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When to start your US university application

Here’s a detailed timeline on when to begin the process

The USA boasts of a multicultural environment, academic excellence, professional growth opportunities, and a superior quality of life. The country has been a top study abroad destination for international students for generations of students. Naturally, there’s stiff competition among students to get accepted at one of the universities at such a coveted study destination. The key is to get a head start in the application process. Not only does a timely or even early application significantly reduce the scope for errors, but it is also known to even increase the candidate’s chances of getting through.

Intake season

The US universities typically have two intake seasons – Fall (September to December) and Spring (January to May). There is a third window known as the Summer intake (May to August), but it is limited to fewer courses and universities.

Eligibility criteria

While the specific requirements depend on the selected university, the most common ones include:

Proficiency tests:

  • English proficiency exam: You need a minimum of 6.5 on the IELTS exam. Don’t wait till the end to take your exam as the test scores are valid for two years from the date of the test. Attempting mock tests and dedicating a couple of hours a day for two-three weeks will suffice

  • GRE or GMAT exam: These exams evaluate the candidate’s quantitative and logical reasoning. It can take up to 6 months to prepare for the test


  • Academic proofs: Previous year mark sheets, degree certificates (provisional certificates in case the application deadline closes before your result is announced), and transcripts

  • WES (World Education Services) evaluations: WES is a credential evaluation system that converts your scores from their home country format into their US equivalents. Some universities require you to submit your scores to WES which then sends them to your university directly

  • You may also be required to submit copies of your resume and passport

Chronology to follow

Once again, the key to getting ahead of peers is starting your application process early. So, if you are aiming to get accepted for the next semester, application deadlines will close approximately nine months before it commences. So, you need to start your application process a year and a half in advance.

Even if your preferred university has a more generous application window and doesn’t close nine months early, it is always a good idea to start at least one year in advance. So, for the next intake, the right time to start working on the application is now!
Here’s a suggested application schedule for you:

18 months before the target semester

  • Research extensively to shortlist colleges and courses

  • Register for entrance exams

  • Maintain school/ bachelor’s grades

  • Get IDP International Education Specialists’ assistance if confused

12-14 months before target semester

  • Prepare for special entrance exams

  • Zero in on universities you will apply to and download necessary forms

10-12 months before target semester

  • Get hold of school transcripts

  • Draft the application essay

10 months before the target semester

  • Get funding in place

  • Submit completed applications

3 months before the target semester

  • Apply for your student visa

  • Arrange health and travel insurance

1 month before target semester

  • Pre-departure planning

  • Refer to university peer groups for getting acquainted with university culture

It is important to follow the above-mentioned steps to complete your application process on time and increase your chances at acceptance. Once you are done with the process, you will have to patiently wait for the university’s reply. It can be overwhelming to wait for the acceptance mail as for the Fall semester, universities can reply anytime between February and April. May first week is considered to be the standard reply date.

Hope this was useful and will help you plan in advance for your application to your favourite US university. Just stay calm and if you get stuck at any point, reach out to us and one of our international education specialists will be more than happy to guide you.

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Updated on October 27, 2021

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