Most students will tell you that from the outside, the admissions process for college or university can seem very complicated. There are many different processes, forms, and terms that you may come across when applying, and this information can definitely be overwhelming! One term you may have heard is ‘prospective student’ – but what does this actually mean?
‘Prospective student’ is the term used for a student that is planning to study at a university or college, but is not officially enrolled. These students are not able to attend classes at that university/college, even if they have been accepted to study there. Prospective students only become official students when the academic year of their enrolment begins.
In this article, I’ll be guiding you through what exactly it means to be a prospective student, and the meaning behind other admission terms like ‘international’ and ‘visiting’ student.
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What is a prospective student?
A prospective student is a student who is planning to study at a specific college or university, but who is not actually studying there yet.
Prospective students cannot attend classes or anything exclusive to enrolled students. However, universities/colleges will often hold events for prospective students, so they can get a feel for what student life is like there.
There are several stages at which a student might be considered a ‘prospective’ student.
For example, you could be considered a prospective student if you’re still looking at different universities/colleges and haven’t decided which ones to apply to yet.
Alternatively, you could be considered a prospective student even if you’ve applied to and been accepted into a university/college!
What is the difference between a prospective student, a ‘student’ and an applicant?
When you think of a ‘student’, you typically think of a student who is officially enrolled in a particular university or college and attends classes there.
A prospective student, while still a student, is slightly different. If you are not officially enrolled in one university/college, you will be a prospective student.
This still applies even if you have been accepted to a university – you will still be a prospective student until you start classes in the next academic year.
An applicant is technically also a prospective student, just at a different stage to that of other prospective students (either ahead or behind)!
Do prospective students need visas?
If you are intending to study in a university or college that is not in the country you currently reside in, then yes, you will need a visa.
Students who choose to study abroad, whether you want to study in the UK, the USA, or elsewhere in the world, must apply for a student visa. Otherwise you will be considered as trying to study in that country illegally.
If you’d like to know more about which visa you may need to study in the UK, check out this link to the University of Wolverhampton’s website as an example.
What is an international student?
An international student is a student who intends to study full-time in a country outside of their residence. Prospective students can become international students if you choose to study abroad.
However, you will only be considered an international student if you are completing a full degree (e.g., a 3- or 4-year degree) and graduate in another country. If you are only studying abroad for a brief period of time, for example 6 months, then you won’t be an international student, but a visiting student.
What is a visiting student?
A visiting student is a student who is only intending to study at a university for a year or less.
Visiting student status is typically for students who are already studying at another university but would like to take a year abroad/a year of study at a different university. As a visiting student, you will not graduate from the university you study at temporarily.
Visiting students are not prospective students!