Study Abroad Application: Basic Timelines and Documents

5 minute read
Study Abroad Application - Basic Timelines and Documents

So, if you are a Study Abroad aspirant or maybe you have been talking to friends or searching online about study abroad application you would know that study abroad applications can be complicated. This can be for many reasons: 

  • You may be accustomed to a simple application form which requires your marks/ grades. This is especially true for students in India and other parts of South Asia, where the examination grades are the fundamental criteria for the acceptance of students to a university. 
  • Study Abroad Applications involve a set of different documents – not just your mark sheets! I will explain below.
  • Each destination you target for Study Abroad will have their specific requirements
  • Universities in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK all have slightly different timelines and deadlines They also have different ‘intake’ times when students can join their degree programs. 

Is this a bit confusing? Then this blog is for you! I have simplified timelines in different regions for study abroad and also provided a checklist of the most important documents required for study abroad applications. My insights in this blog are based on my extensive international exposure as faculty at US universities and as an invited scholar to universities in UK and Europe. I mentor students in India and abroad and this information is often requested by my students.

Duration of Degree 

As you probably know, the duration of the degree program varies by destination. The undergraduate program varies between 3-4 years. Masters can vary between 1-18 months. 

TIP: In some countries like the US, degree requirements can be linked. This saves time as well as expenses. Check in advance if your dream university allows degrees to be combined. Then reach out to your academic advisor to help you to plan this. 

How Can Study Abroad Degrees Linked to Save a Semester? 

At universities where the undergraduate program can be linked to a master’s, a student can do some additional courses or an independent project or a research-based paper. These count for extra credit and may help a student to save a full semester. Similarly, the Masters’s program can be linked to a PhD so that the grad courses count towards the full requirements of the PhD. This is an excellent option for Study Abroad students and should be explored early.  

Also Read: How to Improve Your US University Application?

What are Study Abroad Academic Year Timelines?

Timelines and length of semesters or teaching terms can vary depending on your target geography. Different countries follow their traditional timeline to begin the academic year. 

US University Timelines 

US Universities have two semesters : 

  • Fall Sem. : Sept-Dec ( followed by Winter Break of about 3 weeks. 
  • Spring Sem.Jan-May ( followed by Summer Break 10—12 weeks). 

(Some universities may offer Summer courses which students can take to build up their credits, but this is not a regular term). 

The academic year in the US begins after Labor Day weekend which is early September. Sometimes students may be asked to arrive after mid-August for orientation etc. Most US universities permit a Fall intake and a Spring intake which means that a student can join the university in January and begin to take their courses. This would also mean that they graduate a bit later, as per the courses they have been able to complete). 


  • The academic year in Australia typically has 3 semesters: Feb-June; July—Nov; And, a Summer Semester –Dec.—February 


At most UK universities, the academic year is split into three terms across two semesters. 

  • Sem 1: late Sept-Mid-December; Sem 2: Jan—Jun
  • Term 1: Late-Sept –Dec. Followed by Christmas Break (3—5 weeks)
  • Term 2: Jan-April Followed by Easter Break (3-4 weeks)
  • Term 3: April –June Followed by Summer Break (12-14 weeks). 


The academic year in Canada is split into The year will be split into 3 semesters:

  • Sem 1: End-Aug–December/January; Sem 2: January to April. 
  • Summer: April/May– July.

Must Read: Do You Need a Research Project for a Study Abroad Application?

What Documents do You Need for a Study Abroad Application?  

Below is a basic checklist for the Study application:

Important Fact: Different international universities have their specific requirements so you should do an in-depth study of the university website and prepare a checklist for each university you are targeting.  

Academic Transcripts

Record the subjects you have studied;  the marks/grades you have been awarded. Check the website of a few US universities to know exactly which ones you need to have ready for your application. 

Standardized Test Scores

GRE, GMAT,  SAT, or ACT should be with you before you begin the application process.

English Proficiency Test

The majority of English-speaking countries require English proficiency Tests. Check in advance to make sure you have IELTS, TOEFL, or PTE scores as required. 

Proof of finances 

Universities also require proof that you can afford the fees. You can show documents about education loans, scholarships, etc. to fund your education and other living expenses. Apart from this, it is always advisable to show family income or income tax returns. 

Letter of Recommendation (LOR) 

The LOR is an important document for a Study Abroad application. It can be from your Professor or a mentor who has a good idea of who you are. 

International universities appreciate it if you send in applications well before the deadline. Check the website of your target university if they have an “early decision”. This may enable you to get the decision from the university several months in advance. Early decisions also help your chances of availing of scholarships and other university funding sources.  We will be back next Friday with another amazing blog from Dr Maina Chawla Singh on “Are LORs important for Study Abroad Applications? How can you get an amazing LOR?”. Till then, if you have any questions or suggestions, just drop us a comment and we will get back to you. Want to study abroad? Our Leverage Edu experts are ready to assist you in narrowing down the best course and university options according to your interests and preferences.

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