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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. Because of this, you’ll want to give yourself as much time as possible to complete the necessary items and avoid missing any deadlines.

Research College Programs

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 for guidance on how to find a school that will meet your needs.

After you know what factors to consider when narrowing down schools, the best place to get started on your search for potential schools in the U.S. is by using our USA School Search . Our USA School Search lists every college in the USA that admits international students, and leaves out any schools that do not, making it easy to plan your studies in the US. There you can quickly sort through colleges and universities and find the ones that offer the degree level, field of study and location you want. If you have a specific school in mind that you need more information on you can also visit that school’s profile directly and collect the details you need. If you visit a school’s profile page and would like even more information on that school, you can request further details directly on their page.

If you prefer physical brochures and to meet staff and alumni, try to visit some international college fairs in your home country. Your local newspaper will usually include fairs in your community and you can also periodically visit our blog for these updates.

Applicants to graduate programs need to read through college catalogs and websites to find suitable programs and identify faculty who share their academic interests. You should use software such as Peterson’s Graduate Search, and reference books such as the GRE/CGS Directory of Graduate Programs, available at U.S. advising centers or online on sites like Amazon.

Once you have narrowed down your favorite colleges and courses, read anything you can find about them. If possible, talk to or correspond with alumni of these institutions. Attend college fairs, college nights, and speak to representatives, visit their social media pages. Confer with faculty and academic counseling staff at your own school for their guidance. Being well informed will help guide your choice.

When looking for a college make sure you consider the all-around experience you want. It’s important to choose the right institution for your studies but also for your personal life, as you’ll work better if you’re happy in your college environment.

Narrow Down your Choices

When you have a good idea of the colleges you are interested in, create a physical or digital folder for each college. This folder should include all college correspondence, the application form, and copies of all documents needed to complete the application. 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 to your top 8-10 schools. This will help you later down the road in narrowing your school options even further before you apply. Once you have the information required for the colleges you are considering (entrance requirements, tuition fees, accommodation options, courses, student activities, financial aid, etc.), it’s 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 any concerns or suggestions they might have.

Explore 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 the schools in which you are interested.

This is also a good time to search for a scholarship. There are plenty of scholarships out there, you just need to spend a little time and effort to find them. Check with your guidance office to find scholarships from local organizations, as well as using 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. Additionally, keep in mind that you will want to explore scholarships that offer prizes both large and small. Larger scholarships with more general eligibility requirements will attract a higher number of students to apply. Smaller scholarships that have very specific requirements to apply will often allow you a better chance at winning since less students are able to apply.

Remember that the hunt for scholarships is an ongoing process. Look for scholarships regularly to see if any new scholarship options have been added or requirements changed.

Register and Prepare for Entrance Exams

Undergraduates should register and prepare for the SAT or ACT exam along with the TOEFL, IELTS or other English language tests accepted by the schools you’re considering.

Graduate students should also 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.

Don’t forget to keep working on your subjects at school. Good grades in the courses you are taking will count heavily in the admissions process.

Take the Hassle out of the Application Process

To make the application process simpler for you to follow, consider using an educational consulting company such as IvyWise. IvyWise can take the stress out of the process by helping you manage each application and presenting yourself as the ideal candidate for your chosen colleges.

Your 18 Month Checklist:

  • Research colleges and courses
  • Compare colleges and narrow down choices to 8-12 options
  • Discuss how you will fund college with your family
  • Research scholarships and note deadlines
  • Register for needed entrance exams
  • Create a college application schedule

Check out our application timeline for 12-14 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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