How to go on exchange

Hey everyone,

I was supposed to write this much sooner but things have been crazy busy out here! However, as promised, here’s finally a general guide to the application process in Aalto University.

The process begins in January when exchange destinations are published for the next academic year. I recall you have around three weeks to decide where and when (Fall/Spring) to apply to. The results are announced in the beginning of March, after which there is a follow-up application period for any unfilled spots.

Most of the destination universities on the list stay the same from one year to another but the amount of spots in each university varies. Aalto is also constantly striving to establish and improve relations to other schools abroad so some new destinations are available almost every year. However, if nobody from the target destination is interested in coming to Aalto, there won’t be available spots (hence the word “exchange”). Thus much also depends on students who are encouraged to market Aalto and Finland while abroad.

If there are more applicants than spots available for a given destination, the student with the higher Study success index (ECTS * GPA / Semesters) gets the spot. This means you should realistically consider your position when you apply and unless you’re Dean’s list material, it’s probably smart to list destinations other than only the most glamorous ones (not everyone can go to the National University of Singapore, unfortunately) – you can list up to ten preferences. Most people I know (myself included) got to their number one preference, but you don’t want to set yourself up for disappointment by only listing that one favourite place. Another fact to consider is that the Fall semester is internationally the more popular exchange semester, but in Aalto most people go for the Spring semester.

Applicants are required to submit a motivational letter and CV as a part of their application. Some destinations also require language tests already in the application stage. About language tests in general, some universities require a TOEFL or IELTS English language test (which is quite expensive) or a certificate of proficiency in the destinations’ language from your language teacher/professor (common especially for many German and Spanish-speaking countries).

Some destinations require you to have relevant work experience (mostly for Master’s students who will be placed in the exchange university’s MBA programs), some require you to be above a certain age (again mostly Master’s) and one or two places even require you to get a school uniform!

If you’re applying for the Fall semester to some destinations (University of Southern California is a popular one), you may have to take and pay for the required language test after applying but before you know if you’re getting in. This is due to all universities having their own internal deadlines for applicants, some have so tight deadlines there won’t be time to take the test after the results are in. You will be made aware of these exceptions during the application.

Most universities, like the University of Michigan, however waive the formal language test requirement for students from Aalto if you have completed the English business communications course (a mandatory B.Sc course).

Your timetable after the results have been published and you know where you’re going will depend a lot depending on whether you applied to Fall or Spring. You will need to formally apply to your destination within their specific schedules and later enroll to courses. Regardless of your destination you are required to sign a learning agreement with the International Student Services at Aalto where you commit to a certain amount of ECTS (30 Aalto credits) and have them accept your course selections. Aalto is very flexible with course selections as long as you can defend them, just make sure not to take too similar courses to what you have already completed at home! Also make sure to apply for the Foundation for Business Students in Aalto University’s exchange scholarship.

Make sure to follow the university’s deadlines as they are not required to accept late applications. Fall applicants might be in a hurry, while Spring applicants such as myself will be restlessly waiting for quite a long time! The process is very well coordinated and if you follow all the instructions sent to your e-mail, there’s no need to worry about it.

Finally, a word about destinations outside Europe. It’s very easy to go to European destinations in the Erasmus program as you won’t need to worry about visas, healthcare, (often) insurance or vaccinations. In the USA at least the bureaucracy is pretty crazy, so I urge you to do everything as soon as you’re able to. University of Michigan did its best to make the process easy for me, but the Department of Homeland Security and the US Embassy don’t really concern themselves with the applicant’s convenience. For USA-goers, MAKE SURE TO RESERVE YOUR VISA INTERVIEW AS SOON AS THE FORM I-20/DS-2019 LANDS ON YOUR DOORSTEP!! You will receive the form needed to complete a visa application online and reserve the interview by UPS usually sometime in mid-November. I waited for ~a week after getting the documents before filling the application and had to wait 30 days for the interview (instead of the estimated 10 they list on their website). I had to make special arrangements to pick the visa up from the embassy (they normally mail it to you) and still almost didn’t get it in time.

That about sums it up. I’m sure I left plenty of stuff out, so if you have questions feel free ask them in the comments (although please verify the important stuff with the International Student Services).

Have a nice weekend!





Posted by Niklas

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2 Responses to How to go on exchange

  1. SaakeThomas says:

    Interesting thoughts.Thanks.

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