Applying to a U.S. university is a complex process. Parents can help their child stay on-track and meet deadlines in order to submit a complete and competitive application. For secondary school students applying to an undergraduate university program, preparation can begin more than a year before the application is due. Parents can support their children to:
- Identity career interests through discussion and use of online tools, such as O*NET that identifies potential careers based on interests and future job outlooks
- Explore accredited universities that have programs that prepare students for their selected careers
- Connect with the closest EducationUSA office for information university application resources and activities
A year before starting a university degree program, parents can work with their child to explore universities in greater depth in order to create a shortlist and begin to note specific application requirements. Specific tasks could include:
- Take virtual or in-person tours of several universities
- Calculate the estimated direct and indirect costs
- Identify required standardized entrance examinations (such as TOEFL, IELTS, ACT, SAT, GRE, etc.)
Application for undergraduate and graduate degree programs are typically due between November and January. Approximately six months before applications are due, parents can work with their children to create an application strategy, including a calendar of when and where they will take standardized entrance exams and when other pieces of the application such as transcripts and recommendation letters will be compiled. Because some entrance examinations are only given in-person at test centers, taking these exams may require travel to another city or country.
Some universities require applicants to submit a CSS Profile which has information about their family’s financial situation. This information is used by universities confidentially in the process of determining financial needs and awarding scholarships and grants. There are in-depth questions and parents may need to work with their children to supply accurate financial information. Each university has its own due date for the CSS Profile.
By around April, most universities have notified applicants whether or not they have been selected. At this point, parents can help their children with the final steps, including:
- Evaluate the university offers and make a final selection
- Complete any final required paperwork and payments (such as tuition and housing deposits)
- Schedule a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate
- Make travel plans to arrive in the United States before the start of the academic year
There are many online resources on how parents can support their children as they prepare for university study including the College Board website.