Do I need good grades to study abroad?

A common question we get is do I need good grades to study abroad? The answer depends on where you want to study. Here we take a closer look.

Language courses abroad

If you want to take a language course at a language school abroad you usually don’t have to worry about your grades. Language schools exists to help foreigners to learn a language regardless of their educational background. So when you apply to a language school abroad you don’t need to submit any grades.

The only exception is if you want to study with a student visa in countries like Japan or Korea. Then you usually need to show that you have completed high school. If you take a language course at a university you might also need to submit a high school diploma. However if your primary goal is to improve your practical language skills we recommend to take language courses at private language schools where the classes are smaller and there is more focus on conversation.

Community College

Community Colleges in the US operate on an open admission policy which means that anyone with a high school diploma can be admitted. In Minnesota and California you don’t even need to have completed high school as long as you can show that you will benefit from the course.


If you want to study at a university abroad you will always need to submit your high school diploma with the application as well as transcripts from university studies in your home country.

But do you need to have good grades to become accepted? That depends on what university and which program that you are applying to. To get accepted at top ranking universities like Harvard you will need to have really good grades. The same can be true if you want to become a doctor or study at other really popular or demanding programs. However if you don’t apply for the top ranking universities it is usually not hard to get accepted as long as you have decent grades.

Which grades are most important when I want to study abroad?

If you are going to study in an English speaking country it is obviously very important that you speak good English. However you don’t necessarily need good grades in English since you can prove your English skills by taking a TOEFL or IELTS test instead. If your English is not good enough you can start by taking a preparatory English language course.

Otherwise the most important subjects are the ones that are related to what you want to study. Core subjects like Mathematics are often important since it is necessary for many majors like Programming, Engineering or Economics etc. Some schools even give their students a math test on arrival to determine which courses they can take.

Schools don’t only look at grades

However your grades are not everything. Even if you have straight A’s you might not be admitted to a prestigious design school if you cannot deliver a good portfolio. At the same time a student with mediocre grades but a great portfolio might very well be accepted. For design related subjects many schools demand that the students submit a portfolio with their application.

Schools often ask for a personal letter and or letters of reference which will also influence whether you get accepted or not. Other schools ask for entrance exams like SATs. Make sure to put effort into your application and submit everything that the school asks for. The surest way to not get accepted, regardless of your grades, is to submit an incomplete application.

Rest assured that even if your grades are not so good there will be many options available for you if you want to study abroad.

More information

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