When to Start your Application Process to US Universities

When to Start your Application Process to US Universities

5 mins read55.9K Views 9 Comments
Rahul Singha
Study Abroad Expert
Updated on Feb 28, 2023 18:43 IST

When to Start your Application Process to US Universities

Fall 2023 admissions: We often receive a lot of questions about how to time the US admission process. So let's discuss questions of when to apply to US universities here.

As far as the timing of the US admission process is concerned, there are several misconceptions prospective students have. Here are a few examples –

Score Predictor

Predict your IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE in just 4 steps!

Share 12th Board, Percentage, english score
Get estimated scores or IELTS, TOEFL & PTE

  • The process can be completed quickly
  • Students can apply whenever they want
  • Secondary school/Final year exams must be finished before you can apply. 
  • Application time is always the same for every US University 
  • The admission calendar doesn't have an end. 

In the context of these misconceptions, let us make it very clear that the US admission process takes time, months even years, especially for international students. The admission calendar and the actual calendar overlap in some interesting ways. By the first week of May every year, the long process is finished. Knowing the timeline and understanding the admission calendar is very important to your success.

For now, let's discuss the timing of the complete admission process. So when would be the ideal time to apply to US universities for spring intake 2023?

All US universities offer admission for the main intake which is the fall academic session. Keep in mind that here everything is discussed from the perspective of applying for the Fall semester. We will discuss the Spring intake later in the article.

The Fall term typically begins in September, which is the month when the weather transitions from summer to fall. Now let's work backwards from September. To begin your studies in September, you have to apply many months earlier. Fall application deadlines can be set as early as November of the previous year. So for example, if you are aiming at attending the Fall 2023 admission session, the application deadlines will typically end in November 2022. That’s full nine months before you actually begin your session. Not all application deadlines end this early, but most fall between December and February, which is still several months before you can start your studies.

This leads us to the question “But I'll still be in school/college at that point! How will I submit all of my information like final exam scores to the university?”

The answer is quite straightforward - most students apply to US universities when they are still finishing the final year of college or 12th grade. This means that universities don't have all of your final scores when they review your application. For example, if you are currently enrolled for a degree that lasts for four years, your application will include academic information for three or three and a half years. Similarly, if your course duration is three years, your application will have academic information of two to two and a half years.

Indian educational system requires a final leaving exam, similar to the British and French systems. American universities are well aware of this, so you will submit your application before you take your final exams. At most, you might be asked to submit predicted or provisional exam scores when you apply.

Realize that the timing of admission means that universities evaluate you on the basis of most, but not all your academic information. This fact can make some of you nervous; what if you perform really badly on your final exams? But there is no need to feel that way. Remember, admission counsellors, know how to evaluate an application on the basis of the information provided.

So to move forward, let’s say you apply in January to begin your studies in September. What happens in between? Universities release their admission decisions at different times. Depending on the university and when you apply, you might get the admission results as early as February, or as late as April. It can be a long and frustrating wait to receive your decision. Most of the students we have helped have reported that waiting is actually the most difficult part of the whole process.

Generally speaking, the first week of May is referred to as the candidate's reply date and it is the deadline for accepted students to choose the university they will attend. So to start your session in September, you choose a university in May that you apply for many months before.

Depending on your situation, applying for the fall intake might not work for you. In such a case, you can consider applying for the next session that begins in January. This intake session goes by different names. Some universities refer to this as the Spring semester, while others call it the Winter term. What you should remember when applying for January intake is that this option is not offered at all universities in the US. Some universities which offer January admission don't offer it for all majors. If you are leaning towards January admission, make sure you do your research long before applying. You will have fewer options than the fall intake, but you will have some good options and it is just a matter of identifying them.

If you have already graduated, don’t worry you are not at any disadvantage. However, universities will definitely want to know what you have done since graduation. The reason behind your academic break can be important in your evaluation. The university expects that you have improved yourself since finishing college. If they compare your profile today to your profile from before, your application should be stronger.

There is no right or wrong way to make your application stronger. Some use the time after graduation to improve their English skills, others volunteer and do community service, and some others work. The possibilities are endless. The crucial part is explaining how your time out of college has helped you grow as an individual.

In conclusion, preparing for and applying to US universities takes time, possibly a lot of time. Understanding this timeline and timing is really important.

Here are some visual guides to admission timelines followed in various countries.

Previous Article: Busting the myth: Admission abroad is really difficult

Next Article: 6 Essential Components of College Admission Forms

Complete Series: How to Apply to Universities Abroad

About the Author
Written by
Rahul Singha
Study Abroad Expert

Rahul Singha is a seasoned editor with Shiksha Study Abroad, specializing in overseas education. With over 8 years of domain experience, he has made a significant impact in contributing to the study abroad industry ... Read Full Bio

Reviewed by
Expert in MS in USA

Goldi Mourya is armed with an MBA degree in Human Resource and is a certified ‘Green Belt’ in counselling from UCLA Extension. She has considerable experience in the field of overseas counselling. Goldi is research-... Read Full Bio

Browse universities abroad




Muskan Rathi

a year ago

I am currently pursuing B.Tech CSE 3rd year and my academic year will be completed by May 2024. I want to pursue MS in CS from the US, so what will be the best time for IELTS, GRE, and other things? Please help me.

Reply to Muskan Rathi


Muskan Rathi

a year ago

This is Muskan Rathi from New Delhi.

I will be entering the 2nd year of b.com with ACCA in 2022 july and I will graduate in 2024 August. So, when should I apply if I want to take juris doctrate programme?

Reply to Aishwarya Gavhad


Charishma Katta

2 years ago

I am currently pursuing my BTech 3rd year and my academic year will be completed by 2023 June mostly and I want to pursue MS in the US so what will be the best time for IELTS, GRE,and other things??? Please help me.

Reply to Charishma Katta

akash reddy

2 years ago

Yea even iam worried about the same problem


varanasi deek

2 years ago


Reply to varanasi deek

After graduating, you can start your prep.


Aditi Battu

2 years ago

i am in 12th and will be writing my boards in march 2022, and am planning to do my bachelor's abroad. when should i apply my admission if i'm writing march 2022 sat and would like to start the college by dec-jan

Reply to Aditi Battu

You can apply for Fall 2023 as the application process also takes time. For more details refer to: https://studyabroad.shiksha.com/study-in-the-us-timeline-for-september-2021-intake-guidepage-416