When is the Right Time to Start Planning Higher Education Abroad?


Cyril Zachariah
Updated on Jun 11, 2023 10:19 AM IST

If studying at a foreign university is part of your future plans, then it is important to know the right time to start planning and preparing for it. From filling out the application form, taking subject tests, and English tests to letters of recommendation, here's how you go about planning all of it.

When is the Right Time to Start Planning Higher Education Abroad?

Imagine yourself strolling along the cobblestone streets of an ancient European city, immersing yourself in a rich cultural tapestry while pursuing your dreams of higher education. Studying abroad is an experience that can transform your life, opening doors to new perspectives, personal growth, and countless opportunities.

However, embarking on such an adventure requires careful planning and preparation. If you are wondering when the perfect moment is to start planning your study abroad journey, you must know that the time that it takes to apply to foreign universities differs from one country to another.  In this article, we will explore the right time and essential steps that will help you embark on your academic odyssey abroad with confidence.

To-Do List for Your Study Abroad Aspirations

To ensure a successful admission process to your dream university, you must ensure that you have completed the necessary steps within the given timeline and ensure all the steps have been completed correctly. Given below is the to-do list to start your study abroad experience:

Researching, Deciding, and Planning

The first step to a new chapter in anyone's life is making the decision. This is one step you should not delay till the last moment. Education and study abroad experts suggest researching, deciding and planning when you reach class 9. This will give you enough time to focus on your studies, improve them if need be, research the different universities and programmes available and what they offer, along with other factors and come to a decision regarding the same.

Qualification and Standardised Tests

One of the important requirements for admission to a university abroad is the standardised and qualification test scores. Tests such as IELTS, TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc. are a few that you may be required to attempt. However, go through the admission requirements of the college you wish to enrol in and prepare for these tests. You can attempt these tests a year before submitting your applications to the university.

Academic Record

An important factor as to why you should start researching and deciding where you wish to study for your college or university as early as Class 9, is so that you can maintain a good or even an excellent academic record. The admissions committee at universities and colleges abroad look at your academic record and considers you for admissions as well as scholarship opportunities, which can help reduce the financial burden of accessing international education.

Seek Guidance

While deciding and choosing the college or university, or even to understand the international education system, a good practice is to ask experts or those who have already gone through the process themselves. This will better prepare you to tackle any obstruction or issues that you may face during your preparation to study abroad.

Fill Application Form Correctly

It is crucial to provide correct and complete information when applying to a university or college. Any mistakes here may be an expensive ordeal for you as an applicant, even to the extent that you may not be allowed to apply to the university again if you are found tampering with information.

Scholarships and Financial Aids

Look out for and apply for any scholarships or financial aid that the university or college offers to international students. Many Universities and Colleges abroad offer numerous scholarships to study abroad every year, which can help reduce the financial burden that you may face while pursuing international education.

Based on the recent educational policy changes worldwide and ease in procuring student loans, this might be the right time for you to plan your study abroad journey. Learn why 2023 could be a great year to study abroad, here.

Need Assistance to Apply at Universities Abroad?

When to Start Planning for Study Abroad?

The step-by-step process to help you understand how to go about your study abroad plan has been given below:

Decide As Early as Possible

The right time for a candidate to ensure that they want to complete their bachelor's degree programme from an abroad university is as early as in the Class 9th Grade.

It is the most appropriate time for candidates to understand the education system of foreign countries and also land the ideal university offering their choice of programme. You must set up your goals by the time you are promoted to 10th standard.

Start Planning

Once the decision is made to study abroad, students must explore the eligibility criteria, the list of entrance exams and other important information and documents required for admission to selected colleges and/or universities.

Students can start seeking advice from study abroad career counsellors for authentic and appropriate information.

During this period, students can start preparing for a strong resume, letter of recommendation, essays and other documents required to apply for admission to foreign universities. They must also start working on their academic record as soon as possible. This will help students have a better chance at grabbing a seat at one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Start Preparing for Test(s)

To join a bachelor's degree programme in a foreign university, you must take entrance exams such as the SATs, GMAT or GRE and English proficiency tests including IELTS and TOEFL. While SATs allow you to apply to an undergraduate programme, GRE or GMAT scores help in your postgraduate aspirations. It should be noted that an SAT score may or may not be a mandatory requirement. Therefore, check the admission requirements of the college or university you wish to enrol in.

The difficulty level of the SAT and English test is considered easy for someone who has a strong understanding of basic concepts of the language and English grammar. For them, six months of strategic preparation, before the test would be sufficient to appear in the test and score good marks.

When to Start Applying

Depending on the country of your choice, the admission timelines and intake sessions will vary. For instance, the primary admission intake of international students takes place during the months of September - November every year. However, in Australia, the primary admission intake takes place in the months of January to March. Regardless of this, candidates will need to start their shortlisting and application process nearly a year ahead of the application deadline.

UK January Application Timeline

Germany Summer Intake Timeline

Spring Intake Timeline for Canada

Timeline for USA Fall Intake

New Zealand July Intake Timeline

February Timeline for Australia

Therefore, an early start to the admission process can help you clear out all discrepancies before they have been highlighted by the university for you to rectify, if possible. Moreover, the additional time will also allow students to review and shortlist more universities and prepare better for entrance and language proficiency tests as well.

When to Take the Standardised Tests?

Standardised tests are crucial components of the admission process, often claimed as allowing the panel to get a clearer picture of the applicant. Needless to say, there are different types of tests that are accepted and required by universities and colleges abroad to enrol international students.

Among these tests, candidates may be asked to provide SAT/ACT test scores for undergraduate admissions in the USA and some other countries. Meanwhile, GRE and GMAT are the most commonly accepted and required postgraduate entrance tests across different countries. GRE and GMAT are commonly required for admission to professional programmes, especially MBAs and other similar courses, however, the requirement varies from institution to institution, therefore, check the admission requirements of the desired university before applying for any entrance exam.

Here’s what you should know about some of the popular entrance tests that you may be asked to present with your application form.

  • GMAT: The Graduate Management Admission Test is one of the more popular MBA entrance exams accepted by B-schools across the globe. Those interested in pursuing an MBA should attempt the entrance exam as most B-schools use GMAT scores as a parameter for shortlisting the best candidates for the course.

  • GRE: The Graduate Record Examination is another popular graduate entrance exam accepted by thousands of universities across the globe. Primarily used to enrol across a number of professional and technical graduate programmes, the GRE is designed to evaluate the necessary skills needed to succeed in a range of disciplines.

  • SAT/ACT: The most popular undergraduate entrance exam accepted by universities primarily in the USA, but also at select universities in other top study-abroad destinations. SAT and ACT test scores are accepted for most undergraduate disciplines at nearly all US universities, therefore, if candidates are planning to pursue their bachelor’s at any one of the top US universities, then having a good SAT score is a must.

Apart from these tests, a few universities may conduct their own entrance exams for select courses. However, most universities often accept international student applications without any entrance test scores. In addition to these entrance tests, candidates will also be required to provide language proficiency test scores, if their primary language of communication is any other than the English language

Recommended Reads:

How to Prepare for the SAT Test?

10 Mistakes to Avoid Making on Tests like GMAT and GRE

When to Take the Language Test?

In addition to these tests, all universities whose medium of instruction is English will require international student applicants to submit English language proficiency test scores, if their primary language is any other than English. Some of the popularly accepted English proficiency tests include IELTS, TOEFL, Cambridge, Duolingo, PTE Academic, etc. Here’s what you should know about the popular English language proficiency tests.

  • IELTS: With two offerings, i.e. IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training, this English proficiency test is one of the more popular tests accepted by more than 11,000 organisations around the world. For the purpose of academia, candidates attempting the test should opt for the IELTS Academic, however, a few select universities may also accept IELTS General Training.

  • TOEFL iBT: Offered by ETS, the TOEFL tests are also one of the more popular English proficiency tests accepted by universities across the globe, with over 11,000 organisations recognising the test. Those applying to universities abroad will be required to apply and attempt the TOEFL iBT tests.

  • Duolingo English Test: With the motto of providing fast, convenient and affordable testing options to aspirants, the Duolingo English Test is an online English proficiency test that can be taken at home. The Duolingo English Test is a one-hour test unlike the other popular English proficiency tests and is accepted by more than 4,000 institutions worldwide.

  • PTE Academic: Another commonly accepted English language proficiency test, PTE Academic is a two-hour computer-based test that candidates can take at test centres across the country. Among the unique selling points of the test is that aspirants are allowed to register for the test as close to the test date and schedule, along with the availability of an “At Home” testing feature, that candidates can set up on their own.

Study Abroad Plan for Undergraduate Admission

As discussed earlier, a student must start planning for studying abroad in Class 9th. The succeeding three years i.e Class 9th, 10th and 11th are the crucial times in the life of a student to take admission to a good foreign university for higher education.

It is the period during which students must focus on various aspects to be recognised as the perfect candidate to study abroad. Read on to have a clear understanding of the timeline to prepare for admission to foreign universities:

Preparation Plan for Students in 9th and 10th Grades

Students who are looking forward to completing their bachelor's degree programme from a foreign university must start focusing on the following points as early as 3 to 4 years before admission:

Improve their Grades: The previous year's academic qualification is the first thing which is considered for admission to a foreign university. With excellent grades in academics, students' chances of getting admission are quite high. Students with outstanding performance in academics are also considered for scholarships offered by most universities to international students.

Engage in Extracurricular Activities: Students must engage themselves in extracurricular activities to develop their overall personality. Also, it will be an add-on to the CV while applying for admission. One can participate in sports and games, olympiads, state and national level competitions etc.

Identify the Area of Interest: There are various fields of study and degree programmes offered by foreign universities and countries. Choosing the right degree programme at an undergraduate level is an important decision in life to determine the career future.

It is highly recommended that students discover their interests based on their skills and abilities at an early age and then choose the right college course. When it comes to studies, it is better to go with the interest than trends.

Preparation Plan for Students in 11th Grade

By the time a student reaches Class 11th, He/ She must be sure of their decision to study abroad. It is time when students to consider the following points for plans to study abroad:

Start Researching About the Countries and Universities: Class 11th is the right time for students to start researching about different countries, universities and courses offered to international students. Analyse the education system, cost of study, lifestyle, living expenses and international students' exposure, best courses to study abroad etc.

Take Test: Start preparing and taking tests required for admissions in undergraduate courses like SAT/ ACT and English Language Tests IELTS/ TOEFL. One must take the test early so that there is enough time to retake the test till a good score is achieved.

Preparation Plan for Students in 12th Grade

Class 12th is the time by which the student must start applying to the universities for admissions. Usually, the institutes start accepting applications 12 months to 8 months prior to the commencement of the academic session. One must follow these steps while applying for admissions:

Shortlist the Courses: The applicant must shortlist the programmes and courses offered to international students at the desired university and analyse its curriculum, duration, and future benefits. One must also confirm if the course is internationally recognised or not, the course allows students to apply for a work permit in future or not, duration, fast track facilities etc. The shortlisting must be done in the initial phase of the grade 12th academic session. Also, check the eligibility for scholarships and the application process.

Prepare Documents: There are various documents that a student will need to apply to a foreign university. It includes transcripts of Class 10th and 12th, a Statement of Purpose (SOP) or Essay, a Letter of Recommendation and Test Scores. Additional documents like financial documents, passports etc. can be submitted after the admission has been confirmed.

One of the documents for which students will require extra time and attention is the Statement of Purpose (SOP) or the essay. It is the document through which the student must convince the admission officer about his/ her willingness to join a specific course of study at the university.

Students must start writing the SOP at least 6 to 8 months before the application deadline dates. Also, they must contact their references for a Letter of Recommendation and provide them with relevant forms to be filled out and submitted.

Other academic documents must be properly arranged and scanned properly to be submitted with the application. Students must keep the scorecards of tests ready to be uploaded with the application.

Apply at the University (August to December)

August to December months of the preceding year of academics is the most important period for students planning to study abroad. It is the time period during which the applications are accepted. Once the basic documents are prepared, one must apply to the desired universities before the deadline.

They must apply the earliest possible and wait for the result. Pending documents like Class 12th results, scores etc. must be submitted as per the notification.

  • Accept the Offer: Once the admission of a student is confirmed, he/she will be notified by the university through emails. The students must ensure to accept the offer and also pay the initial tuition fee (if required) to confirm admission.

  • Apply for Visa: Once the final admission is confirmed, the student must apply for Visas and start preparing for travel. They must ensure to arrange all documents that will be required for travel. One must also confirm if any health insurance is needed to visit a country and accordingly apply and buy it before travel.

Also, students must make sure to make arrangements for accommodation either on-campus or off-campus before visiting the country.

Study Abroad Plan for Graduate/Postgraduate Admission

Applying for a master's degree programme at a foreign university comes with an advantage. Unlike bachelor's programmes, you don't have to worry about a delay in applications. You can apply for a graduate programme whenever you want. While some prefer pursuing a master's degree programme soon after the completion of their bachelor's studies, others go for it after a few years of experience in the professional world.

The two most popular Masters degrees taken up by Indian students are MS and MBA. The entrance exams required for admission to these courses are GRE and GMAT simultaneously. Apart from this, you would also have to qualify for English language tests like IELTS, TOEFL, Duolingo, or PTE Academic.

It is highly recommended that candidates start preparing at least 18 to 24 months before the desired time of admission to a master's degree abroad.

Apart from the entrance tests for various graduate and undergraduate programmes at a foreign university, you would also be asked to submit recommendations from former teachers/professors along with a personal statement describing why you want to take up a given course.


Embarking on a study abroad journey is a life-changing experience that requires careful planning and preparation. By starting the process early, considering the right program, and seeking financial resources, you'll be on the path to an extraordinary academic adventure. Addressing your concerns through the answers.

Have doubts about the right time to plan your higher studies abroad? Write to us at abroad@collegedekho.com and let us guide you through your admission process to foreign universities.

Need Help in Choosing the Right Course to Study Abroad?


When should I start planning to study abroad?

Embarking on a study abroad journey requires meticulous planning, and ideally, you should start planning it a year or more in advance. This allows ample time to research universities, programs, scholarships and visa requirements, and to ensure your academic plans align with study abroad options.

How do I choose the right study abroad program?

Selecting the right study abroad program involves considering several factors. Start by defining your academic goals, cultural preferences, language proficiency, and desired country to study. Research universities that offer programs aligned with your interests and ensure they have partnerships with your home institution. Additionally, consider factors like program duration, extracurricular activities, and support services offered.

How to plan finances for my studying abroad?

Studying abroad can be a significant financial investment, but therefore it is important to plan finances well. Begin by exploring scholarships and grants specifically designed for international students. Also investigate funding opportunities such as study abroad scholarships by governments, stipends or loans. Part-time work or internships during your study abroad period can also supplement your finances.

How do I handle the visa process to study abroad?

Securing a visa is a crucial step in studying abroad. Research the specific visa requirements of your chosen destination country and familiarize yourself with the application process. Typically, you will need to gather documents such as acceptance letters, financial statements, and health insurance coverage. Start the visa application process well in advance to allow for any potential delays.

How can studying abroad help in my future career?

Studying abroad can significantly enhance your future career prospects. It demonstrates adaptability, cross-cultural competency and a global perspective—traits highly valued by employers in an increasingly technologically advanced world. Studying abroad also offers networking opportunities, exposure to different educational systems and the chance to develop a diverse range of skills, all of which can give you a competitive edge in the job market.

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