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Hi all, 

Applying to pursue your undergraduate studies in the US can feel confusing and intimidating. Students also start from different places. Some of you may already know the process and just have a few questions, while others may not know where to even start. Regardless of what your starting point is, we hope this timeline can provide some structure and clarity. This timeline provides a high-level overview, and you’ll find more specific answers to particular questions on our posts. You can ask post questions directly through the forum.

Throughout high school

Throughout high school


  • Set your intention — Set an intention that you’ll at least consider exploring your options. 

  • Consistently evaluate where you are —Are you pursuing activities and leadership positions within your school or outside? How good is your English? How have you been doing academically at school? What are your strengths and weakness? 

  • Pursue extracurricular/ leadership activities/volunteer opportunities - being involved deeply in a couple of leadership activities/extracurriculars can significantly help you grow & make your application stronger

  • Prioritize your grades: Grades are not everything, but they matter. You’re a student and you should absolutely focus on your grades.

  • Seek guidance: If you are in a school or part of a program that has counselors, reach out to them early and start planning. If not, research options online to stay informed. For example, you can also take Khan Academy great course. 

  • Think about finances: This includes 1). Discussing finances with your family to see what they can afford, 2). Saving if you are able to have a job,  3). Compiling lists of scholarship opportunities, 4). Researching universities that offer financial aid (some offer up to a full scholarship).

Sophomore Year

Sophomore Year


  • Start studying for the SAT/ACT —begin preparing for these standardized exams required in many universities in the US. You can take the test more than once to improve your grades.

Junior Year

Junior Year

take Exam

  • Take the SAT and/or ACT—Take the SAT and/or ACT. You should plan to take it more than once. (You can get a fee waiver if the cost of the test is a burden). 

  • Take SAT Subject Tests — We recommend taking 3 subject tests. Even if your high school system is vastly different from the US or if your high school was in Arabic, you can still prepare for the SAT subject tests and take the tests. 

  • Explore colleges —Identify 10 to 15 colleges that you imagine yourself at. Make sure some of those are “dream” schools (very selective), some are “reach” (within your level) and some are “safety” (where you’ll probably get in. Sign up for newsletters to get updates and learn more about them.

  • Continue searching for scholarships

Junior Summer 

Junior summer


  • Compile application deadlines and requirements for each university — The Common App (used by many universities) consolidates requirements and deadlines. 

  • Decide if you want to apply “early” — you could apply earlier typically in November as “Early Decision” or “Early Action”. Read more about this and decide if it is the right thing for you.

  • Start your college essays —Read this post if you’re looking for some guidance on how to best think about college essays (hint, they are personal and should be unique to you). Check out this post on how to use design thinking to tell your unique narrative.

  • Reach out to potential teachers/coaches/mentors to provide recommendations —You will need around 3 recommendations from teachers/coaches/mentors. You would want to approach teachers who know you well. If your teachers have never written a recommendation letter before or are unfamiliar with the process, read this post here

  • Do not forget any scholarship applications — if you found relevant scholarships, make sure you’re applying throughout.

Senior Year


Senior Year
  • Remember - You can still retake the SAT and/or ACT—you can always improve your grades. 

  • Prioritize your essays —make sure you revise your drafts, and if possible, get a friend or a teacher to give you feedback.

  • Gather application materials —This will include recommendation letters, essays, transcripts, scholarship applications, SAT scores, TOEFL scores, and forms. 

  • Submit early decision application, if you decide to— you can choose only one university to apply to early, typically in November, but you are required to commit if accepted.

  • Submit early action applications—some schools offer early action, where you can receive a decision earlier. 

  • Submit CSS PROFILE early— For those applying for financial aid, make sure you submit the CSS profile early.

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