Prospective U.S. university students should start thinking about and planning for their university application process at least two years before they want to begin their program of study.
Early in the process, it is a good idea to identify local people and resources that can be used to navigate the application process. These could include parents, teachers, friends, and alumni of U.S. universities from their country. Another valuable source is EducationUSA. There are EducationUSA offices and advisors in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan that offer activities and resources through their social networks year-round for those interested in studying at a university in the United States or participating in a short-term academic or professional development program. In addition, most universities have dedicated admissions office staff to work with international student and provide useful information and answers to questions they have along the way.
Areas of study
For future undergraduate students, deciding what to study at university is an important question to start thinking about early. In addition to asking people in their support network for input and advice, students can use career assessments to help match their skill set and interests with possible areas of study. The following two examples are based on the RIASEC model – Realistic (R), Investigative (I), Artistic (A), Social (S), Enterprising (E) and Conventional (C):
- O*NET (U.S. Department of Labor) where individuals answer a set of 60 questions
- Me3 (AZ State University) where an individual chooses between pairs of pictures based on level of interest in data, things, people, and ideas in pictures
A sampling of other online career tests can be found within this HubSpot article.
For graduate students, the area of study might be clear, based on their previous work and life experiences. However, it is also worthwhile for them to carefully reflect on their motivations for pursuing an advanced degree (link to resource guides in Resource section) and consult with previous professors, employers, and other advisors on selecting what area of study and research they might pursue.
The years leading up to university application can also be a time for prospective students to try out extracurricular activities, hobbies, and leadership roles at school. When university admission teams evaluate applications, they look at applicants’ non-academic activities. Having a range of interests and experiences, including volunteerism and community engagement, is an indication to admissions teams that an applicant is dynamic and has potential to add value to their academic community. It is also worthwhile to begin a preliminary list or spreadsheet of potential universities for application.