It’s easy to underestimate just how long it takes to apply to study abroad. If you’re worried about not having everything together in time to make the September deadlines, then the January intake period could be a great option for you. Just remember, it’s important to start preparing well in advance to avoid any disappointments down the line.

A good place to start is to set a schedule for yourself. To help you along the way, we’ve put together a list of the key milestones and deadlines, that help break down the steps you need to take to complete your application.

18 Months Before: Making Big Decisions

Before anything else, you’ll need to decide if studying abroad is in fact the right choice for you. What are the benefits? What can you expect? Where is the best location for you? These are important questions and there's a lot to consider, so make sure you’ve done your homework before you take the big leap.

Next, you’ll need to decide on the right university for you within the location of your choice, as well as the right programme. Bear in mind that you want to find the college and degree that will best serve both your academic and professional goals. Try to narrow it down to the top 6-8 universities that best suit you, and then make sure you gather all the information you can about the school, so that you’re well prepared for their unique application process and requirements.

10-12 Months Before: Preparation is Key

Now that you have the list of universities you’ll be applying to, you need to make sure that you meet their application deadlines. Remember that these may all be slightly different, and could be up to ten months before the school term even begins! Some schools are more competitive than others and many have very lengthy and time-consuming application processes, so the sooner you get started on your preparations the better.

Some universities will require you to take an admissions test, which you’ll need to register for in advance. It’s worth checking this out sooner rather than later, as there will usually be a fair amount of studying and preparations you’ll need to do beforehand (especially if you’re aiming to ace it)! If you think you might need some extra help or one-on-one support, it’s a good idea to meet with a test tutor who can help you prepare, and guide you on what to expect.

Beyond filling in the application forms, it’s also likely that you’ll have to write a personal statement and submit your official transcript from your school, with references from your teachers or mentors. Be sure to factor in the extra time it will take to gather these important documents. Another thing to get an early start on is your visa application. Begin researching what it entails so that you can get your documents together well in advance, allowing you to apply for a student visa as soon as you’ve been accepted into a programme.

4-7 Months Before: Crunch Time

Complete and mail your applications and make sure you’ve paid your application fees. Application deadlines for the January intake period are usually around October or November, but make sure you find out the specific dates for your chosen universities.

Take the entrance exams and set up admissions interviews if possible, as these can really help give you that edge over other applicants.

3 Months Before: Get the Show on the Road

By this stage, you’re frantically checking your application results and making your final decisions on which spot to take, if you’re lucky enough to have been accepted into more than one university. As soon as you’ve confirmed your place, it’s time to apply for your student visa. Often this can involve a visa interview, so make an appointment as soon as you can.

D-Day!

You’ve been accepted! But before you breathe that sigh of relief, remember that there are still some things you need to figure out. Like where you’re going to stay, and how you’re going to get there. Whichever accommodation route you decide on, and the earlier you make arrangements, the better your chances of securing a great place to live. Book your flights early too, as they may get more expensive if you leave it to the last minute.

Still haven’t decided where you want to go? Check out our university listings, and get that application ball rolling!

About the Author: Tessa Cunliffe is a South African based digital copywriter and marketer, with a passion for travel and learning. Yoga-inspired and coffee-fuelled. Always planning the next adventure.