Applying for admission at a college or university in the United States? You'll need more time than you think.
Experts warn you'll need more than a year to find a school and get accepted into a typical undergraduate or graduate program. In fact, many schools set their application deadlines nearly 10 months before the school term begins. Basically "the sooner you start, the better."
To help you plan, UScampus has developed this College Admissions Calendar. Consider this timeline a rough guide to how much time you'll need for the school admission process. Always double-check your own application deadlines carefully, as each individual situation is different.
Two Years to 18 Months Ahead
- Start researching colleges and universities. Consult online school directories to gather information on various schools, and keep copies of your research. Obtain valuable resources on academic programs from professional overseas counselors trained in the US educational system. Ask opinions of friends and family members who have studied in this country. Meet school representatives personally by attending college fairs such as the American Education Fairs.
- Prepare for admissions exams, such as the TOEFLŽ test, SAT, ACT, GREŽ
exam or GMAT. Allow yourself plenty of time to get a good score on these tests. You may need to retake an exam several times. Keep in mind the last time you can take these tests is the following December or January, if you want to be studying the following August or September. (Or seven to eight months before you'll start school.)
- Plan your finances now. Familiarize yourself with the college budgeting process. Determine how much your family can spend on your education. This will help you decide where to study. Investigate scholarship or financial aid opportunities offered by community, professional or religious groups.
- Keep studying. It's important to keep your grades high during this period.
Fourteen Months to a Year Ahead
- Finalize your list of potential schools. Experts recommend you select two schools where you feel confident of acceptance; two schools where you feel you'll probably get accepted; and two schools where you'd like to study, but you're not sure you'll get accepted. Request application materials from these schools. Let these schools know now whether you'll need financial aid.
- Prepare materials. Learn what's involved in getting accepted to a college or university in the United States. Start considering essay topics. Compile a list of academic honors, leadership positions, community activities and job experiences. You'll need this information later to prepare applications. Consider who should write your recommendation letters. Typically, teachers, school counselors or principals write letters for undergraduate programs. For graduate programs, have your recommendations written by teachers or professionals in the field who know your work and academic achievements.
- Order Transcripts. Request transcripts from schools or colleges that you have attended. These must be certified with the school's official seal - or by another authorized official. If you must translate your documents into English, make sure these translated documents are certified as well. Schools typically prefer that you have these transcripts sent directly to the schools' admission officers.
- Retake Tests. If you aren't satisfied with your scores on previous
TOEFLŽ test, SAT, ACT, GREŽ exam or GMAT exam, take them again.
- Keep those grades high. Good grades are more important than ever now.
Eleven Months Ahead
- Re-request application materials. Still haven't received an application package from a particular college? Order another one right away. Use email for speed, as international mail can be unreliable and slow.
- Write the application
essay. This essay is a very important part of your application package. Don't underestimate the time required to write it properly. Get advice now.
- Write the statement of purpose. Sometimes colleges and universities want you to write a statement of purpose. This should demonstrate how your schooling and experiences have prepared you for future studies in the United States. As with an essay, it's important that this document be well written and thought out. Allow yourself plenty of time to write it.
- Begin the application. Make sure you understand all the information required on the application form. Make photocopies of all the materials.
10 Months Ahead
Complete application material. Neatly type or write by hand the application forms. Appearance matters, so make sure you don't have any misspelled words, factual errors or crossed out words. To improve your chances of admission, be sure to read about
getting accepted. Make copies of everything and mail the originals to the college or university. Don't miss the deadlines! They are taken very seriously. Confirm that your reference letters and transcripts have been sent to the schools. Arrange for test results to be mailed to the colleges as well.
Four - Five Months Ahead
Getting accepted. Typically colleges and universities will make a decision on your application by April or May, sometimes earlier. Good luck!
Three Months Ahead
Apply for a student visa. When you are accepted into an academic program, it's time to begin applying for a student visa. Each year, thousands of student visas are declined, because the applicant didn't prepare properly. Get advice about student