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College admissions timeline for U.S. students applying for college abroad

If you're one of the many students wondering how to apply for college abroad and need some help figuring out when or how to begin, the number one piece of advice I could give is to start planning early.

So I've created this roadmap to give you an idea of everything to consider in the college abroad admissions planning journey.

While this timeline will help students to be in the best position to apply to any country's higher education system, the number of AP's, other tests, subject-specific requirements and deadlines, however, will depend on the exact program and institution, so I would encourage you to also make sure you're doing your research along the way.

College admissions timeline for applying to college abroad

Freshman Year:

  • Introduce yourself to your school counselor

  • Join some extracurricular activities that interest you

  • Challenge yourself as much as you can in your curriculum

  • Start thinking about the classes you like and don't like (and why)

  • Get in touch with me to start comprehensive planning if needed (my rate is the same regardless of when you start; so it's better to start this option sooner than later!) or enroll in my courses on Applying for College Abroad: How to Get Started

  • Start keeping a list of activities


  • Start thinking about the college criteria that may be important to you

  • Work, volunteer, TRAVEL

  • Start preparing for the PSAT

  • Start exploring possible majors & careers

  • Take a personality test for deeper insights

Sophomore Year:

  • Take challenging classes and 1-2 AP courses if possible

  • Meet with your school counselor

  • Spend your free time only in extracurriculars you enjoy/are relevant to your possible major

  • Take the PSAT in the fall

  • Research universities & work on initial list

  • Consider possible summer programs abroad


  • Job shadow possible careers of interest

  • Discuss finances with your parent/guardian and research scholarships

  • Participate in a summer program overseas if interested

  • Visit colleges overseas and locally

  • Narrow down possible list of majors

  • Take a diagnostic SAT and prepare for SAT/ACT

Junior Year:

  • Plan to take at least 2 AP courses

  • Take the PSAT in the fall

  • Meet with your school counselor and discuss your reference letter

  • Take the SAT/ACT in the winter

  • Take the SAT/ACT in the spring

  • Take a subject test in the spring

  • Decide on your major

  • Start narrowing down list of universities


  • Register for any program-specific tests (UCAT, ISAT, LNAT, etc.)

  • Read about current events/what's happening in your field of interest

  • Review test scores as well as admissions requirements of programs of interest

  • Start writing your personal statement

  • Find ways to engage with your subject (internship, volunteer, shadowing)

  • Get in touch with me to start comprehensive support, an academic review or other guidance if you haven't already

  • Finalize your personal statement and share it with your counselor

  • Visit universities and finalize list of universities and programs

  • Create online accounts for relevant application portals

Senior Year:

  • Meet with your school counselor and discuss reference letter timelines & requirements

  • Plan to take at least 2 AP's

  • Register for and take any final standardized tests in the fall/winter

  • Make sure to take note of all application & scholarship deadlines

  • Submit the FAFSA from early October

  • Arrange virtual meetings with university reps or alumni

  • Make sure you have a valid passport

  • Aim to ideally submit all applications before Christmas

  • Prepare for and attend any necessary interviews

  • Conduct final campus visits over spring break

  • Retake any standardized tests necessary in the spring

  • Receive responses from universities and apply for other programs if necessary

  • Make final decision and complete acceptance forms

  • Apply for on-campus housing

  • Complete the visa paperwork

  • Complete any final standardized testing required

  • Send final transcript


  • Get your student visa

  • Book flight

  • Arrange temporary housing if necessary & airport pickup

  • Pack only the essentials

  • Arrange health & travel insurance



Interested in applying for college abroad?

435 views8 comments


Sonia Seivwright
Sonia Seivwright
Dec 08, 2020

This couldn't be more clearer. Thanks for this. Very straight forward


Britt Kascjak
Britt Kascjak
Dec 08, 2020

This is a great resource for anyone that is considering studying abroad. I didn't go anywhere else for school but I'll be honest, if I had considered it, I would have been totally overwhelmed trying to figure it all out. I work with a few kids who might be able to benefit from this. I'm going to send it their way.


The Prepping Wife
The Prepping Wife
Dec 08, 2020

You have created one of the most amazing resources that I have ever seen, Sara! I think one of the most important aspects of getting ready for college of any sort, but especially abroad, is planning and getting started early. There is so much to do, and it can become overwhelming.


Kat S
Kat S
Dec 07, 2020

I love this infographic, it's so detailed and helpful for anyone considering a study abroad experience.


Lulu B
Lulu B
Dec 05, 2020

This really breaks things down to make applying to college less stressful! The infographic is really great - it has everything you would need to know and easy to follow! This is a great tool for those planning to continue their education after high school.


G'day! My name is Sara, and I'm the founder of College Apps Abroad and a Certified Educational Planner (CEP), one of only 40 CEP's in California and 300 worldwide. I have more than 10 years of experience working in international recruitment and admissions, and I've studied and lived overseas myself in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Brazil for almost a decade. I've also worked for some of the world's top institutions, including The University of Edinburgh, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and The University of Western Australia (UWA)!

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