After much deliberation and discussion you have decided to head to the US for your education, graduate or undergraduate. I have spoken at length about how to go about the application process but let me put all that in a timeline now. This timeline will prompt you when to take a necessary step and give a heads up of what’s going to follow.
I am building this timeline for fall 2016 with the international applicants in mind but it can be translated for any other application season with a little reshuffling of months.
Deciding to study in the US Preparing for tests Applications
January 2015-March 2015
These are the months where you have to make up your mind and decide about applying to US for the next application season. You can do some online research and find out programs aligned with your interest or talk to people about it. This is the perfect time to deliberate on your decision in choosing an American college education.
April 2015-July 2015
In these few months you have to tackle quite a few things. Your primary focus should be on preparing for the standardized tests like GRE, SAT, ACT, TOEFL etc. Note that I have allotted quite a few months for preparation which you may not need. This is just a general overview; everyone can’t follow the same pace of preparation and assimilation of material. No matter how long you take, if it gets you to your target score there’s no problem.
August 2015-October 2015
These are the ideal months to appear for your tests, if you haven’t done so already. Schedule your tests, book a slot and go ahead and ace them!
Aside from taking your tests you must choose which universities to apply to and keep track of deadlines. Get in touch with professors whose research interests you. Maintain a notebook or word document where you jot down the various deadlines and application requirements for each school. Most schools activate their portal for fall admissions in September or even before that.
Deadlines for international applicants are usually early. Contact your recommenders and request them to look out for recommendation requests in the upcoming months.
Get your transcripts ready; you’re going to need them soon. Write your SOP/personal essay and get the final draft ready! I would recommend starting your essay once your tests are done and you have plenty of time to focus on it.
These months are hard but don’t lose your calm!
October 2015- January 2016
These are the months of high application activity. Don’t lose your head over the flurry of activities that follow. Deal with applications methodically, complete each section as asked for, upload/send necessary documents and pay the application fee. Track your recommendations and reporting of test scores.
Application Decisions Moving to the US
January 2016-March 2016
You have reached the end of the application season. You should complete all your applications within January, which gives the admissions committees plenty of time to make their decision. Schools sometimes invite certain applicants for campus visits in these months. Although international applicants are rarely flown down, you can schedule a visit to the school if interested!
The wait for decisions is excruciatingly painful but you might have to wait till April 15, 2016 or even later to hear back from schools. Schools with deadlines in December and January usually start sending out decisions from March. There are various forums and platforms on the internet where you can interact with other applicants. I was addicted to The Grad Cafe in these months!
April 2016-July 2016
By June 2016 you should have received your admits, made your decision which school to attend, confirmed your decision, received your I-20 and processed your visa for the US. I suggest booking your tickets and making travel plans as well. Being the season that sees a high influx of students traveling to US, ticket prices can be quite steep.
Once your admission is confirmed you can begin apartment hunting (for people staying off campus) or book your on-campus accommodation. Give yourself plenty of time to look for roommates.
Once you’ve taken care of everything spend some time with family and friends! Bon Voyage and best of luck! 😀