Below is the recommended timetable for applying to universities in the United States. It is sometimes possible to complete the process more quickly, but you may have a much more limited choice of schools. Planning ahead gives you sufficient time to make successful applications to the universities of your choice.
The Student Application Calendar:
12 to 18 Months Prior to the Academic Year:
Consider your reasons for earning a degree.
Which universities offer your subject and specialization?
Can you afford them? Will you need financial assistance?
Begin narrowing your choices of schools to approximately 10 to 20 institutions; make sure they meet your academic, financial, lifestyle, and other needs.
Be aware of application deadlines. Be sure to allow enough time for standardized test scores to process; generally, test results must reach the admissions offices no later than the deadline. The tests should be taken in before you submit your university application forms.
Register to take additional language, aptitude, or subject tests, including the SATII or the TOEFL, if required by your chosen universities.
12 Months Prior to Enrollment:
Contact universities for applications, financial aid forms, and catalogs.
Register to take admissions tests (e.g. TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, SAT) as necessary.
11 Months Prior to Enrollment:
Request official transcripts from your undergraduate institution if applying to graduate schools; request transcripts from your secondary school if applying to undergraduate schools.
Request letters of reference from your recommendations; be sure to brief them by giving them detailed information about your goals and accomplishments before they write your letter. Write a “Thank You” note once they complete them.
Draft personal statements or statements of purpose; if you are a graduate student work on any research proposals, if requested.
Submit completed application forms (for admission as well as financial aid).
Double check that transcripts and references have been sent.
Take the necessary admissions tests.
5 to 7 Months Prior to Enrollment:
Send in applications before the deadlines; allow a few weeks leeway, just to be sure they will arrive on time. If applying online, be sure to print out a copy of the application for your reference.
3 to 5 Months Prior to Enrollment:
Letters of acceptance or rejection arrive.
Decide which university to attend; notify the admissions office of your decision; complete and return any required forms and submit your deposit to secure your spot.
Submit your response to universities you decide not to attend, preferably in a personalized letter; do this as a matter of courtesy (who knows, you may end up transferring to the school later!)
Organize finances (arrange to transfer funds to a U.S. bank; make sure you have funds for travel and expenses on arrival).
Finalize arrangements for housing and medical insurance with your university.
Notify any sponsoring organizations of your plans.
1 to 3 months prior to enrollment
Contact your nearest educational information or advising center to let them know you were accepted to an institution.
Apply to your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for a visa upon receipt of your Certificate of Eligibility and well in advance of your departure date (international students).
Make travel arrangements. Plan to arrive in time for the university’s orientation program–this is especially important for international students.
Contact the student office at your university with details of your arrival plans. Confirm orientation dates for incoming international students; if your school has multiple orientations available, then you should reserve a spot with a date convenient to you.
The academic year will be slightly different for each university or college but normally runs from late August to the end of May.
It may be divided into two terms of 18 weeks called semesters. Alternatively, the university may have “quarters” or “trimesters,” which are about 12 weeks in length. Universities often provide six- to eight-week summer terms; these are optional, and students attend if they wish to get through their degree faster, to decrease their course load during the regular terms, or to make up for courses not completed successfully during the regular academic year.
There are at least two main holidays during the academic year: a two- to four-week break over Christmas time and a one-week “spring break” sometime between early March and mid-April.