The following information will help you plan for the college application process by giving you dates by which each of the necessary steps should be completed. Following a schedule will help you make sure that everything is done on time and that no items or steps are forgotten.
18 months before beginning your studies in the US:
Begin your search of possible US colleges or universities that you would like to attend. Read through college reference guides and visit college websites. Also talk with your relatives and friends who have studied in the US. Request information from 10 to 20 different schools so that you can make a good decision on where to apply. For more help and information on the search process, go to Choosing a school. To have some of the best US colleges contact you directly, click here.
Register and start preparing for the TOEFL and other entrance tests (such as the SAT or GRE).
Continue to work hard at your subjects at school. Good grades in the courses you are taking now will count heavily in the admissions decisions.
Find a school near you
12 months before:
Send letters to colleges you have selected requesting applications and information, or obtain this information and necessary forms from their websites. You should choose: (a) one or two schools that you really like, but may be too difficult to get into; (b) two or three that you also like and which you think will accept you; (c) one or two which may not be your favorites, but you are quite sure will accept you.
Identify two or three teachers or other people whom know you well and ask them to write recommendation letters for you.
For undergraduate applicants the best references are teachers and your school principal. Family friends, religious counselors, and others should be used only if they know you very well and can speak specifically about your academic goals and potential.
Graduate students should obtain letters from their teachers or professionals in their field whom they have worked with and who can speak specifically about their academic potential and relevant accomplishments.
Ask the schools you have attended to start preparing your transcripts. These are official school documents that show the courses you have studied and the grades you have received in those courses.
If your previous TOEFL, SAT, or GRE scores were not satisfactory, register for the test again.
11 months before:
If you have not yet received the application forms you requested from the schools you wrote to, send another letter repeating your request.
Study the applications you have received. Note carefully the deadlines on each of them. Remember to allow time for delays in the mail.
Ask your schools to send certified copies of your academic transcripts to each of the schools where you are applying.
Ask your teachers to write their letters of recommendation for you. Give them the forms provided by the schools and a stamped, addressed envelope for each letter they will be mailing.
Undergraduate students should write their application essay. This essay is an important part of the application. It should reflect who you are and what you feel is important. Try not to repeat information you have provided in other parts of the application, but instead work to make the essay unique and personal. Get comments on it from an English teacher. For more information on writing your essay, refer to Personal essay.
Graduate students should write their statement of purpose if the schools have indicated that they require one. This is an important part of the application. You should show in your statement how your education so far has created a foundation for your goals, and how your proposed coursework in the US will help you achieve those goals. You should be as specific as possible about your research interests and past accomplishments.
Make photocopies of the applications and begin to fill in the required information on the copies. You will later transfer the information to the originals. If any questions confuse you, seek help from your teachers, or from someone who has studied in the US.
10 months before:
Complete your essays and application forms, including the financial aid application forms, using the originals (not the copies). Type or write by hand very neatly and carefully. The finished applications will be your introduction to the schools, so you want to make them look good. Keep a copy of the completed applications for your records. Mail the originals by airmail in time to meet the deadlines.
Take the TOEFL and other exams again, if you need to improve your scores.
Check with your teachers and your school to make sure your recommendations and transcripts have been mailed in time to meet the deadlines.
9 months before:
It is not unusual for schools to request more information or resubmission of something you have already sent. Respond promptly to any requests you receive.
4-5 months before:
You will start hearing decisions from the schools. Contact the admissions office at any school that you do not hear from.
Accept only one school's offer, and let the other schools know of your decision. Ask the school you have chosen to attend to send you the I-20 form.
Make housing arrangements.
Apply for a passport if you do not already have one.
3 months before:
Get a visa application form from the US embassy or consulate nearest you. For a complete description of the visa application process, go to Immigration.
Make travel arrangements. Schedule your trip so you arrive at least 15 days prior to your school's orientation.