Updated on Dec 15, 2022 6:48 PM IST
The admission window in the United States opens thrice in a given year - Fall, Spring and Summer. It is, however, important to keep track of the application timelines of the US universities that you have shortlisted for your higher education. It is also advised that you start researching your options at least 8 to 16 months before the academic year commences.
Here is more about the three admission cycles that international students can choose from in order to apply to universities in the US:
Fall Semester - This is indeed the most preferred intake in the US, which usually starts in late August and ends in December or January. Applications are generally accepted between September and October of the previous year.
Spring Semester - The Spring semester in the US begins in the month of January and ends in May. Although not as popular as the Fall/ September intake, the Spring intake also sees a good number of international applications every year.
Summer Semester - The Summer intake usually begins in May with a limited number of programmes in specific areas of study.
Note: The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic was marked by a shift towards online learning for newly admitted students. However, most universities in the US were successful in beginning the Fall semester 2020 as planned, with the introduction of the hybrid model of instruction- a blend of online and on-campus learning.
If you are interested in studying at a university in the United States, here are a few quick timeline pointers you should know for all types of admission Intakes in USA:
Here is a comparison between the three admission intakes in the US:
|Nature||Primary/major intake||Secondary intake||Not available at all US universities or for all courses|
|Availability of Scholarships||More opportunities compared to other intakes as most universities invite applications for Fall||Fewer opportunities||Fewer opportunities|
|Courses on Offer||A wide spectrum of programs (full-time/part-time/online) in all fields||Limited number of programs||Fewer programs|
|Internship Opportunities||Easily available as they easily the nine-month completion of course eligibility||Might face the eligibility issue||Good number of opportunities|
|Competition||Very competitive with leading universities in the US offering Fall intake||Competitive depending on the course and university||Comparatively less competitive|
|On-campus Jobs||Far more opportunities to work on campus||Starting in the middle of the year may make it difficult to finf part-time jobs||Fewer opportunities|
|Post-Study Work Opportunities||Better job opportunities at reputed companies offering good packages||Comparatively fewer but still competitive||Limited|
Check out the following links to know the application deadlines for popular bachelor and masters programmes in US universities:
Need Expert Help to Apply to Top Universities in USA?
It is common for international students to underestimate the amount of time it takes to apply for admission to US universities or colleges. Though it takes a considerable amount of time, you can avoid making this mistake by setting your schedule well ahead of when you plan to start your studies in the USA.
Always keep in mind that getting things going as soon as possible is the best course of action while planning your schedule. You must give yourself enough time to conduct in-depth research on the school and/or programme that will best meet your academic and career objectives. Instead of attempting to fit yourself into a school, look for a school that fits your priorities and long-term aspirations. Keep in mind that universities in the USA do not have an official ranking system. The institution or university that best suits your intellectual, financial, and personal needs is the one you should attend.
Furthermore, you must adhere to the university application deadlines, which may be up to 10 months prior to the start of the academic year. It takes a lot of time and delicate work to apply to institutions, especially those with competitive admissions. The following are the three phases involved in the application process for admission to USA universities:
Phase I: Pre-Application Research
Phase II: Application Preparation and Submission
Phase III: Admission and Visa Post Application
Now, let us examines the above-mentioned phases in detail below along with the steps involved.
Before we explain how to apply to US universities, let us first talk about the preparatory work that must be done. You must first choose the colleges, universities, and programmes to which you will submit an application to study in the USA. This decision must be made patiently since this choice alone has the potential to drastically impact your life and future employment prospects. Here are the steps you need to follow when applying for higher education in the United States:
Step 1 - Figure Out the Course(s) You Want to Apply for: The first step that you need to take when applying to a US university is figuring out the course(s) you are interested in. In case you are not sure, identify the top three courses that you want to study and the ones that have recently been in demand in the US, their career prospects and so on.
Step 2 - Shortlist Universities:The process of shortlisting institutions is time-consuming and crucial, not only in terms of admissions but also due to the high cost of applying to US universities. Therefore, to best meet your needs, you should apply to 5 to 10 institutions or colleges in the USA. If you want to save your money, you may apply to several Universities in USA With No Application Fee.
Consider your professional objectives, job prospects, academic interests, and the personal satisfaction you might derive from international education. Make a list of the 40 to 45 top institutions in the country that offer the disciplines you are interested in studying.
The top colleges in the USA for you to attend may not always be required to be the most well-known ones; instead, they should provide the course you want to study and meet any additional requirements that are relevant to you, such as those for increased research opportunities or lucrative work prospects. The following are the basic steps for shortlisting colleges:
Accreditation status (professional accreditation for some courses)
Average program duration
Facilities like housing, library, student associations, etc.
Faculty of the respective programs
Location factors influencing climate, city, semi-rural and logistical support
Program Offerings like BS, BA, BE, etc and specializations available
Student profile (average work experience levels, percentage of international students, etc.)
Type of Institution, Public or Private and Aided or Unaided
University rankings and college standings
Step 3 - Get in Touch with the Universities: Before applying, make sure you have all your doubts cleared about the university that you want to attend. From accommodation to international tuition fees to their application process, contact the universities to get an idea of the same. Nowadays, most college applications can be submitted online. However, if the college of your preference does not now accept online applications, you should start collecting college applications at least 10 to 18 months before the expected date of admission.
Downloading the Application Form From the University's Official Website: It is the most typical method of obtaining application forms. For undergraduate admission in the USA, the majority of universities and colleges offer downloadable and ready-to-print copies of their application forms online.
Requesting Application Forms via Air Mail: Your educational background, academic goals, the source of financial support, level of English proficiency, and standardised test results should all be briefly described in an air mail request.
Requesting Application Forms via Mail: To request college applications through email, US institutions may have an online form that you must fill out before applying.
Step 4 - Check their Admission Requirements: Every university will have a different set of admission requirements, eligibility criteria and required documents. Check out the universitys admission requirements beforehand to ensure a hassle-free application process. For this, the requirements of the universities you have shortlisted need to be considered. Based on academic eligibility, test scores, and financial aid, your list of colleges for application will surely be narrowed to eight to ten. The following are some of the requirements asked by US universities:
Education records: The majority of US institutions demand a strong academic background. However, based on the candidate's profile, each university or college has its own minimum eligibility requirements.
Academic eligibility: To be eligible for a Bachelor's degree in the US, students must have completed at least 12 years of formal education, which includes passing the class 12th examination from a recognised board or, in certain cases, a junior college. For master's degree applications, universities in the USA may have bachelor's degree prerequisites as well as professional experience requirements.
Standardised test scores: Every college or university has a minimum test score requirement. You should look into the admissions requirements of the universities and make a short list of those that will accept your exam scores. A few of the standardised tests you will take are:
English Proficiency Tests: Admission to US universities and colleges requires fluency in both spoken and written English. Depending on the university and programme you are applying to, you may need to take tests like the TOEFL, DET, IELTS, etc.
Other Exams: These include specialised domain-specific tests; for example, the GMAT is required for graduate study in management, whereas the GRE is required for graduate study in engineering. SAT scores are also accepted by some universities.
Financial factors: Choosing the courses and universities to attend when studying abroad should take into account your budget. Tuition fees are one of the costs associated with studying abroad, and there are three key aspects:
Tuition fees (most prominent expense).
Scholarships and loans are available for certain programmes, institutions, universities, etc.
Other expenditures include housing (whether or not housing is available on campus), living expenses, medical insurance, commuting, etc.
It must be noted that graduate programmes are more likely to offer financial aid than undergraduate programmes. For example, students pursuing STEM Degree Courses in USA are those that receive the most financial loan funding, whereas the humanities and liberal arts field students receive less funding from loan providers.
Enrolment Percentage: You may also take into account the likelihood of being admitted based on the availability of seats, the volume of applications received, the level of competition, and the course's enrollment ratio.
Following the shortlisting of colleges that you would be applying to, let us discuss how to complete a successful US admissions application:
Step 5 - Schedule Admission and English Language Proficiency Tests: After you have found what admission tests and cutoffs you need to meet, book an appointment for the tests at least six months before the date of the test. Ideally, you should take the tests at least three months before the start date of your course, which will let you be well prepared not just for the tests but also for the remaining steps of admission. Also, many exams like the GMAT and GRE allow applicants to send their scores directly to the universities. So, make sure you have at least four universities in mind before taking the test(s).
Step 6 - Prepare Letters of Recommendation,Personal StatementandSOP: Every university in the US will ask you to submit one to three letters of recommendation, a Statement of Purpose, and a Personal Statement (PS). While all the documents are aimed at convincing the admissions committee to offer you admission, they all do differ from each other gravely.
LOR: A Letter of Recommendation, or LOR, is a testimonial that extols your skills, accomplishments, and qualifications and is written by a third party. The third party could be a department head from a previous employer, the principal, a teacher you had in high school or college, or any other member of the institution's personnel. How long and in what capacity your recommender has known you are taken into account when writing a LOR. It is indeed best if your recommender knows you well. They should highlight your capabilities and discuss instances in which you have exhibited the traits they are admiring. You should set aside some time to inform your recommender of the structure of your application and the areas you want them to pay particular attention to. They should include a succinct explanation of the necessity, significance, and value of the research you want to do in a US university.
Personal Statement: The most central part of your application for admission and financial assistance may be your Personal Statement. This piece of paper gives you a chance to promote yourself while also differentiating your application from those of other similarly qualified applicants. It conveys to the college their most personal and important impression of you as a person. Your personal statement should outline your motivations for applying to the particular programme, how your training and experience align with the programme of interest, as well as your hobbies and long-term professional aspirations. It provides you with the opportunity to show the true breadth of who you are. Personal statement and admission essay questions may vary from university to university in the US. Give yourself at least three months to compose the various essays and customise them to the unique university ethics. Before submitting your writings, be sure to have a few close family members and friends review them.
SOP: An Statement of Purpose (SOP) is written by the applicant to tell the admissions committee who they are, what their academic and professional interests are and how they can add value to the program and university. Further, for a lot of graduate programs, applicants may also be asked to submit their updated resumes. Typically, this is submitted as an essay, however, some colleges may only accept question-based submissions. A strong SOP gives institutions a picture of your total and utter personality. This is your chance to explain to the committee why they should select you over the other applicants. With a strong SOP, you may make up for inadequate academic credentials by emphasising your long-term aspirations and objectives. A well-articulated SOP also demonstrates how well you can communicate your ideas through writing.
Further, for a lot of graduate programs, applicants may also be asked to submit their updated CVs or resumes. It must be noted that these documents are one of the most critical factors in US admissions, as LORs, SOPs and CVs often become the deciding factors for selecting a candidate. Make sure to get these documents reviewed by professionals before submitting them.
Step 7 - Fill out the Application Form: Now that you have all the essentials ready, you may go ahead and apply to these universities by visiting their official websites. For successful submission, you will be required to pay an application fee online. Further, if you want to apply for scholarships at the university, you might have to submit another form although many universities consider eligible and meritorious applicants directly for scholarships.
Colleges and universities notify applicants of their admissions decisions well in advance of the start of the term. You must choose which university you want to attend if you have received admission letters from multiple institutions. Your decision should take into account the best programme curriculum, programme length, course selection, faculty, college/university notoriety, etc.
Step 8 - Wait for the Letter of Acceptance: The admission decision, whether it is rejection or acceptance, will be informed to you via the registered email address. The following are the two possible things which you will need to do:
If you are selected to your dream university: Post interviews and selection, each college will inform you of the procedure you should follow to confirm your acceptance of their offer of admission and how to prepare for your first term. You will receive a letter of admission and college acceptance materials that will be sent to you thereafter. To guarantee your place in the class, you may be required to submit a financial deposit to the institution that you have decided to attend. You are one step closer to studying in the USA, make sure you do not miss any deadlines.
If you are on the waiting list: You will receive a letter informing you that you are on the waiting list. If you are placed on the waiting list for a college you wish to attend, you would be asked whether you are interested in that course and college or not. If you say Yes, then you may be offered admission if space becomes available. If you are placed on the waiting list of your first choice university or college and confirmed in the second choice university or college, you may do the following steps to remain on the safer side:
Accept the offer of the second choice university or college; pay the deposit to secure admission if finances are not a concern.
Accept the offer of remaining on the waiting list of the first choice university or college.
If you get admission later in your first choice university or college, you can join it, but you will have to forfeit your deposit (usually around US $50-$500).
Step 9 - Apply for a US Student Visa: Lastly, apply for the US Student Visa you are eligible for and a Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status" if you are applying for an F or M visa. Once accepted to a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school, their designated school official (DSO) will send across a Form I-20. Also, ensure that your finances are sorted before applying for a US student visa. You may also apply for Education Loans to Study Abroad if you feel the need to do the same.
Need Expert Help With Your US Admission Process?
A bachelor's degree programme in the USA is a practically focused curriculum that combines theory with practice flawlessly. With various degrees available at some of the top-ranked institutions and colleges, earning a bachelor's degree in the USA will undoubtedly help you take the first steps toward a successful career. While applying to US universities, you should be mindful of certain essential factors, as mentioned below:
An Indian student applying for a Bachelors degree should meet the following eligibility criteria:
Must have completed 10+2 from a recognised board of education, meaning he/she must have completed 12 years of study.
Must hold good grades in the previous academic study (12th standard) that are equivalent to the minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) for entry to the selected degree.
The minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) for undergraduate study in the US is 2.50.
Must have high English language proficiency, with at least 61 to 89 in TOEFL, or equivalent.
Note: The eligibility criteria may vary from institution to institution.
The following documents are required for applying to US universities at an undergraduate level:
Application confirmation copy
Certificates for extracurricular activities (strongly recommended)
English language proficiency test scores for the IELTS exam, TOEFL exam, etc.
Scorecards for entrance exams like the SAT exam or ACT exam
High school diploma or equivalent
Letters of Recommendation (LORs)
Marksheets and pass certificates
Proof of Funds
Statement of Purpose
Work Experience Letters (if any)
Here are the general admission requirements that you should possess if you are applying for a bachelor's degree in the US:
Educational credentials: A credential is a piece of formal documentation that attests to a person's competence in a certain skill. By successfully completing a course of study or a test, or by fulfilling certain conditions that attest to competency, one can earn and receive academic credentials. Education credentials would include secondary/high school transcripts which are certified copies of your educational background and grades. Although it may vary from one institution to another, many ask for an original transcript sent by your secondary/high school, along with translations into English.
Standardised test scores: To assess your English proficiency level, scores of tests such as the TOEFL and IELTS. You will also have to appear for the American College Testing (ACT) or SAT Reasoning test in order to determine your readiness for college/ university admission.
Letters of Recommendation (LOR): Every institution that you are applying to will also require letters of recommendation from the head or principal of your school, school counsellor, personal tutor, or teachers. They must write about your work and accomplishments along with your potential to stand out during your study in the States.
Essay/Statement of Purpose (SOP): An essay or personal statement shall include a write-up on all your interests, goals, strengths and reasons as to why you want to take up the particular programme.
Financial Proof: When coming to the States for higher education, you would also have to produce financial evidence showing that you have enough funds to cover your tuition fees, living costs and more. Bank statements for the past three to nine months are required to secure a student visa for the United States.
Both the Common Application (or Common App) and the Coalition Application (or Coalition App) provide students with a platform to manage, complete and submit applications to various educational institutions. Although using the platforms is free, applicants may still have to pay application fees to the universities they are applying to. For institutions that want it, both platforms ask applicants to respond to a predetermined prompt in an essay. Along with the Common Application and Coalition Application to study in the USA, certain individual universities may have supplementary essays or short answers that applicants must submit.
By utilising a centralised college application system, you can save time by submitting all your applications in one place instead of individually. By using this system, not only will the whole college application process be much easier, but you will also save a lot of time since you will not have to fill out the same information for each school. However, it must be noted that this platform can only be used to submit undergraduate applications to US universities.
Need Expert Guidance on Writing Your SOP, PS, LOR, etc?
Despite how appealing the MS programmes in the USA may seem, applying for admission can be a time-consuming procedure. All colleges are required to have a comprehensive list of documents for master's in the USA. Therefore, we have carefully crafted the following pointers to answer all of your potential questions about eligibility for MS in USA for Indian students as well as the documents required.
To study MS in the US, you must fulfil the following admission conditions:
Must have completed 16 years of previous education (10+2+ four year degree; 10+3 year diploma+3 year degree; 10+2+3 year degree + 2-year masters)
GPA in the previous study should be a minimum of 3.00 to 3.25, or equivalent, on a 4.0 scale.
Must have high English language proficiency, with at least 78 to 100 in TOEFL, or equivalent.
Must have taken the GMAT or GRE and met the university cutoff.
Note: The eligibility criteria may vary from institution to institution.
The following documents are required for applying to US universities for the masters-level programmes:
Application confirmation copy
Bachelor’s degree or equivalent
Certificates for extra-curricular activities (strongly recommended)
English language proficiency test scores
Scorecards for entrance exams like GRE or GMAT
Admission essays like MBA essays
Work Experience Certificates (if any)
Letters of Recommendation
Marksheets and pass certificates
Proof of Funds
Portfolio/ Research proposal/ Project Description (for specific courses)
Statement of Purpose (SOP)
Here are the general admission requirements that will be required if you are applying for a Masters degree in the US:
Personal Data Form: The biographical and logistical information on your personal data sheet or form includes your contact information as well as specifics about your previous residences, schooling, and extracurricular interests. Make sure that your personal information on all the required documents is consistent. There should be no difference between those documents and what you include in your CV or other informative documents you submit to the university.
Financial Proof: When coming to the States for higher education, you would also have to produce financial evidence showing that you have enough funds to cover your tuition fees, living costs and more.
Resume/CV: To be accepted into US universities, you must prepare a compelling CV that emphasises your qualifications to the Admissions Committee. It is a marketing tool that accentuates your education as well as your accomplishments, relevant experiences, and expertise for a certain academic programme. Many graduate programmes such as the MBA or MS in Business Analytics ask for an updated resume/CV as they demand prior work experience in the field.
Standardised Test Score Reports: To assess your English proficiency level, scores of tests such as the TOEFL and IELTS. You will also have to appear for the GMAT or GRE, whose score reports must be submitted while applying. For more information, check out Entrance Exams to Study in the USA.
Statement of Purpose (SOP): An SOP should give a context of who you are, why you want to study the programme, what are your interests, skills, and strengths, how you would be a good match for the programme, and so on.
Academic Transcripts: Your academic transcripts should include a list of all the courses you took in your undergraduate studies for each year, together with the grades you received for each, the credit value, and the difficulty level for each. It must be typed on business letterhead, stamped or signed by the registrar of your former institution.
Letters of Recommendation: Ask past employers, or professors to write letters of recommendation for you, vouching for your capabilities, skills, strengths and how you could value the concerned department.
Credential Evaluation: If you intend to study or work in the United States, you will need to have your academic credentials reviewed. Most businesses, colleges, and universities, as well as US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), demand Credential Evaluation. It is simpler for admissions personnel to perceive your degrees, courses, and grades in US terms after a WES evaluation.
If English is not your first language, you will need to submit test scores or other proof of your English language proficiency to enrol in higher education in the US. For this, you must clear the entrance exam(s) depending on both the course and university requirements. Below we have divided the list of entrance exams required to study in USA separately for bachelors and master's.
Prospective students must take the following entrance exams required to study for bachelors degree in the US:
International English Language Testing System (IELTS): Academic and general are the two test types offered by the IELTS exam to study in USA. Further, academic IELTS is required of university-level students, whereas general IELTS is required of professionals looking for work visas and immigration. However, the exam is more commonly taken by aspirants wanting to study in the UK as compared to those in the US. If you are still confused about which type of exam you should take, check out the difference between IELTS Academic vs IELTS General.
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL): The TOEFL exam is one of the most renowned English language proficiency tests to study in USA. To be considered for admission, most US universities require a minimum TOEFL score of 570 (for paper-based tests) or 230 (for computer-based tests).
Pearson Test of English (PTE): One of the most preferred tests for students choosing to study in the USA is PTE Academic. More than a thousand US colleges and institutions recognise PTE scholars. The test is further classified as PTE academic and PTE general. The generic version is for individuals who are considering moving for a job or permanent residency in USA, while the academic form is for students who intend to study in the country.
Duolingo English Test (DET): A standardised exam of English language competency for non-native English speakers is the Duolingo English Test. It is broadly accepted in US universities as evidence of language competency for international students. Currently, Indian students can attend more than 100 US universities that accept Duolingo.
Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT): Students are evaluated on the SAT exam by their ability to analyze and solve problems based on the subjects they study in high school. There are two types of SAT: SAT Reasoning Test & SAT Subject Test. Typically, it is used for undergraduate studies in the US.
American College Testing (ACT): American College Testing is ACT's full name. Students applying for undergraduate admission to US and Canadian institutions must take this standardised test. The ACT exam was developed to assess candidates' verbal, mathematical, scientific, and written abilities.
In addition to the English proficiency test required to study in USA, students must take aptitude tests like the GRE and GMAT for admission to postgraduate degree programmes. Prospective students must take the following entrance exams required to study masters in the US:
Graduate Record Examinations (GRE): For admission to master's programs, many top-ranked US universities require GRE scores. For technical master's degrees, such as the MCA, MS, MTech, MSC, and MBA, the GRE is a required prerequisite in several nations, such as the US.
Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT): For admission to MBA programmes at the majority of the top business schools in the USA, the GMAT score is required or at least preferred. For the most part, GMAT Scores for Top US B-Schools (MBA Colleges) are 700 or higher.
Avail of Our Test-Prep Services to Study in USA!
Many universities in the US offer conditional admission to international students who are academically qualified but need to improve their English proficiency. The admissions panel might suggest either completing some prerequisite courses to complete before admission or retaking the required test.
No, submitting standardised scores is not compulsory for international students to study in the US. Some US universities offer test scores waivers and consider other elements of an application while offering admission to an applicant. One must, therefore, check the university's requirements before beginning with the admission process.
With the overall Ivy League acceptance rate being 8.4% for the class of 2022, getting into an Ivy League university can be difficult. However, with the right guidance as well as an outstanding academic background and test scores, an international student can certainly make it to an Ivy school.
Can I get admission to a university in the USA with a scholarship?
Yes, you can get admission to a US university with a scholarship. Getting a free education in the US is very possible with the help of scholarship programs. Many private and public universities offer their degrees for free. Although full scholarships are rare, there are some strategies that can help you get the most out of them.
Which entrance/standardised exams are required to study in the USA?
To get admitted to US universities for bachelor degree programmes, the entrance/standardised exams are the SAT or the ACT. While for Masters or MBA, students are required to take GRE or GMAT exam. These exams are used to demonstrate their academic skills.
How many days does it take to hear admission response from the US University you applied to?
The time required to get an admission response from a US university depends on the type of university, popularity of the programme and the timeline you apply in. For community colleges, applicants might hear from the admission response anywhere between two days to two weeks. Whereas for state universities, it might take about a month to get a final response.
Are there age limitations to study at US universities?
In general, US colleges and universities do not have any upper age limit. However, an international student should have completed high school and must be at least 17 years old to be able to study at a US university.
How to figure out the top US universities for a specific course?
The best way to discover the top US universities for a certain course is by going through the various university and college guides available online. You can also get in touch with us to get free counselling and expert guidance on finding the ideal US university for you.
How do I decide which US university to apply to?
To decide which US university to apply to, list down your requirements before you start researching US universities. Doing so will help you identify which schools are most suitable for you. A good idea of what your goals are when it comes to studying in the US will help you narrow down the list of schools that are most suitable for you. Aside from attending university fairs, you can also visit various online events and seminars that are held by different universities.
What if my English proficiency isn’t good enough yet. What should I do to study in the US?
First of all, don’t panic and contact the university letting them know that your English proficiency is not good enough yet. Post that, re-take the exams as soon as possible. Identify your weaknesses and work on them while preparing for the test. A lot of programs may be available in your home country, the US or online that will help you improve your English proficiency. If everything else fails, consider taking a transitional course before transitioning into an undergraduate program.
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