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Application Timeline - 10 Months Before

At this point you should have already completed your college applications and are preparing to submit them to your chosen institutions. Here’s what to do next to ensure you haven’t forgotten anything and to prepare for accepting an admission offer.

Retake Entrance Exams

If your previous TOEFL, IELTS, SAT, GRE or GMAT scores were not satisfactory, take the test again. These tests should be taken no later than January if you seek admission in August/September (December if you are applying to very competitive institutions), and no later than June if you seek admission the following January.

Line up all required financing

Before you can complete your acceptance to a US college or university and receive your F1 visa, you will need to prove to the school, and to the consular official, that you have the funds necessary for your stay. For many students, this is the most challenging part of the process. We have resources to help you research and plan, including budgeting, scholarships, loans and other financial aid matters. Visit the International Financial Aid section for more information.

Each college you’re applying to will have information on their website on what type of documents they accept as proof of financial resources. Standard documents that are typically accepted as proof of income include bank statements, official award letters, and a letter from your sponsor.

Completing your Application

Make a checklist of the items required for submission with each college application. Applications may vary slightly from one college to another, but they usually include the following key items:

  1. Your cover sheet identifying the contents of the application packet
  2. The application fee - this fee is a non-refundable, one-time payment to the university and is usually in the form of a check in U.S. dollars that can be cashed at a bank in the United States or, now more commonly, fees can be paid with a credit card. (Nearly all colleges and universities will require you to pay this fee before they process your application).
  3. The completed application form, which requires you to submit personal information along with academic credentials. Some of these forms can be long and confusing, so take your time and seek assistance if needed when completing them.
  4. Your application essay or statement of purpose. The essay theme is typically given to you by the university, but common themes include:
    • our academic and personal background
    • Your personal abilities and/or academic goals
    • Why you want to study in the U.S.
  5. Transcripts may be needed to verify that you have attained what you have stated on your application. Academic certificates may also be requested.
  6. Standardized test scores will often be required of you. Please visit our Standardized Tests section for more information on this important part of your admissions application.
  7. Letters of recommendation, or references, written about you by previous teachers or professors. In some cases, a reference may also be written by a recent employer or club advisor.
  8. Required financial statements, such as notarized financial forms, bank statements, etc. You must be able to show proof that you have the finances available to support yourself while living and studying in the U.S. Keep in mind that these documents typically must be in English.
  9. The schools that you wish to attend may ask that you submit other supporting material, such as your portfolio (for art students), or documented evidence of your past work experience.
Make copies of everything you send off and keep them in either a physical or digital folder. If part of your application get lost or you are required to send the file to a different department, this will make it much easier to quickly put the information together again and prevent unnecessary stress in the application process.

Submitting your Application

Paper applications are no longer the most common way of applying to a college or university in the United States- applications are usually online either directly through the school’s website or through a third-party application like the Common Application. However, if you are completing paper applications, make photocopies of the original applications and begin to fill in the required information on the copy. The original application should be completed after this draft as it will be your initial introduction to the schools of your choice, and you want to make a good impression. Type or fill in your final application by hand neatly and carefully. If questions confuse you, seek guidance from your school, or from the advisors at a U.S. educational advising center. You will want to make copies of all applications and essays, keeping them in your folder, and mail originals to the institutions in the United States.

Check to see if the application needs to be sent to a designated individual at the college or university to which you are applying. If not, send your completed application packet to the director of admissions. Also, send a copy to the chairman of the department to which you hope to gain admission.

As with paper applications, not all electronic applications are identical, however, the information requested will be fairly consistent. These applications will take a lot of time and thought to complete. You are advised to download the applications you are planning to use, fill in the information in a rough draft first, then transfer the data to the online application before submitting it to the college. Doing this will also allow you to have someone edit and provide you with feedback on your application.

Few academic institutions are equipped to transmit transcripts electronically; they are traditionally sent through the mail. The same is usually true of recommendations, which require the same proof of authenticity as transcripts (a sealed envelope with the school’s stamp or individual’s signature across the seal). Check with your previous school and references to see if they will be submitting a physical of digital document and ensure the school they’re submitting to is equipped to handle their preferred method. When submitting your applications, whether online or through the postal mail, observe the deadlines! Applications must reach institutions before the application deadlines to be considered. If you’re cutting it close to the deadline when submitting online make sure you take time zones into account.

Once you’ve submitted your application check the online submission centers, your email, and mail regularly. Upon receipt of your completed application, the college or university may begin corresponding with you, and will at minimum send you a confirmation email that your application was received. It is not unusual for institutions to request more information or resubmission of something you have already sent. Unless there is some delay with your application, you should expect a decision by April or May (if applying for August/September admission), perhaps even earlier.

Your 10 Month Checklist

  • Retake entrance exams
  • Organize your finances
  • Proof-read and complete college applications
  • Submit college applications by mail or online
  • Pay the application fee online or by check
  • Ensure letters of recommendation and transcripts are sent
  • Check that your applications have been received

Check out our application timeline for 3 Months Before you study in the US to learn what your next steps should be, or download our Complete College Application Checklist.

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