Study in New Zealand 2023: Application Guide for International Undergraduate Students

New Zealand is an underrated yet perfect study abroad destination for international students with an adventurous mindset! How can you study in New Zealand as an international student?

This application guide for international students will help you find the best universities for your major and share everything you need to know about the process to study abroad in New Zealand. Let’s get started!

Are you a Masters or PhD student? Check here: Study in New Zealand: Guide for International Postgraduate Students

Why Study in New Zealand?

  1. NZ is open for student visa applicants from August 1, 2022. It’s now possible to enter the country as an international student!
  2. NZ is one of the safest places to live in the world–extremely low crime rates and tolerant society. New Zealand ranks 2nd in the Global Peace Index for 2021.
  3. Stunning natural scenery–nature lovers will enjoy the accessible beaches, forests, and hiking trails. The nation is recognized globally as one of the most beautiful countries.
  4. The climate is perfect–not too hot or too cold! Mild temperatures and subtropical weather last the whole year.
  5. Healthy and lively society–sport, recreation, and community are important parts of New Zealand daily life.
  6. New Zealand is deeply influenced by Maori culture, including the Maori custom of Manaakitanga: extending love and compassion to friends and strangers alike.
  7. Ranked #10 in the world for education, NZ’s schools and universities are top notch. All their universities are ranking in the top 500 worldwide.

Why You Shouldn’t Study in New Zealand

If you want to pick a study destination, you should know both pros and cons of life there. Here are some reasons why you might not like studying in New Zealand:

  1. Very far from everything! Off the southern coast of Australia, it will take a minimum of an 11 hour direct flight or a transfer from Australia. From South America, the flight is 12 hours–From Europe, you may be in transit for 24 hours.
  2. Imports are expensive. Because of the long travel time, it’s very hard to find imported products in New Zealand. Therefore, the New Zealand diet mostly uses local foods and farm-fresh options from the island.
  3. Calm and quiet life. If you want to visit parties, big concerts, or night clubs during university, New Zealand might not be for you. The country’s small size and calm, easygoing lifestyle means less people, quiet weekends, and early evenings.
  4. Not much public transportation. With only a few rail and bus lines, New Zealanders get around the city by biking. You can cross between the North and South islands by ferry, or by domestic flight.
  5. Higher cost of living. As a developed country, the cost of living in NZ is a bit high. The estimated monthly costs per person are USD $2,588 (NZ$4,236).
  6. No air conditioning! If you easily overheat, you should know that most places in NZ do not use air conditioning. The daily temperature usually never goes about 30 degrees Celsius.

Best Universities in New Zealand

University of Auckland

The #1 University in New Zealand

Best for: Graduate Employability, Applied Research, Psychology, Engineering

  1. 14th in the Times Higher Education’s 2021 list of the world’s most international universities
  2. =68th in the QS Employability Rankings 2020
  3. 118th in the US News Best Global Universities Rankings 2021


University of Otago

The First University in New Zealand

Best for: Highest educational performance and standards, vibrant campus life, beautiful campus, volunteering and social impact

In addition to being a centre of academic excellence, Otago is New Zealand’s only true residential university. This gives you a student lifestyle that is unparalleled in New Zealand.

  • 85% of Otago students come from outside Dunedin (including 3,000 international students from 100 countries).
  • 3,500 of Otago first-year students live at one of 14 residential colleges, located on or near campus.
  • Most of the 21,000 students live within 1 km of the Dunedin campus – creating an iconic student quarter that features academic, cultural, social, and sporting facilities, just a short walk from the Dunedin city centre.

Auckland University of Technology

New Zealand’s 3rd Largest University

Best for: Health program, sports sciences, fast-growing and modern campus, scientific and applied research

AUT’s mission is to create great graduates, and they have 110,000 alumni who have successful careers around the world. AUT offers students exceptional modern learning experiences, and industry connections and workplace experience are an important part of our programmes.

Search more universities and programs in New Zealand here:

Application Timeline

The school year in New Zealand has between 2 semesters and 3 trimesters and runs between late February and November.

Application deadlines for February Intake (First Semester) are from October to December. The application deadlines for the July Intake (Second Semester) are February to June.

You should apply to New Zealand universities in the fall if you want to start the school year on time!

*Each university may have slightly different dates. This is just a general guide.

Eligibility to Apply for Undergrad in New Zealand

To be eligible to study in New Zealand, you must first meet the criteria to be an international student.

You are an international applicant if you:

  • Are not a New Zealand or Australian citizen
  • Have not gained Residency status in New Zealand or Australia
  • Are not a New Zealand citizen from the Cook Islands, Tokelau or Niue

In New Zealand, secondary school goes up to Year 13 and students begin their undergraduate year afterwards. This is different from much of the world, where secondary school only goes up to Year 12. To study undergrad in New Zealand, you must meet the Year 13 criteria.

How do you know if you meet the New Zealand Year 13 criteria? There are three main criteria:

  1. You must get a high score in an accepted university entrance exam, or
  2. You must take a Foundation Program before beginning your Bachelors, or
  3. You must have done a year of undergraduate studies at a university in your home country.

Find programs in New Zealand and check their criteria here:

Are you a Masters or PhD student? Check here: Study in New Zealand: Guide for International Postgraduate Students

Victoria University of Wellington Campus

Accepted Entrance Exams for New Zealand University

What are the accepted university entrance exams in New Zealand? There are 19 exams that are generally accepted as proof of Year 13 status.

  1. ACT, 24 points minimum
  2. Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR), 70 minimum
  3. Canadian High School Diploma, average 65% or higher
  4. Chinese National College Entrance Exam (Gaokao), Tier 1 score
  5. Fiji Year 13 Certificate/Fiji Form 7
  6. GCE A levels
  7. Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education
  8. IB Diploma, 24 points minimum
  9. Indian Certifications: ISC, AISSC, HSC, 75% minimum
  10. Kenya Certificate of Seconday Education, B average
  11. Matayom 6, GPA of 3.2 or higher
  12. SAT, 1150 points minimum
  13. Sekolah Menengah Ata, 80% minimum
  14. Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM), 3 passes C grade or higher
  15. South Korean College Scholastic Ability Test, 250 minimum
  16. South Pacific Form 7 Certificate, 3 or more B grades
  17. Unified Entrance Certificate (UEC), max 20 points
  18. Videregaende Skole
  19. Vietnam High School Graduation Certificate, 8.0 or higher

Some universities may accept a few more exams. If you start an application with us at Global Admissions, we can view your qualifications and tell you directly.

Are you a Masters or PhD student? Check here: Study in New Zealand: Guide for International Postgraduate Students

Foundation Program in New Zealand

If you have not taken any one of these qualification exams, what are your options?

The first option is to take a year’s Foundation Program in New Zealand, which can qualify you to begin your bachelor studies in New Zealand.

Massey University offers Foundation Programs and Accelerated Foundation Programs to qualify for a Bachelor’s in New Zealand. These programs can help you improve your English, get better grades, and adapt to New Zealand university life. The Accelerated program is 6 months and the normal program is 1 year.

The University of Otago accepts approved Foundation Studies programs from anywhere in New Zealand. All you have to do is study there for a year and then submit your transcript to apply!

1 Year Studies Outside of New Zealand

If you did not take any accepted entrance exams and do not want to do a Foundation Program, your only other option is to do 1 year of undergraduate studies at any university, then apply to begin your Bachelor’s degree in New Zealand from Year 1.

This option can actually save you a lot of money. You can study one year at a very cheap university in your home country and work to save money, or apply for more scholarships.

We have a list of universities with 0 tuition fees if you want an affordable school: Study Abroad for Free: 50+ Universities with NO Tuition Fee for International Students

HJ96C1 Hiker enjoying views in Aoraki (Mt Cook) National Park in New Zealand

English Language Requirements

In addition to the required entrance exam, you will need to submit proof of English language fluency if you are not from an English-speaking country.

TOEFL (internet based) IELTS Duolingo English Test Cambridge C1/C2
The University of Auckland Overall score of 80 and a writing score of 21 Overall score of 6.0 and no bands below 5.5 Not accepted Overall score of 169 and no bands below 162
University of Otago 80 (with a Writing score of 20) 6.0 in academic module (with no individual band below 5.5) Not accepted Overall score of 176 (with no individual band below 169)
University of Canterbury Total minimum score of 80, with at least 19 in reading, writing and listening 6.0, with a minimum of 5.5 in reading, writing, listening and speaking Not accepted minimum score of 169 with at least 162 in reading, writing, listening and speaking
Auckland University of Technology 80 6.0 overall with all bands 5.5 or higher (IELTS required for health science programs) Not accepted 169
Victoria University of Wellington  80 minimum overall score of 6.0 with no sub-score below 5.5 Not accepted 169 or higher
University of Waikato 80 with a score of 21 in writing minimum overall score of 6.0 with no sub-score below 5.5 100 minimum 169 and no bands below 162
Lincoln University Not required: Must complete English for Academic Purposes Online Program
Massey University Overall score 80, minimum 19 in Writing 6.0 overall and minimum 5.5 in each band Not accepted B2 First, or B2 First for schools, or C1 Advanced, or C2 Proficiency with a score of 169


If you have not taken an English proficiency exam or do not have very high scores, we recommend Lincoln University. Instead of taking an English exam, you just have to take a 12-week or 24-week online course before you study. It will teach you everything you need to know about how to use English in academia.

Are you a Masters or PhD student? Check here: Study in New Zealand: Guide for International Postgraduate Students

Application Documents to Prepare

To study in New Zealand as an international student, you will need to prepare different documents based on the degree you want to study.

New Zealand Application Documents
New Zealand Application Documents


*You may be required to submit an Educational Credential Evaluators report (ECE) if your country’s exams are not recognized by the university.

**For some arts or design programs, you may need to submit a portfolio of work.

***Preferably, the Doctoral Referee Reports (letters of recommendation) should be from academic staff of your previous university, especially your Masters thesis supervisor.

Find Universities in New Zealand

You can find and apply to universities in New Zealand on Global Admissions.

We offer free services and packages to give you extra, personalized support with our award winning team.

Begin your journey to New Zealand today!

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