Everything you need to know before studying in the Sweden – education system, visa requirement and process, Indians living in Sweden, post-study options and more.
1. About the country
In Sweden a degree and a course mean two different things. A degree program at a Swedish university will be made up of many courses leading to a specific degree. Courses are the smaller building blocks upon which each program is based. During each semester students follow one large course or several smaller courses.
The autumn session in Netherlands runs from late August until June the following year. Spring session begins from mid-January to early June. Some universities may have enrollments throughout the year as well.
Popular student destinations: The top universities in Sweden are Lund University, Stockholm University, Uppsala University, University of Gothenburg, Royal Institute of Technology, Chalmers University of Technology, Karolinska Institutet and Linköping University, in no particular order. Most of the best colleges in the country are situated in cities like Stockholm and Gothenburg.
The estimated number of Indian students in Sweden right now is more than 2000 for the academic year 2015-2016. Engineering, Technical courses, Business Studies, Social sciences and Design are the popular courses Indian students pursue in Sweden.
Safety in Sweden: Crime rates in Sweden are a lot lower than in most European countries. If you follow basic safety tips and common sense, you will not face any problem while staying in Sweden. If you ever lose your way, you can ask for help from people nearby as almost all Swedes have the knowledge of English.
Weather: Sweden enjoys a generally temperate climate with the northern parts of the country experiencing crisp winters and cool summers. In the south, the winters are short and summers see lot of hours of sunshine and daylight.Average temperature in winters is -2°C to -22°C. In summers it is 13°C to 17°C.
You will notice that the lifestyle of swedes is usually dictated by the seasons. During the winters, it is time of smaller daylight hours, cultural outings, entertaining at home and winter sports. While during summers, it is time to head outdoor, holidaying at summerhouses/cottages, boating, fishing, berry picking and celebrating time under the sun.
Indians living in Netherlands
Stockholm, Lund, Malmö, Göteborg, Karlskrona, Västerås are the regions where most Indians reside.
2. Student life
Firstly, you need to decide whether you want to live in university managed accommodation, or with a private landlord. Choosing university managed accommodation can also give you a catered or self-catered option. Catered accommodation offers the benefits of your meals being cooked for you and a degree of certainty with meal costs.
If you have an idea about what you prefer, the accommodation office at your university will be able to tell you what accommodation they have available, so that’s the place to start. If you are thinking of renting from a private landlord or if your chosen university can’t offer you anything in its own residential premises, the accommodation office should be able to provide you with a list of private properties and landlords in the area.
Wherever you choose to live, you should make sure that you know your contractual rights and responsibilities. In most cases you will be asked to enter into a tenancy agreement, which you should read thoroughly before you sign.
Orientation week is mandatory for international students so ensure that you arrive before it starts. This is the time where you will be introduced to the university and its services, as well as enroll in your classes. It is essential that you read your guidebook, which is provided by the college. The guide explains each part of the admission process.
Along with sports, colleges offer extra-curricular activities offering students a wide range of experiences. Music, drama, science and literary societies are offered in all colleges, and there will be opportunities for outdoor education and other leisure activities. Visits to theatres and concerts, to places relevant to the courses of study such as art galleries and museums, religious centers or historical sites, scientific companies and projects are all part of college life.
3. Admission process
In Sweden, there is an abundance of degrees taught in English language as English is kind of a second language of the country. This means that course options are almost unlimited for Indian students.
For each course, a minimum academic record of 60% and above in Standard XII will be required. Foundations and Diploma programs are available for students who have secured around 50%. The student should have completed 18 years of age before joining a degree program. It is important to remember that even though entry requirements are lower at Swedish universities, the standards are not. So you need to think carefully beforehand whether you will be able to cope with the high standard of education through the course of next few years or not.
The following documents also need to be submitted:
- Mark sheets of Standard X, XII, and the bachelor’s degree (if applicable)
- Internet-based TOEFL or IELTS scores
- Results of Swedish language test TISUS only for enrolment for programs in Swedish.
- If you have work experience then two letters of recommendation (LOR) from the employer/manager who knows you well and can comment on your professional abilities
- Motivation Letter/SoP
- Portfolio (in case of students applying for art and design courses or architecture programs)
- Others (Certificates / achievements at the state and national level and extracurricular activities)
- Proof of funds
- Health insurance
- A copy of your passport
Photocopies of these documents should be translated in English and certified by the educational institution or by notary.
Admission process: Swedish universities accept applications through Universityadmissions.se, an online enrolment system.
You will have to make an account on Universityadmissions.se to provide your basic information, submit the scanned version of your documents, score of TOEFL/IELTS and pay application fees. You will be informed about the application process and its stages through this account.
Application fee: All colleges require that you pay an application fee while applying. The fee amount will differ depending upon the college and course being applied to, so check with individual colleges about their application fee.
Steps: The common steps to applying for admission are as follows:
- Search for colleges and courses
- Contact schools and visit websites for information
- Narrow down your list of schools
- Take the language exams like TOEFL, IELTS or TISUS
- Write Motivation letters, Essay and ask for Letters of Recommendation
- Register at Universityadmissions.se
- Apply to the colleges which fit your interests
- Appear for video interviews of the colleges that shortlisted you (if applicable)
- If accepted, apply for temporary Residence Permit
Motivation Letter: A Motivation Letter is your introduction to the college and admission officers. It is always written in first person and describes the reason for applying to a particular college. It needs to highlight why you are a perfect fit for the college and why the college should accept you. The style of writing could differ from formal to casual, but it is important to remember that it should reflect your personality as well.
Essay: Essays are also required to be submitted by a prospective student. Essays are an important part of the university admissions process. Students may be required to write one or two essays, along with a few optional essays too. Common topics include career aspirations, strengths and weaknesses, skills, experiences, and reasons for considering a particular school.
LoR: A letter of recommendation (LoR) is a reference letter written by a third party describing the qualities, characteristics, and capabilities of the prospective student to recommend him to the college in terms of that individual’s ability to perform a particular task or function. The third party could be a professor, direct manager etc.
Swedish universities have enrolments twice a year: in late August starts the autumn semester and in mid-January the spring semester.
The admissions season usually begins in October for the following year. So, admissions start in October 2016 for entry in August 2017. The deadline of an application is usually in mid-January.
International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) are standardized language tests, which are required to be taken for the purpose of getting admission to colleges. These follow different formats, structure and result bands. These tests are all different in various ways but many colleges ask for any one of the results. So it’s up to the student to decide which exam to appear for.
Repetition of exams: IELTS can be taken unlimited number of times. TOEFL can be retaken as many times as wished, but cannot be taken more than once in a 12-day period. You must wait to receive your scores before you can book your next test.
Fee: The fee for these exams is Rs. 10,600 for IELTS and Rs. 11,000 for TOEFL.
Time to apply: Ideally, if you are aiming at the August intake you should appear for these exams by December, so that you can apply before the first deadline. The universities will mention which exam results they will accept. But if they give a choice to go for either of these, then the choice depends on you. The time required to prepare for IELTS/TOEFL would depend on the existing English language proficiency. You may require 2 to 4 months of preparation before the exam date.
Required scores: on paper based TOEFL, at least 550 or on internet-based TOEFL at least 173. For IELTS a score of at least 6 bands is required.
5. Cost of living
The cost of living depends heavily on what part of Sweden you will be living in along with how much you will socialize. The currency of Sweden is Swedish Krona. Some of the basic elements for living as an international student in Sweden are:
- Accommodation rent (on-campus or off-campus)
- Groceries and food
- Utilities like power, water, internet etc.
- Phone bills
- Text and reference books
- Airfare for traveling back to India
Other elements which may differ from person to person would be:
- Dinning out
- Travel and vacation
- Car rent and car insurance
- Cable TV connection
The average tuition costs for attending a college in Sweden will vary according to the school, the course and the city your school is located in. The average rates for tuition vary from about SEK 80,000 and SEK 140,000 per year. This amount varies and is based on a number of factors. The fees is usually lower for EU residents and higher for international students.
Even though the amount of financial assistance and scholarships are limited for international students, the cost of attending university in Sweden is considerably lower compared to other countries. This helps make up for the lack of financial aid assistance available.
On an average, an international student needs approximately SEK 8,000 or $1,000 per month in Sweden. Prices differ a lot in the big cities and small towns all across Sweden.
|Meal, inexpensive café||SEK 90s|
|Milk (one liter)||SEK 10|
|Coca Cola can||SEK 18.5|
|Lunch from campus cafe||SEK 70|
|Meal at a restaurant||SEK 600|
|One minute cell phone call||SEK 0.9|
|Taxi 1 km||SEK 14|
|Petrol 1 liter||SEK 13.4|
|Movie ticket||SEK 120|
|1 room apartment in city center||SEK 7,000|
|1 room apartment in suburbs||SEK 4,900|
If the duration of your degree course is longer than one year, then you are entitled to the same health benefits as Swedish nationals once you register with the ‘Swedish Tax Agency’ and receive a personal identity number. After receiving your number, you will be eligible for all healthcare. You should check with your university as well if they provide any additional insurance coverage to international students.
If you have a residence permit valid for a period of less than a year, you won’t be able to obtain a personal identity number, which means you won’t have automatic access to health insurance. However, your university may provide you with health insurance coverage through the Swedish State Insurance Agency’s (Kammarkollegiet) plan. Check with your university to find out if they offer this plan.
Student Eligibility criteria: The first thing is to be aware of whether you are eligible to apply for the loan or not. The general eligibility criteria that are followed by all the banks are:
- You should be an Indian national
- You must have a strong academic record
- You must be seeking admission to a professional, technical or other course of study.
- Most banks maintain that the selected course should be job oriented
- You must have secured admission to a foreign university/institution
- You must be above the age of 18 years or else your parents can avail the loan
Eligibility of course: You may not get a loan on every course. Here are the kinds of courses that qualify for the education loan.
For Graduation: Job oriented professional or technical courses offered by reputed universities
For Post-Graduation: MCA, MBA, MS or even diplomas
These courses could be from foreign universities or institutes approved by the state and central government
Loan amount: If your total fee is Rs.10 lakh, the bank may offer to give a loan of 80% of the amount and you will have to put in the balance 20%. This is called the margin amount. The maximum loan amount for studies abroad is generally around Rs.20 lakh by the bank. If your tuition fees amount is Rs.30 lakh, you’ll have to manage the rest of the funds by yourself. Some banks charge a processing fee, while others don’t. It may be a fixed amount or a percentage of the total loan amount. So if the bank charges you one per cent as processing fee, that will be an additional cost you’ll have to cover.
Documentation required: You will have to provide the acceptance letter sent by the university reflecting that you have been selected for the course and the schedule of fees. You will also need to show the mark sheet of the last qualifying examination to show your academic record.
All banks have different requirement for documentation, so you need to confirm with the bank first.
Repayment: Repayment starts only after the course period. If the student gets employed within one year after completion of the course, the repayment should start immediately after expiry of one month from the date of employment.
If you do not secure a job within a year of completing the course, then repayment starts irrespective of whether or not you are employed. The loan is generally to be repaid in 5-7 years after commencement of repayment. If the student is not able to complete the course within the scheduled time extension for completion of course, he may be permitted for a maximum period of two years. Generally, you will get up to a maximum number of 10 years to repay the loan.
You will need an entry visa called Residence Permit for students to be able to study in Sweden. The Residence Permit application will take some time to process as the final decision is taken by the Swedish Migration Authority in Sweden, and not the Embassy. So it is recommended that you apply at least three months before the intended arrival date in Sweden.
To apply for a residence permit for studies, you’ll need to:
- Pay your first tuition fee instalment to the University
- Prepare your documents and their copies. (See below for list of required documents for the visa)
- Submit the online application
- Pay the application fee of SEK 1,000
You should provide the following documents for the Residence Permit for students:
- Two passport photographs
- Two copies of the passport
- Acceptance letter from the University in Sweden
- Two Copies of all academic degrees – university, college, high school etc.
- Letter of confirmation from the sponsor of the studies
- Two copies of the Bank statements. The applicant should be able to show an amount of 7300 Swedish Kronor a month for at least 10 months per year.
The Swedish law allows all students, regardless of their nationality, to work for unlimited number of hours along studies. So in essence, there is no limit on the number of hours you can work. Make sure you are working part-time only and don’t take up full-time jobs. Students are hired to provide assistance to incoming students, helping disabled students, tutoring, IT support and assistance, working in the career center etc.
Student employees are supposed to follow a work schedule that will not interfere with their studies. So most probably, the terms and conditions of employment will be adapted to the requirements of each student’s program so as to ensure academic success while offering work experience.
Visa for spouse
Spouses and children may be permitted to reside in Sweden while you study, but this is conditional. These conditions include having enough and appropriate financing and a living space. Cases are decided on an individual basis at the Swedish embassy, and special consideration may be given to your case if you are able to explain your situation to the consulate effectively.
When you submit an online application for the spouse, make sure that the student with the Residence Permit for studies is registered with the Swedish Tax Office and have a Swedish personal identity number.
7. Checklist before departure
- Book airline tickets
- Buy travel and health insurance
- Arrange accommodation in Sweden
- Arrange transportation to/from the airport to home in Sweden
- Check baggage and customs limitations
- Clear all paperwork with your home educational institution
Get your documents in order and make photocopies to store in your baggage and keep at home, including:
- Airline tickets
- Travel insurance certificate
- Letter of Acceptance by the educational institution
- Key addresses and phone numbers
- A bank statement showing proof of funds
- Prescriptions for any medication you are carrying
- Traveler’s cheques—if applicable
- Medical and immunization records
- Academic history and university transcripts
8. Once you land
Homesickness: Homesickness is a predictable problem faced by most students at one point or another. It may occur at the beginning or even well into your year. Homesickness will pass. Be patient. Give it at least two weeks. If you are feeling sad, explain what is happening to your friends. Do not hide in your room; if you do, the feeling will only worsen. Find your counselor staff with whom you can talk about homesickness or other problems. Homesickness might be made worse by frequent, long telephone calls home. Most homesick students feel more homesick after a call home than they did before they picked up the phone. Try to limit yourself to one call home every week. The sooner you integrate into the university experience, the sooner your homesickness will pass.
Learning basic cooking: Cooking for yourself will save you money. Indian food is expensive in Sweden. It will also satisfy your urge to eat “your food” during moments of cultural shock. Indian spices are not commonly available in smaller cities, but there are often shops on campus where you can get ingredients used in most Indian food.
9. Post Studies options
It is advised that as an international student you learn Swedish during your course period as it will certainly increase your chances of getting job quickly. Most universities have career advisors and workshops meant to improve your soft skills and assist in your job search. Swedish universities don’t follow that concept of ‘campus placements’ as it is understood in India. Students find jobs on their own; the college only helps you prepare for the job. Most Swedish study programs include a trainee-ship or an internship.
International students graduating from Sweden can apply to extend their residence permit for up to six months to look for a job. The only condition is that you must be able to support yourself financially during the extension period.