Calendar and Checklist

The following calendar and checklist will help you with your college admissions planning. You’ll be glad you planned ahead, because the whole process can take approximately two years, or 24 months, before you step onto campus as a student. Most undergraduate college students in the USA start their first year (known as “freshman year”) in the Fall semester, usually starting in August or September. The schedule below corresponds to that timing.

When What
24 months

(September)

Begin your search for colleges. Visit the nearest educational advising center such as EducationUSA and the library. Explore college sites on the web. Talk with family, friends, and acquaintances who may have studied in the USA.
22-23 months

(October-November)

Start preparing for the SAT or ACT exams, the TOEFL exam, and any other admissions tests.
16-21 months

(December- May)

Register for the admissions tests.
20 months

(January)

Select the schools to which you will apply and request application materials from them.
15-18 months

(March-June)

Take the admissions tests. Many schools have early decision deadlines in November; taking the test now gives you a chance to improve your scores if necessary before that deadline.
13 months

(August)

Write a draft of your application essay(s) and/or statement of purpose. Get feedback on it from friends, family, teachers or coaches, guidance counselors, etc.
12 months

(September)

Ask your references to write letters of recommendation for you. Make sure to give them at least several weeks to write and submit them before the application deadline.

If you want to try improving your scores on the admissions tests, register for a second round.

11 months (October) Complete your essays and application forms. Ask your secondary school to send certified copies and English translations of your academic transcripts and other requested documents.
10 months

(November)

Check with your references and schools to make sure your recommendations and transcripts have been mailed.
9 months

(December)

Research scholarships for international students and financial aid opportunities. Apply for them as soon as you are eligible.
4-5 months

(April-May)

You should start to hear from colleges. Accept one school’s offer, and notify them and the others of your choice. Apply for a student visa and complete related forms, renew your passport if necessary, and fill out health forms. Contact the school’s international student center for guidance.
3 months

(June)

Register for orientation at your school, and attend pre-departure orientation programs in your home country, if available. Make travel arrangements and confirm housing. Start packing.
Time’s up!

(August-September)

Start your new life as an international student in the USA!