Basic Timeline For Applications

Generalized timeline for applications to the US-based academic institutions


There are thousands of high-quality colleges/universities in the USA and finding the ones that are right for you can often be a long process. Not to mention, the application requirements vary between institutions and require multiple documents that cannot be obtained in a moments notice. Therefore applicants need to start the process of readying themselves 1-2 years before the plan on landing in the USA. The following are general guidelines for you to follow that will help ensure the highest chances of success. The time frames refer to months before you arrive in the US.


18 – 24 Months Before – Research institutions and prepare for admissions

Research various colleges and universities programs to see which programs will best fit your academic and professional goals

  • There are over 7,350 academic institutions (universities, colleges, as well as, professional and technical schools) in the USA. It crucial to start early and become familiar with the academic landscape in your area(s) of interest
  • You may need to conduct research online, to get a sense of campus life and talk with university representatives, alumni or current students who may be available for an informational interview

Begin organizing to focus on and narrow your options

  • Since, colleges/universities (usually) can’t accept everyone who applies, they have specific qualities they are looking for when evaluating a student for admissions. Similarly, its often too cost and time prohibitive for you to apply to a large number of academic institutions. Therefore, you also need to have a list of criterion that allows you to rank the colleges/universities you are interested in.
  • Have a preliminary list of up to 30 institutions that you are interested in

Research means of financial aid

  • Financial aid is available for international students in the form of scholarships, assistantships, grants, internships, and possible on/off-campus job opportunities

Prepare and registering for required entrance exams

  • Generally, undergraduates should register for ACT and/or SAT exams, as well as, TOEFL, IELTS or other English language proficiency tests. You may also take ACT/SAT Subject Tests to spotlight your skills in specific subjects
  • Graduate students are usually required to complete the GRE and/or GMAT, LSAT (law students) and the MCAT (medical students) in addition to language proficiency tests. Institutions often have their own set of admissions requirements; you will need to make sure that you take all the cumulative steps needed for the institutions you are interested in
  • Ask us about verified training centers in your local area. Otherwise, the Khan Academy (available for free on youtube) is a great resource for training for these tests

Start structuring your financial costs

  • Review your finances and start formulating a plan for paying for your education and living expenses


12 to 15 Months Before – Focus in on your target academic institutions

Finalize your list of colleges/universities where you will apply

  • We recommend a total of 7 institutions for most cases. Some academic institutions (unofficially) limit the total international student population on campus (usually <10%). Thus, the acceptance rate for international students is likely to be far lower than similar applications originating in the US
  • Also, remember that you will be competing with other international students from all other countries. Thus, it is very important that you refrain from choosing only “brand name” institutions, and instead, focus more on the academic program offerings and how they fit your overall needs
  • The reasons are: 1) chances of admissions maybe artificially stacked against you in these more famous institutions, and 2) lesser-known colleges can provide the same, if not better overall educational experience. Conduct extensive research to come up with a final list of colleges/universities that you have legitimate interest in besides just the name! We recommend the following strategy:
    • Two (2) colleges/universities where you would like to go, but may not accept you
    • Three (3) colleges/universities where you meet and/or exceed the minimum requirements in terms of your academic and extracurricular credentials
    • Two (2) colleges/universities where you comfortably exceed the minimum academic and extracurricular credential requirements for admissions
  • Itemized list and gathering ALL the application documents/forms you need

    • Universities often have complex requirements and deadlines beyond the applications (i.e. supplemental forms, essays etc.). If you are applying to 7 institutions, that means you need to prepare up to 7 different application packets. Moreover, international students need to produce significantly higher number of documents that may take time for you to acquire. Organization is crucial at this point, getting organized as early as possible is one the best ways to make your dreams a reality
    • Do the same for financial aid applications you are interested in
    • At this point you should be filling out application materials (admissions and financial aid) and working on crafting all your required essays, such as the statement of purpose (SOP)
    • Know your deadlines!
    • Identify your references that are familiar with your academic/extracurricular activities, and supply them with the required reference forms
    • Start requesting transcripts from your school(s) in your native country and finish any necessary credential evaluations
      • Official transcripts are usually required to be sealed in an envelope with the institution’s official stamp or seal, and the signature of the appropriate officials
      • Sometimes a certified copy of the transcript from an appropriate school official may also be accepted
      • If your school can not provide an official transcript sealed in an envelope then it may be necessary to have them send an official copy directly to the college or university
      • Transcripts may also need to be translated into English by a certified agency
    • Complete all standardized testing requirements

      • In keeping with the above point, start completing your testing requirements. Standardized test results will matter for you. Chances are high that colleges/universities will struggle a bit more interpreting your academic transcripts, at which point, your SAT scores for example may hold more weight in determining whether you for admissions
      • Remember that you may choose to retake these exams as well. For example, the average undergraduate applicant will take the SAT twice. Give yourself enough time to adjust in case you are not happy with your scores

      Revisit your financial preparedness

      • Declaration of finances demonstrating your ability to pay for your U.S. education to ensure you are prepared for your college applications and student visa interview
      • Figure out tuition costs and living expenses and have a finalized financial plan that includes comprehensive estimates and budgeting of living costs once you are in the USA


      8 – 12 Months Before – Finalizing and submitting your applications

      Make sure that you have completed all steps from your itemized applications materials list

      • Finish retaking any standardized exams
      • Gather all necessary documents (i.e. transcripts, recommendation letters etc.)
      • Complete and mail all application materials
      • Finalize all required arrangements for financing


      3 to 6 Months Before – Final admissions decisions and complete final preparations

      Evaluate and make your final decision about the institution you will attend

      • This step can be more complicated given scenarios with multiple admission/financial aid offers, wait-listing, etc. At this point, referring to your original university criterion list that you made in the beginning of the application process, will be your guide to determining the university that is the best fit for you
      • You should receive most of your admissions decisions and notifications of financial aid awards by the end of April if you are applying for the Fall semester

      Apply for your student visa

      • The I-20 or IAP-66 form from an accredited college or university
      • Evidence of your educational credentials for the previous four years
      • Your standardized entrance exam scores (i.e. TOEFL, SAT, GRE or GMAT)
      • Financial documents proving sufficient funds to pay for the first year of your studies in the US and it source. In addition to proving sufficient assets, you must be able to demonstrate its source (i.e. bank, income generated by assets, family business or property, etc.)

      Research and finalize any remaining arrangements

      • Research and book living arrangements
      • Research health insurance options
      • Make your travel arrangements


      Regardless of what step in the application process you are in, we will work with you to create a timeline for you specific ciscumstances and goals.