Andrea Rotenberg

How to Improve Your University of Tartu Application: Common Mistakes to Avoid

Are you dreaming of applying to the University of Tartu? Maybe you are even preparing your application right now. You probably think your success depends on a convincing motivation letter and impressive entry test or interview results, etc., and you are doing your utmost to get on top of the situation. Hold on, but what about paperwork? The very first step towards your dream – application documents – can be just as important. Would it not be frustrating to write a motivation letter, attach documents, pay the application fee, and then get a polite letter announcing that you do not meet the admission requirements?

Let us look at the most common mistakes made by the applicants of the University of Tartu. If you handle your paperwork with care and attention, it will save you from unnecessary costs and help settle your nerves.

1. DON’T submit your most recent degree but the necessary one

If you apply for bachelor’s studies, you must submit a high school certificate (or any other document that proves your secondary education), even if you have already obtained a bachelor’s degree from another university. Regardless of whether you have already gone through all the stages of the educational process – graduated from university, defended a PhD thesis, and probably became a professor, you must still submit your bachelor's degree when applying for a master's programme.

2. ENSURE you meet the requirements if you don’t receive your final graduation documents before the application deadline

The admission period for international programmes starts earlier than the end of the academic year. At the University of Tartu, the application deadline is 15 March for master’s programmes and 15 April for bachelor’s programmes. If you are still in your final year of high school or undergraduate studies, you obviously cannot submit your graduation certificate at the deadline. Can you apply to the university in this case? There is no short answer.

If you are graduating from a high school in a non-EU country, in most cases, you can only apply for a bachelor's degree when you have already obtained a secondary education certificate. In other words, you need to finish high school first and postpone your dream for the following year.

However, there are a few exceptions among non-EU countries (Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan and others; please check the full list here). Applicants graduating from these countries follow the same rules as the EU applicants. By the application deadline, you need to submit your most recent grade sheet or transcript with results for all upper secondary school years. Please note that this transcript must include your grades for the last autumn semester – to prove that you are currently studying at school.

There is no country division for master’s programmes: all applicants who have not yet completed their bachelor's degree must submit their most recent official transcript (including grades/results for the last autumn semester) by the application deadline.

The final graduation documents must be submitted as soon as you get them, but not later than 31 July.

3. DON’T leave your English test to the last minute

This may seem obvious, but please take your English language certificate seriously – it is a highly important document.

Even if you have taken plenty of English exams in your home country, the University of Tartu only recognises international standards with well-known requirements and assessment systems. Therefore, please check the list of accepted international exams on our website and take one of these; other certificates, including certificates issued by your university, are not suitable.

Registering for and taking the IELTS or TOEFL and receiving your results will take time, not to mention preparing for the test. As you are required to submit your English test before the deadline, not later, it is highly recommended to give yourself a minimum of two months before submission to complete the English test.

Even if you have already been taught in English, the requirement to prove English language proficiency may concern you. The only exception is made for applicants who have completed their education in English in one of these countries: EU/EEA member states, Switzerland, UK, USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand. In case the applicant has studied in an offshore campus or online programme, a recognised English proficiency certificate is still required.

4. DON’T forget to check the validity of your English certificate

If you took the English exam long ago, check if it is still valid. The University of Tartu only accepts TOEFL iBT, IELTS Academic, and PTE Academic test scores received no more than 2 years before applying (the test must be valid at least one month after you submit your application). If the test is not valid, you must take a new test.

5. CHECK the requirements for documents from your country

While the basic admission requirement for the university is quite simple – you must submit a document proving completion of the previous level of education (secondary education for bachelor's programmes, bachelor's degree for master's programmes), you should pay special attention to the requirements which are specific for the country where you graduated.    Each country has its education system – one country issues a high school graduation certificate, others issue a national examination certificate, and some may give both. For more precise information, you should go to the website and check your country in the list.

Your application will not be considered if any of the necessary documents are missing, so it is worth taking care of in advance.

Don’t forget that English is the main language of communication at the university. If your documents are in another language, an official translation is needed. You must not present your own translation of the documents even if you speak English well, as your translation is not official. We accept official translations into Estonian if you can get them, but English is fine.

6. DON’T send simple copies or printouts of documents

Let’s admit it is a great advantage that the admission process has become online, and you can submit your documents electronically being on the other side of the Earth. But it doesn’t mean that you can submit any type of file. Your documents must be official. A simple copy made on a photocopier or a scan is not an official document. An official document has the signature and seal of an authorised person, so we accept only official copies of documents – certified either by an educational institution or a notary. It is especially important to check this when sending the documents by post so you do not have to resend them. If you are unsure whether the documents meet the requirements, please contact Student Admissions.

Please use a scanner or a scanner app to make your documents look decent – photos of papers with your fingers on them are not welcome.

7. DON’T skip pages of graduation documents

When you send your transcript (or other required documents), do not skip the backside of the page and submit all the pages. In most transcripts, the backside may include the transcript guide and grading system, which is important for your eligibility and ranking.

However, this request does not apply to your passport copy – there is no point in sending 30 blank pages of your document. A page with your photo and personal data is sufficient for the application form.

8. MAKE SURE which programme you choose, bachelor’s or master’s

If you apply to more than one university, you can easily get confused by the variety of programmes. Of course, people do not usually choose the programme by chance but because they are interested in it. However, a bachelor’s programme with a similar name in one university could be offered as a master's programme in another. If you have just graduated from a high school, you cannot apply to a master's programme. The online system, however, allows you to submit all of your documents electronically and... then, you will get an instant rejection. Be careful to save time and effort.

9. DON’T pay the application fee until you are sure that you are eligible for the programme

You should thoroughly check the admission requirements, especially if applying for a master’s programme. Yes, you must have completed a bachelor's degree, but that’s not all. Many fields of study – medical, law or IT – require a specific educational background. It is pretty hard to get a master’s in computer science after having obtained a bachelor’s in international relations or philosophy. If you are unsure whether your undergraduate degree meets the programme requirements, it is best to check in advance by contacting the programme director or Student Admissions: The application fee is non-refundable, so it can save you money. 

We sincerely hope that this article will motivate you to be even more careful when submitting your application than you already are, as following the requirements in as much detail as possible will make the admission process comfortable and enjoyable for all involved.

Author: Polina Oskolskaia

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