This article is a complete admission process walkthrough. So if you are a student aspiring to pursue graduate education in the US, do read on. The admission process for prospective students headed towards the US for their graduate education is quite simple. The entire admission process takes about four to six months, from the time a student applies to a specific university. The essential steps to be followed as follows.

The First Step

Prospective candidates have to first make a decision about the specialization they want to pursue in their graduate program. There are so many courses on offer in the US system. Students might get lost when confronted with such a plethora of courses on offer. The selection of a particular academic track, therefore, becomes essential for a student as it helps in making sound decisions on the courses that one should study.

Step II

After the student has a made a decision on the specialization, the next step is to find out the schools that provide the best education in the field. Suppose if you have chosen to specialize in a particular discipline under technology then MIT or Stanford can be your choice of school. But a choice of school is also determined by other considerations such as the school tuition fees and the GRE scores required to make the cut.

The school selection procedure is something that should be done very judiciously. Every single admission procedure costs money in terms of application fee and if the student makes random choices, it might result in heavy financial losses. For e.g., there is very little sense in applying to a school with a very high benchmark of entry when the student has a poor GRE score.

Step III

After school selection is over, the procedure of sending application packets to the respective schools begin. Students should be aware of the semester systems followed at US universities while sending their application materials. Graduate schools in the US usually follow two different semester systems. In the semester system, the academic year is divided into fall {July – August} and spring {January – March} semesters. In the trimester system, the academic year is divided into fall, winter and spring semesters of equal lengths. The complete note on application materials is provided on the Collegepond forum.

Step IV

After all the application packets are sent before the deadline dates, the student has to wait for a decision from the schools he has applied to. The decision is sent out via e-mail or snail mail anywhere between January and May (assuming the Fall term) and/or September to November (assuming the Spring term).

Step V

If the decision from the school is negative, then there is very little a student can do. He can, however, ask for a reconsideration provided he feels that the decision is incorrect. If the decision is positive than the student has to make the necessary preparations. Normally, it is advisable for a student to apply to at least five schools to be on the safer side. This can make up for any rejects that a student suffers.

Once the student confirms his attendance, an I – 20 form is sent by the school. Alternatively, the I – 20 might be sent with the decision by the school. The student now has to take the form and apply for his visa. Acquiring a visa is another big story altogether and students have to be prepared for this procedure as well. One can learn more on this from the Collegepond forums.

Step VI

After the student acquires the visa, the next step is to book a flight and depart. The best time to depart is at least 15 days before the commencement date of the academic program. In these 15 days, the student has to make housing arrangements {assistance is provided by the school} and get acclimatized to the weather, the campus and the culture. This period can also be utilized by enterprising students to look for Teaching or Research assistantships, as it helps in cutting down on tuition fees.

Step VII

You may think now that all the steps are over. But wait. You have not as yet paid your college tuition fees. Before the semester commences, the student must attend all the orientation programs conducted for foreign students on campus and choose their courses. There is assistance provided to students in making their course selections.

The student has to pay the school tuition fees only after all the course selections are made. The fee can be paid in installments. In a semester system {July-August and January} the student has to pay in two separate installments. In a trimester system {July-August – January – March}, the student has to pay the tuition in three separate installments. This payment mechanism enables the school to plan there financial year in a better manner. After all the payments are made, the student takes the classes.

Good Luck.