How to Study in South Africa for International Students (4 Steps)

Education is always right. No matter what your status, no matter where you are, no matter when it is your entitlement to demand an education. This is the reason why most of the countries have established laws and memorandum that gives mandatory education especially to their younger generation of citizens that will be the future working force of their country. However, after a certain point, particularly when the students finished their primary and secondary education, most students stop for valid financial, emotional, and mental reasons.

Financial reasons are the main cause why most students end their studies, especially if their countries do not provide free education. An alternative solution to this problem is by pursuing your degree in a different country that offers cheaper education than your country. Relatively with other countries, South Africa offers cheaper education that is of the same or even better quality. If you are one of the aspiring students who want to pursue education but have limited funds, here is the guide and all the information that you will need to study in South Africa for international students.

Helpful Posts

Related Scholarships

1. Know the Cost of Studying in South Africa

Studying expenses are not limited to university fees that you need to pay every semester or year. There are other expenses to consider such as your daily living expenses for your daily needs and consumption, your monthly rent in your accommodation unit, and your monthly utility bills. On average, tuition fees in universities are around 1800 up to 5000 USD annually excluding miscellaneous fees ranging from 700 – 1000 USD yearly depending on the university you will enroll in. If you are interested, learn about Affordable Universities in South Africa for International Students.

Other than that, living costs, especially daily living expenses, in South Africa is relatively much cheaper than other countries in the world. For 300 – 350 USD, you can secure your food and not starve for at least a month. Accommodation rates near universities are around 250 up to 450 USD depending on the type of housing you would want to get. Lastly, utility bills are ranged from 200-300 USD and this could majorly depend on whenever you will be staying most of the time in the university or your apartment.

2. Know the General Application Requirements for South Africa

General English Requirements (Undergraduate)

English is nationally known in South Africa since historically, South Africa had also been conquered by western countries that is why they knew English and made it their secondary language. This became the major factor in assessing the English requirements of some of the universities of the countries. Therefore, it is necessary to fulfill English requirements if you wish to study in South Africa as an international student. Here is some example of requirements from two different universities.

For the Rhodes University, the required IELTS score for international students that would want to apply in any of their departments is 7.0. They also require a TOEFL IBT score of at least 95 which is relatively higher compared to other universities of other countries because of the colonization factor.

Another higher education in South Africa having these English requirements is the University of Cape Town where the needed IELTS score to be admitted is an overall band of 6.5 with at least 6.0 in each component. Meanwhile, the TOEFL total IBT score must be at least 88 or above.

Generally, the English language requirements for the Universities in South Africa is relatively higher in which IELTS average score must be from 6.5 – 7.0 and TOEFL IBT score of 85 – 90. Also, the native language used in South Africa is Afrikaans yet the universities in the country do not require international students to also learn the language.

General English Requirements (Graduate)

Since the English requirements for getting an undergraduate degree in South Africa is already high, the score requirements for getting a graduate degree is almost the same with the score requirements from undergraduate courses. The score for IELTS is 6.5 and above while the TOEFL IBT scores are around 85 points. Also, there are no other language requirements for graduate students for the same reasons.

Application Requirements (Undergraduate)

To be able to study in South Africa as an international student, you need to meet these requirements for application:

  • High School Diploma
  • Undergraduate certificate to study
  • Proof of Language Proficiency in English (IELTS or TOEFL)
  • Standardized Tests Results
  • University application or registration form
  • Application fee (General cost: 20 USD)
  • Student Visa or Residence Permit

Application Requirements (Graduate)

For the graduate students, these are the common university requirements:

  • Proof of previous degrees (bachelor or any equivalent degree)
  • Proof of Language Proficiency in English (IELTS or TOEFL)
  • Standardized Tests Results
  • Application or registration form
  • Application fee (General cost: 110 USD)
  • Passport or any proof of your identity and nationality
  • Student Visa or Residence Permit

3. Apply to Universities in South Africa

There are several ways on how to proceed after getting motivated and deciding to study in South Africa as an international student. But one thing’s for sure, after finalizing your plan to study in South Africa, immediately research the universities and find one that offers your study interests and plan of specialization. Only then can you prepare for the admission or application procedure for that university. Such procedures, requirements, and deadlines could be found on the official websites of the university you want to enroll in.

For example, at the University of South Africa, admissions are open until November 30 for every start of an academic year. According to their website, you will need to send the application form within this date along with the requirements posted on their site. All documents must be electronically processed to be uploaded on the forms on their website to process them and schedule you for an interview. Pay the application fee of 115 RND and make sure that you have filled out the forms. Wait and prepare for your interview and on the same day, you will know if you got admitted or not.

For graduate students, the same procedure must be done and most of the required documents are the same. Only the difference in application fee at 185 RND is charged. Also, if you are applying for graduate studies, make sure that the field of study that you want to specialize in is offered in the university. Research and study the universities you wanted to enroll in.

4. After you get accepted, you’ll need to get a student visa

The final step in studying in South Africa for international students is getting student visas. Visas are the certification or validation that you are allowed to stay in a foreign country for valid purposes. In this case, you will need a student visa that you will use to legally stay and study in South Africa. To get a student visa here, you will need to complete a government form at VFS Centre across the country or at the nearest embassy. You must only apply for a student visa if your purpose is to study in the country and proofs of your acceptance or invitation will be needed. Requirements such as medical certificate, proof of nationality like passport, consent from parents, and a birth certificate for minors. The approval or declination of your visa will be emailed to you after 2-3 weeks of processing.


Before getting excited about packing up your things and necessities to make the most of what South Africa has to offer, remember and always keep in mind the reason why you are going abroad, to study and get your degree. It is alright to have fun and enjoy your stay in the country as long as your goals are clear.


I hope that this article was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Scholarships Page.