Doing your university study offshore can become a reality

It's increasingly attractive to study overseas - if you can afford it. 

Going to university overseas is becoming a realistic option for some students, particularly for those wanting to study in restricted programmes like medicine or engineering. 

The chance to experience living in another culture, to connect with students from all over the world or to develop some specific sporting or other skills you have are all positive reasons to consider studying offshore.

Australia and America are popular options. Both countries recognise NCEA results as well as IB or the Cambridge path.

What is needed is some longer term planning on your part, including doing plenty of research on what you can (and can’t) study, how much it will cost and how you can pay for it.

The money is really important.

  • You can’t get a student loan from New Zealand to cover these costs, meaning all or most of your fees will need to be paid in full before your studies start.
  • On top of these, accommodation and living costs in both countries are at least on a par with New Zealand, and
  • you will need to also consider the costs of regular travel between home and where you may study.

Let’s look now what is involved in studying in these two popular destinations, and what you need to know to get on top of the process. We will add further options or locations in posts to come.


  • Studying in the US

    With between 4 and 5,000 higher learning institutions in the United States, there is a course and a university for just about every type of student. Let’s look first at the different types of university or college you might hear about.

    • Private University: Smaller student numbers (normally 2,000-8,000), no government funding meaning fees are often the highest, often offer some financial assistance, very selective (meaning entry can be difficult).
    • Public University: have the biggest student numbers (some over 40,000), take government and state funding keeping fees lower, have wider range of courses and acceptance rates are more relaxed.
    • Community College: smaller student numbers with most courses being 2 years after which students can potentially transfer to larger universities which offer the standard 4-year US Bachelor degrees. Easier to apply for and be accepted into. Overall more like an NZ polytechnic with many courses being developed to meet local/regional needs.

    Here's good information you will need 

    Look at the 5 steps you need to take to study in America

    US study and living costs can be high

    There can be a significant cost associated with studying in America. At the top tier universities, fees and accommodation can easily top US$60,000 (close to $NZ90,000) and you will need to add approx  US$4,000-US5,000 (NZ$6,000+) for travel and other living expenses each year, plus around NZ$1500 for books and course materials. These costs are compared in the table below:

    Average fees at US universities, 2014/15


    Public two-year colleges

    Public four-year colleges (out-of-state fees)

    Private non-profit four-year colleges

    Tuition and other fees




    Room and board




    Total (per year, $US)






     All figures in US$; source: College Board

    Read more:

    The US College Board's figures on what it costs in more detail

    The US college debate: Public versus Private

    Many US colleges or universities do have some financial assistance available for students including those from overseas. This can be in the form of scholarships or  reduction in tuition fees, and you can find out about these on the college website. It  is likely these applications will look at your parents’ financial circumstances and income so be ready for that.

    Standardised Tests – you need to do these

    To get into a US college or university, it is likely that you will need to have undertaken one or more of what are known as standardised tests. A standardised test is an actual examination that tries to predict how well you will do as a university student and which tries to  compare students from the United States and students from different educational systems.

    Most colleges and universities in the United States require either the SAT or ACT for admission, but note that even good scores do not guarantee you will be accepted. The ACT exam is based on curriculum and tests what you have been taught, while the SAT exam does this but also tests your reasoning and thinking ability. Be sure to confirm which test(s) you must take with the institutions to which you plan to apply, and normally you can’t get financial assistance without an ACT or SAT score.

    Standardised tests are conducted by what is called the College Board. You need to register your interest (online) in taking these exams and pay a fee to sit these exams (around $US80). You can do these SAT tests more than once.

    If you get the opportunity to take the Pre-SAT (PSAT) test, do so. Some of the best universities in America pay very close attention to the scores of the PSAT, and the test serves as a great way for students to be noticed by US colleges. This is relevant to athletes who need to begin trying to get scouted by at least year 12.

    College Board SAT registration and information

    Learn more about Standardised Tests here

    Get the right information

    Also, be aware of possibly dodgy websites offering to find you an academic or sports scholarship. These will cost you money and offer no guarantee or in some cases, do no follow up at all. Before you spend a cent with one of these, check if they are legitimate by asking the Education Office at the US Consulate in Auckland or the US Embassy in Wellington. These advisors can also guide you on what visa you will need to obtain to study in the USA (yes, you do need one).

    US Consulate Education Office:  Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    US Embassy in Wellington: Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


    The five steps you need to take to study in the USA

    Here’s a bunch of sites with lots more info you will need

  • US Sport and Athletic Scholarships

    The international departments in many US colleges or universities offer competitive scholarships of varying values that students may apply for.

    Sports Scholarships may also be offered by, for example, the college/university athletics department to promising athletes, however the number of international students receiving a substantial athletic scholarship is quite low.

    Some of New Zealand’s best high school sports are part of NCAA’s (National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing body for US Collegiate Athletics) list of sports which they offer scholarships for.

    Rowing is the oldest college sport in America, and women’s rowing in particular offers a range of scholarship opportunities.

    Read more about Rowing in the USA

    Rugby is a quickly growing sport in America, and women’s rugby is much more likely to help you with a scholarship than will men’s rugby.

    Here’s a list of US colleges where rugby was played.

    Applying for these scholarships can be very complex and will take time so if you are thinking about this, start in year 12 at least.

    Find out more about US college sports scholarships

    Are you eligible for an NCAA scholarship?

    Here’s all about the US National Collegiate Athletic Association

  • Studying in Australia

    More and more crossing the Tasman, but there are downsides to this too

    Right now if you are a New Zealand citizen, you can study at Australian tertiary institutions and you will pay Australian domestic, not international fees. That’s great, meaning you will pay around a third of the fees non-NZ or Australian students pay and that degree in Surfing* or in Golf* could well come back into the frame. (* they actually exist, as part of science or business degrees)

    The bad news though is that the Australian government is in the process of changing the rules so Kiwis will pay more. It's possible you could be eligible for some financial assistance from Australia, otherwise the whole exercise will be on you and your parents unless you get some help directly from the university you hope to attend.

    Another potential downside is that if you study a programme in Australia that needs some practical experience as part of the course, there is no guarantee that you will be able to do this in New Zealand. Medicine is potentially an example of this where you need to be accepted into a post graduate training position in a hospital for two years before full registration is granted. 

    Australian institutions will accept you on the basis of your NCEA level 3 results. 

    Level 3 NCEA is the equivalent of Australian high schools’ final year, year 12, and the subjects meet the pre-requistes for entry into Australian universities. Check carefully though as some universities require you to have taken English as a final year subject. Also advise your school of your plans to ensure your results are sent to the appropriate place(s) and also make sure you have paid your NZQA Assessment fees.

    Information on when and how to apply for admission to an Australian institution is available through these websites below:



Find out more about tertiary study in New Zealand