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Application Timeline - 12 to 14 Months Before


You’ve started thinking about the college application process and researching the colleges you’re interested in. Now it’s time to set things in motion. During this phase of the application process you will narrow down your choice of colleges, find out how to apply and start gathering the documentation needed to make your application unique.

Choose the Schools to Which you Will Apply

By now, you should have your definitive list of the schools to which you would like to apply. If you are using the USA School Search , you can save these schools in your account and correspond with them directly. Your list should contain the following:

  • 1 or 2 institutions that you would like to attend, but that may not accept you
  • 2 institutions where you feel you have a decent chance of being accepted
  • 1 or 2 institutions where you are quite certain that you will gain admission

When possible, attend college fairs or visit college campuses to get a real feel for how student life is in each of your top institutions. At the very least, you should check out the social media pages and sign up for email alerts from each school you’re sending an application to.

If you haven’t already, prepare a folder for each of the schools you select in which you will keep copies of all correspondence, application materials and other information. You should also have one document that lists each school in which you’re applying to, the required documents needed to apply, deadlines and the status of your submission.

Stay on Track and Set Deadlines

Colleges are going to be paying special attention to what you’ve done in your senior year, so make sure you work hard and keep your grades up.

Meet with your student advisor to try to prepare a challenging schedule for your final year of high school, rather than loading up on easy electives.

Maintain a commitment to any extracurricular activities that you are a part of. Colleges like to see that you are involved in extracurricular activities, but they also like to see that you can maintain an interest in and commitment to just a few activities, rather than bouncing from club to club every semester.

While it is important to work hard and discover your interests through extracurricular activities, make sure you don’t overstretch yourself purely to impress your desired institution, it’s better to achieve in a few things rather than underperform at many.

Find the deadline for each college application on the college website and make a note of it on your calendar. Prepare a checklist for all major application requirements with deadlines beside each one to tick off as you complete them.

Set personal deadlines. It’s wise to get your own documentation prepared in advance of time. This might include writing a first draft of your application essay or getting copies of your passport, school transcripts etc. Establishing deadlines and visibly writing them down will help you avoid last minute stress or missing a deadline completely.

Obtain School Application Documents

Contact each school to obtain information and an application packet – you can do this through the USA School Search. Most colleges in the U.S. now have application materials on their websites. Determine what you will need to apply to each college on your list of potential programs, as requirements vary from school to school. Note down the deadlines on each application on your calendar or checklist.

Graduate students should send a letter or email to the director of graduate admissions with a copy to the chairman of the department to which you seek admission.

Now is also the time to inform institutions if you will need financial aid as you will need additional forms

Take required entrance exams

You should now take the necessary entrance exams. Each college could require different exams so check before applying to each institution what you need to apply.

Many graduate and undergraduates will need to prove their English skills by taking the TOEFL, IELTS or other accepted English as a Second Language test. Undergraduates will need to take the SAT or ACT exam. Graduate students may be required to take the GRE or GMAT exam. Please visit our Standardized Tests section for comprehensive information about these tests.

Be sure that you have requested - either by mail or online - that your test scores be sent to the colleges to which you plan on applying.

Your 12-14 Month Checklist:

  • Establish final list of 8-10 colleges to apply to
  • Take on an extracurricular activity
  • Meet with your student advisor
  • Obtain application forms for each college you will apply to
  • Take all necessary entrance exams

Check out our application timeline for 10-12 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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