Application Timeline - 10 Months Before
Retake entrance exams if scores were unsatisfactory
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.
Complete and mail applications
Make a checklist of the items required for submission with each application. Applications may vary slightly from one college to another, but they usually include the following:
- A cover sheet identifying the contents of the application packet
- The application fee - this fee is a non-refundable, one-time payment to the university, usually in the form of a check in U.S. dollars that can be cashed at a bank in the United States. Nearly all colleges and universities will require you to pay this fee in order for them to process your application.
- The completed application form, which you will be required 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.
- Your application essay or statement of purpose. The theme is typically given to you by the university, but
common themes include:
- Your academic and personal background
- Your personal abilities and/or academic goals
- Why do you want to study in the U.S.?
- Transcripts may be needed to verify that you have attained what you have stated in your application form. They may include previous test scores or academic certificates.
- 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.
- Letters of recommendation, or references, are written about you by previous professors. In some cases, a reference may also be written by a recent employer.
- Required financial statements, such as notarized financial forms from the institutions, ban letters, etc. You must be able to show proof that you can support yourself while living and studying in the U.S.
The schools that you wish to attend may ask that you submit other supporting material, such as pieces of your work (for art students), or documented evidence of your past work experience.
Make photocopies of the applications and begin to fill in the required information on the copy. Your finished application 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.
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 graduate admissions. Also, send a copy to the chairman of the department to which you hope to gain admission.
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. Observe the deadlines! Applications must reach institutions before the application deadlines.
Make sure that your recommendations and school transcripts have been sent. Remind your references and school officials of the deadlines if necessary.
Upon receipt of your completed application, the college or university may begin corresponding with you. 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.
If you have intelligently chosen the programs to which you applied, met the admission requirements and deadlines, weighed advice and made choices that are right for you, an institution will send you a letter of acceptance along with the document you will use to apply for your student visa.
Electronic Applications: An Additional Note
If you hope to apply to a U.S. college or university using an electronic application on the Internet, please note that not all schools have that capability, especially for graduate applicants. Sometimes only certain departments within a university can offer electronic applications.
As with paper applications, not all electronic applications are identical, although 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 on-line application before submitting it to the university.
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).
While electronic applications are convenient, remember that you may not be able to rely on the Internet for all parts of the admissions process, particularly with more competitive colleges and universities.
For your next--and final--steps, visit our 3 Months Before Timeline.