Timeline for Study Abroad Planning

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Students preparing to study abroad must complete several steps in the months leading up to their departure. The following timeline provides a general breakdown of the steps you should follow to ensure the process moves smoothly.

Keep in mind that timelines for all students will vary based on your country of origin, the procedures of the university you will attend, and more. For some students, the process can take as long as two years; for others as short as 6 months.

Approximately 18 Months Prior to Departure

  1. Determine your field of study.

  2. Research schools that offer programs in that area of study.

  3. Choose the schools you’re interested in and contact them for application materials.

Approximately 15 Months Prior to Departure

  1. Register for your entrance exams. If you’re an undergraduate student, tests may include the SAT, ACT, or TOEFL. For graduate students, common exams include the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, TSE, TOEFL, and more.

  2. Prepare for your entrance exams.

Approximately 12 Months Prior to Departure

  1. Take your exams.

  2. Select the schools you want to apply and confirm their application process.

  3. Secure your funding.

Approximately 10 Months Prior to Departure

  1. Retake your exams, if necessary. Some students wish to improve on their earlier scores.

  2. Collect your references and transcripts.

  3. Write your application essays.

Approximately 9 Months Prior to Departure

  1. Submit your applications, which may also include your transcripts, entrance exam scores, or references.

Approximately 3 Months Prior to Departure

  1. Fill out Form I-20, Form DS-160, or any others specific to your situation.

  2. Pay the SEVIS 901 fee, which enables you to apply for a visa.

  3. Apply for your visa. The type of visa you apply for will depend on your individual situation.

  4. Schedule your visa required interview at your local embassy or consulate.

  5. Take a 2x2 color photo of your face – it must be less than 6 months old – in which you maintain a neutral expression. You need to submit this with your forms. You can take these at home and have them printed at a local photo lab. You can also have them taken at local stores, where they’re then printed out.

Approximately 90 Days Prior to Departure

  1. Confirm acceptance to the university or college you will attend.

  2. Make your living and travel arrangements.

  3. Schedule your travel plans.

  4. Enroll in classes, if possible. Some schools will let you sign up for classes and determine your schedule before you arrive. Others require you to complete this step after you’re on campus.

  5. Purchase your health insurance.

Check out our Timeline for Studying Abroad Infographic for more!

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