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Application Timeline - 18 Months Before


When applying to college, it is important to start the process early, especially if you are an international student. The application process is long and potentially frustrating, and you’ll want to give yourself as much time as possible to complete it, to make sure you don’t end up missing any deadlines.

Research various colleges and universities programs to see which programs will best fit your academic and professional goals

Thousands of American colleges and universities open their doors each year to international students like you. As you begin your research, visit the Decision-Making Process section of our Study USA Guide. Students seeking an undergraduate level of study have for years used reference books from school libraries or U.S. educational advising centers – but of course the web is the best source for school research now. You can start your search of possible schools in the U.S. using the USA School Search. The USA School Search lists every college or university in the USA that admits international students, and leaves out any schools that do not, making it very useful and efficient for an international student planning to study in the US.

Applicants to graduate study need to study college catalogs and web sites to find suitable programs and identify faculty who share their academic interests. You should use software such as Peterson’s Grad Search, and reference books such as the GRE/CGS Directory of Graduate Programs, available at U.S. advising centers. A few good web sites for the initial research are:

Once you have narrowed down the colleges in which you are interested, read anything you can find about them. If possible, talk to or correspond with alumni of these institutions or parents of students studying there. Attend college fairs, college nights, and speak to representatives. Confer with faculty and academic counseling staff at your own school. A good list of your selected programs can only be made if you are well informed.

Start Organizing and Narrowing Down Your Choices

After you’ve gotten a good idea of the types of colleges you are interested in, you’ll want to create a filing system with individual folders for each college’s correspondence and printed materials. This will make it easier to go back and find information during the months to come.

Next, you’ll want to start narrowing down your choices. After you have gathered all of the information you need about the colleges you are considering (entrance requirements, tuition, room and board costs, course offerings, student activities, financial aid, etc.), it is time to start comparing the schools according to the factors that are most important to you and rank your choices.

It is also important to keep your family in the loop during this time. Have a discussion with them about the colleges in which you are interested. That way, your family can learn about what you want to pursue and they can voice and concerns or suggestions they might have.

Financial Aid

Another important factor to keep in mind around this time is financial aid. Learn about your family’s resources and gather information about financial aid from all of the schools in which you are interested.

Next, you’ll want to start a scholarship search, There are plenty of scholarships out there, you just need to spend a little time and effort in order to fine them. You can check with your guidance office to find scholarships from local organizations, as well as use online scholarship searches to find a wider range of options. The earlier you start looking for scholarships, the easier it will be to choose the best ones to apply to next year.

Register and Prepare for Required Entrance Exams

Undergraduates should register and prepare for the TOEFL, IELTS or other English language test accepted by your schools, as well as the SAT exams. In addition to one of the English language tests, Graduate students should determine whether they will need to register for the GRE and/or GMAT exams. Law students will likely need the LSAT, medical students the MCAT – and there are several more! Please visit our section on standardized tests for more information on standard tests you may be required to take.

Keep working at your subjects at school. Good grades in the courses you are taking will count heavily in the admissions process.

Check out our Application Timeline for 12-14 Months Before to learn what your next steps should be.

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