down here upon graduation. “I found the Settle in Estonia programme helpful. Thanks to it, I was able to integrate into this society within just a short period. It also helps that the Sri Lankan community here is quite close-knit. I feel right at home,” said Sayana, studying at the University of Tartu. Like Jade and Sayana, the other students also had positive updates to share, for the most part. 


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