The US application process follows a similar time to UCAS. Ideally, the process of applying for undergraduate study in the US will begin 1-1½ years before enrolment. For most students, this is during the spring/summer at the end of 6.1. Do not panic you if are entering 6.2 and are only now getting started. You will simply need to work at a faster pace.
As convenient as this document may seem, please do NOT take it as gospel. I’m talking from past experience and every university is different. So be prepared to do a lot of independent research and be very organised when dealing with deadlines, it seriously helps to have some sort of calendar.
6.1 (Lower Sixth)
Check out the Fulbright Commission’s website, it has some information that is definitely worth reading.
Start researching and choosing the 4 - 6 universities (you can apply to as many as you want, however the more you apply for, the more work you create for yourself as each university requires you to write up to four concise personal statements).
You should try to attend a Fulbright Commission Undergraduate Study Seminar, where Fulbright advisors will cover everything you need to know to apply for US universities - the application process, admissions exams, choosing the right institution and funding opportunities.
You must do either ACT or SAT, it is a matter of personal preference as the vast majority of universities accept both. Do some sample questions online to decide which best suits you. Once you’ve chosen, check VERY CAREFULLY each university’s website (it is even worth calling the admission department) to find out whether they require you to do ‘subject tests’ (these are additional papers, separate to the main SAT/ACT, but are made by the same examining board). Once you have found out what is required, go on to their respective websites and register yourself AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE as places are in high demand.
Book SAT tuition as soon as possible, there are lots of good ‘intensive’ courses which are cheaper than one-to-one tuition, one-to-one tuition is necessary to master it. I would use ST Logic as a tutor company; they are all very friendly and very good teachers.
Register for USA College Day – the UK's only US study fair. Visitor registration opens in August.
1st August - Common Application available online (this is the American equivalent to UCAS, however not all universities use it. If they don’t you must apply to their own system).
Narrow your university choices (4 - 5 is a good number).
6.2 (Upper Sixth)
Attend USA College Day.
Request a transcript from school and 2-3 reference letters (all universities differ).
Begin drafting your application essays.
Alongside your admissions applications, apply for funding from US universities and external funding bodies, alongside the application process.
October - November
Application deadlines for Early Decision (legally binding) and Early Action deadlines.
Receive unconditional admissions decision if applied for Early Decision/Action.
January - March
Regular application deadlines, with most in January.
March - April
Receive admissions and university funding decisions by post or e-mail.
Typically by 1 May: Notify the universities of your decision and pay a non-refundable deposit to hold your place – you will have to apply for housing, parking etc. too.
Begin visa application process – this is one of the most, if not THE most rigorous processes you will ever have to go through. You must be very organised and prepare well in advance as lots of peculiar material is needed. Check the US embassy website thoroughly and call the day before to confirm you have everything.
Read the pre-departure section of the Fulbright website to prepare for your arrival in the US.
June - July
Complete your visa interview at the US Embassy in London.
August – September
Attend new student and international student orientations before classes begin - these are very very useful.