Admission Procedure to Study in USA


Gargi Tomar
Updated on Mar 14, 2022 11:13 AM IST

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Intakes to Study in the USA

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 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’s 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.  

Here's a comparison between the three admission intakes in the US:

Particular Fall Spring Summer
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

Need Help With Admission in US Universities?

Also Read: Application Deadlines 2021-2022 for Popular US Universities

How to Apply for Higher Studies in the US

Here are the steps you need to follow when applying for higher education in the United States:

Steps to Apply to US UniversitiesStep 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: Once you have an idea of what courses you want to study, enlist your dream universities in the US. The factors that you must consider while shortlisting universities include rank & reputation, tuition fee, notable alumni, eligibility criteria, return on investment (ROI), location, among others. This process can be made easier by browsing through our college listing page or reaching out to one of our US admissions experts.

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. 

Step 4 - Check their Admission Requirements: Every university will have a different set of admission requirements, eligibility criteria and required documents. Check out the university’s admission requirements beforehand in order to ensure a hassle-free application process. The general lists of documents for both bachelors and masters admissions in the US have been mentioned below.

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 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 and SOP: Every university in the US will ask you to submit one to three letters of recommendation and a Statement of Purpose. While both the documents are aimed at convincing the admissions committee to offer you admission, the two differ from each other gravely. 

An LOR is written by a professor, employer or co-worker to recommend and give a clearer picture of the applicant’s professional and personal performance along with their overall personality. Learn more about LORs here.

On the other hand, an 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. Learn more about SOPs here.

Further, for a lot of graduate programs, applicants may also be asked to submit their updated resume.

This is one of the most critical factors of 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 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.

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.

Step 9 - Deposit Admission Fee: After you have been accepted to the US university of your choice, pay the required fee deposit to book your place at the university and residence halls. In cases where you have been accepted to multiple universities, pick the best university among all depending on your requirements.

Step 10 - Apply for US Student Visa: Lastly, apply for the US student visa you are eligible 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 for the same.

Also Read: USA F1 Student Visa Guide

Admission Requirements to Study Bachelors in the US

While applying to US universities, you should be mindful of certain important factors, as mentioned below:

Eligibility Criteria to Study Bachelors in the US

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 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. 

General Documents Required to Study Bachelors in the US

Here are the general admission requirements that you should possess if you are applying for a Bachelors degree in the US:

Educational 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.

Standardized 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 counselor, 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 writeup 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.

Need Guidance on Writing Your SOP?

Admission Requirements to Study Masters in the US

Given below are the eligibility criteria and documents required to successfully apply for a Masters degree in the US:

Eligibility Criteria to Study Masters in the US

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 minimum 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. 

General Documents Required to Study Masters in the US

Here are the general admission requirements that will be required if you are applying for a Masters degree in the US:

Personal Data Form: Make sure that your personal information on all the required documents is consistent. There should be no difference between those documents. 

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: 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.

Standardized 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.

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, strengths, how you would be a good match for the programme, and so on. 

Academic Transcripts: Your academic transcripts are the lists of courses you have completed in your undergraduate studies and the scores you have obtained in the same. 

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.

Also Read: USA or Canada? Which is Better for Pursuing MS?

Entrance Exams Required to Study in the USA

Students aiming to study in the USA must clear the following entrance exam(s) depending on the course and university requirement.

Entrance Exams Required to Study Bachelors in the US

English Proficiency Tests Admission Tests
International English Language Testing System (IELTS) SAT Reasoning Test
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) American College Testing (ACT)
PTE Academic Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
Duolingo English Test -

Entrance Exams Required to Study Masters in the US

English Proficiency Tests Admission Tests
International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)
PTE Academic -
Duolingo English Test -

FAQs on Admission Procedure to Study in USA in 2023

What does conditional admission mean in universities in the US?

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.

Is submitting standardised scores compulsory for international students to study in the US?

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.

How hard is it to get into an Ivy League university for an international student?

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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