Applying for Admission to a U.S. Program (2023)

Oct 31, 2022

Each U.S. university and college sets its own admission standards and decides which applicants meet those standards.

The college admissions process is time-consuming, tedious, and at times, a bit daunting. Luckily, many universities and colleges are looking to enroll international students like you.Read on to learn more about the U.S. college application process for international students, including timelines, requirements, tips, and how we can help you.

Even if you have selected one school where you are sure you want to study abroad, you should still apply to other schools—it is possible that your “first choice” school may not accept you. At least one or two of your choices should be schools where you and your advisor are fairly certain you will be admitted. Remember that you are competing with prospective international students from all over the world for a limited number of spaces.

  • What are the General Admission Requirements to Study in the USA?
  • College Surprise: Admission with Conditions
  • Admissions Tests for International Students

Most schools in the USA encourage prospective international students to contact their admissions office at least one year before planning to enter that school.

Follow these helpful steps as you apply for admission to U.S. universities and colleges:

  • Timing

The best time for you to prepare your application depends on when you want to start your studies. Universities and colleges in the US usually offer two main academic terms: Spring terms run from January to May, and Fall terms (also known as Autumn) run from mid-August or September to December. Some universities also offer short Summer terms between June and July.

While each US university and college will have different dates for applying to programs, application submissions are usually open and accepted 10 months before the program starts. Plan accordingly for your own applications: It can be helpful to start preparing to apply at least 10 months before application submission deadlines.

Depending on how many universities you are considering, it can take weeks or even months to research all your options and prepare your applications. By starting well in advance, you can give yourself time to evaluate all your options and apply without rushing.

  • Application

Each institution has its own application form for you to fill out and all US universities which accept international students give you the option to apply online through their website. Keep in mind that many US institutions charge an application fee. You may also be able to apply via a standardized application that multiple schools use, such as theCommon App.

  • Write to Several Schools

After you have selected the schools you want to attend, contact each school for an application form and more international student admission information. You can use the school advertisements throughout this magazine and as information resources to help you make your choice. On the website, you can contact schools directly to request information.

If you wish to apply for a graduate (postgraduate) program you should verify the admission requirements with the specific graduate school within the university. Many graduate programs have higher admission standards, and some programs require that you send your application directly to their department. You should be in good academic standing if you expect to be admitted to a graduate program. Contact either the admissions office of the graduate school or the chairperson of the department.

Please mention that you learned about the school from Study in the USA®.

  • Register for Admissions Tests

Students applying to universities and colleges in the USA must take certain examinations (SAT, ACT, GMAT, etc.) that measure aptitude and achievement. International students must also take a test that measures English language proficiency. These tests are given at test centers around the world. They are “standardized,” so that students take the same test at every test center. Your scores give the admissions office a uniform international standard for measuring your ability in comparison with other students.

Most undergraduate applicants to universities in English-speaking countries will be required to take either the TOEFL or the IELTS if their native language is not English.

  • Take the Admissions Tests

Your test scores are sent directly to the schools to which you are applying. You will be asked to indicate the names of these schools when you register to take certain tests, such as the SAT or ACT. In the case of computer-based tests, you will designate the schools at the exam site and the testing agencies will mail your scores directly to them. There will be a fee for scores that you request at a later date.

  • Receive Acceptance Letters

After the application deadline, you will begin receiving letters from your chosen schools. Some universities inform candidates of their acceptance soon after their documents have arrived in the admissions office; this is called “rolling admissions.” Other schools, however, wait several months and inform all candidates at one time.

  • Pay Your Deposit

Most universities require students to pay a deposit by a certain deadline in order to reserve a space in the entering class. For international students, this deposit can be as high as a semester’s or a full year’s tuition.

You should send your deposit immediately if you are applying for financial aid or if you plan to live in university housing. Because many schools do not have enough campus housing for all the students, you will have a better chance of getting a room on campus if you send your housing application and room deposit fee as quickly as possible.

You may also be required to provide a statement indicating how much money you will have available during the years you will be in school. If you have a scholarship or your government or company is sponsoring you, you will need to send details of your award.

  • Write an Awesome Essay

You may not be familiar with the American practice of writing a personal essay to submit with your university application. Here are some tips on how to write an awesome essay!

Step 1: Think of a great topic. Your essay topic should have personal meaning for you. It should reveal something about who you are, your values or interests, and how you are different from any other applicant. Write something about yourself that cannot be reflected by your grades, the list of classes that you’ve taken, or in any other part of your application. There are several questions you can ask yourself that will help you think of ideas: (1) What are you like? (2) What have you done? (3) What are your goals?

  • Top Dos and Don'ts for Choosing the Right Admission Essay Topic
  • International Student Admissions: Checking things off the list!
  • Conditional admission gives students a chance to improve their English

Step 2: Write your essay. Good writing takes time. Don’t rush or expect to finish your essay in one afternoon. Pay special attention to the introduction. Draw in the reader so that he or she is interested in finding what the rest of your essay will reveal. Use simple words to express your ideas; you don’t have to use complex vocabulary words to show how much English you know. Use the language to express yourself, not prove your smartness. If you make a statement, give an example to demonstrate your point.

Step 3: Take your time and ask for help. Leave yourself enough time so that you can stop working on your essay for a few days—even a week—and then come back to it. This will allow you to read your essay with a fresh perspective. Also, have your friends and family read your essay—they will be able to see things you’ve missed or neglected to mention. Have fun, take your time, be yourself and tell your story well!

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How to answer why did you apply to your first choice academic program? ›

Pro Tip: Emphasize your academic interest

Talk about the specific educational, research, and other academic opportunities offered by the college that appeal to you. Expand on this idea by talking about how these opportunities help support your future goals.

Do colleges care when you submit application? ›

colleges normally start to read applications at the same day for regular decision applicants. unless you are apply early decision, no benefit to submit ahead of the deadline.

How do you answer why you should be accepted into a program? ›

Reflect on Your Experiences. Now that you know what the school and program are looking for, time to brainstorm what kind of skills, events, and experiences can compose your answer. Remember, the grades and the standardized test scores are not going to be enough.

What if I accidentally put the wrong information on my college application? ›

If you realize you've made a mistake, don't panic. College admissions officers aren't going to nitpick over a minor error, but several errors may show you in a bad light. If you have significant errors or omissions, reach out to the admissions office of the college you applied to.

What makes you a good fit for the program? ›

My combination of expertise, passion for learning, teamwork skills and alignment with the program's objectives make me a strong fit.

How do you answer why did you choose to attend this university? ›

Instead, focus on why it was your only choice. Maybe it offered a comprehensive scholarship program, the campus was close to your hometown or going there was a family tradition. Lead with that and then explain the additional benefits you've gained during your time there.

What not to put on a college application? ›

What not to do in your college application essay: 10 things you should always avoid
  1. Never rehash your academic and extracurricular accomplishments.
  2. Never write about a "topic"
  3. Never start with a preamble.
  4. Never end with a “happily ever after” conclusion.
  5. Never pontificate.
  6. Never retreat into your thoughts.
  7. Never hold back.

Are college admissions first come first serve? ›

The school then evaluates each college application as it's received and sends acceptance letters to students who meet their requirements. Since admission is granted on a first-come, first-serve basis, you'll want to submit your application as early as possible.

Why should we consider you a strong applicant for this program? ›

Your skills and qualifications. If you can prove that you've got all the skills that the company is looking for in a candidate, you'll have effectively answered the question. Your passion and motivation. You can highlight how good of a company fit you'd be and how much you love working in your field or industry.

What makes you a good fit for the program in 100 words? ›

Answer: Due to my considerable expertise on a variety of subjects and my capacity to produce coherent and contextually appropriate responses, I am a strong fit for the programme. Explanation: I have access to a wealth of knowledge and can offer accurate and current information in a variety of fields.

Why should I be accepted into a program essay? ›

For a “Why you?” essay, you might describe how your background, experiences, and abilities make you a perfect fit for the program. You could also discuss how your future goals make you someone who would benefit from and take advantage of this program.

Do colleges fact check your application? ›

current and former admissions officers agree that fact-checking applications is not feasible and instances of outright fabrication seem to be rare.” But there are some exceptions. Ferrarin cites the case of a student who wrote his Personal Statement about his mom's death.

Can someone sabotage your college application? ›

If you're considering sabotaging a classmate's case for college admission, think twice. It's highly likely your high school will find out about the incident. And it's highly likely they'll trace it to you, which can ultimately severely hurt your case for college admission.

Will a typo get you rejected from a college? ›

No. A single, minor typo will do nothing. So don't sweat one minor spelling mistake, a missed comma, or a couple of transposed letters.

Why do you want to attend this program essay? ›

So write about how you will contribute to campus life, how you can enrich the community, how you will take advantage of the college's offerings, and how the college will help you to achieve your goals. If you visited the school, write about your personal reflections on the campus, students, and classes.

What is a first choice academic program? ›

"First-choice" school is a component of the school choice program in which pre-K through grade 12 learners can attend an educational institution other than their local district public school. A students' “first-choice” school is the top pick among the rest when choosing another academic school as an alternative option.

Why do you want your student to be a part of the early college program? ›

The program helps young people succeed by providing: Increased rates of graduation. Studies have shown that students who participate in ECHS are significantly more likely to graduate from high school. Additionally, 88% of ECHS graduates enroll in college for the fall term after graduation.

How do you write a why did you choose this college essay? ›

5 Tips for Writing a Great "Why This College" Essay
  1. Treat Each "Why Us" Essay Individually. ...
  2. Spend Time Researching Your Schools. ...
  3. Focus on Your Fit With the School. ...
  4. Provide Specific Details and Examples. ...
  5. Demonstrate a Sense of Enthusiasm.

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