U.S College Application Timeline for International Students

by | Dec 21, 2022 | Admissions

The college application timeline and process for international students can be different from the one for their domestic peers. Foreign students are often given additional requirements to account for differences in curriculums, language, and grading systems.

As an African student considering to study in the U.S, it’s advisable to start by having a good idea about the college application timelines. The knowledge will help you in planning your college applications and everything that comes with admission and traveling abroad for your studies.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled an overview of the U.S college application timeline for international students. Before we dive in, let’s start by understanding application deadlines in U.S colleges and universities:

Early and Late Application Deadlines

U.S colleges and universities usually have two application deadlines: early decision around November and regular/late decision around January or February.

In most cases, international students are allowed to apply either early or late. However, there are schools that don’t allow early applications from foreign students.

If you opt to apply early, you will hear back from the admissions board earlier than those who wait for the regular deadline. You might have your acceptance letter by the end of December while others have to wait till March/April.

However, don’t be in a hurry to apply early – early acceptances are usually binding. It means that if you’re accepted, you’ll be required to enroll. If you’re planning to use your admission letter to apply for scholarships and other financial aid, early applications are, therefore, not a good idea.

What About Rolling Deadlines?

Some colleges have rolling deadlines – where they accept and evaluate applications on an ongoing basis. Such schools may have priority filing dates but no hard deadlines for applications.

Now let’s look at the U.S college application timeline for international students:

16–20 Months Before Program Starts

This is the best time to start your college research. Consider your desired major and the kind of university you want to attend in the U.S. Take time to explore and compare different universities.

Here’s a list of things to do during this period:

  • Start your research on universities in the U.S (use our platform to compare schools)
  • Seek information and assistance from a study abroad consultant
  • Review the required standardized tests and entrance (check their registration dates/register)
  • Review yours/your family’s finances and make a plan on how you’ll pay for your education
  • Identify who to write your recommendation letters (check if they’re willing to recommend you)

12–14 Months Before Program Starts

At this point, you should be narrowing down your list of schools to apply to in the U.S. Once that is done, you might also want to reach out to admission counselors. They’ll give you comprehensive information on their school’s application process and requirements.

Here’s a breakdown of what to do:

  • Finalize your school list to around 4 to 12
  • Reach out to international admission counselors at your preferred schools
  • Take the required standardized entrance exams and English proficiency tests (TOEFL, IELTS, SAT, or ACT)
  • Get the required application documents such as transcripts ready
  • Meet university representatives in your county
  • Start researching scholarship opportunities you’re eligible for
  • Review the essay prompts by your intended universities

10-12 Months Before Program Starts

Its application time! During this period, invest more time in writing and your college applications essays.

Here’s a list of things to do:

  • Write your applications essays and share them with trusted advisors to check for errors
  • Retake standardized tests if necessary
  • Revisit your family finances and ensure you have all the required documents
  • Submit your college applications

4–6 months Before Program Starts

At this point, you are likely to have received acceptance letters from some of the universities you applied to. Weigh your options to decide which university offer to accept.

After making a decision, take the following steps:

  • Inform each university of your decision
  • Thank admission counselors, consultants, and recommenders
  • Send your enrollment deposit

3 Months Before the Program Starts

This will be a hectic time where you apply for your student visa and start making travel and accommodation arrangements.

These will be your main tasks for this period:

  • Apply for your student visa by submitting the form I-20 provided by your university and other required documents
  • Pay your visa application fees and schedule your student visa interview
  • Prepare documents required to enroll such as a copy of your passport, housing application, letter of sponsorship, health insurance, and final transcripts
  • If your visa is approved, book your flight to the U.S

Editor’s Note: This is a generic college application timeline meant to help you plan and prepare your applications in time. Individual schools might have specific timelines and deadlines for applications. Be sure to check these timelines and adjust accordingly.


Are you looking for scholarships or student loans to finance your education abroad? Find a scholarship through our extensive scholarship database and compare different loans on the 8B student loan marketplace.

Share This