3.4 When to Apply?
The timing for applying for admission obviously depends on when you want to start your studies. Students are admitted to start their studies in the Fall or Winter session. The Fall session begins in late August to early September. The Winter session begins in early January. The number of students admitted to start in the Winter session is minuscule compared to number admitted in the Fall session. The reason is simple. The early part of any program of studies is highly structured. It is then that you typically take the required core courses. These core courses are prerequisites for the courses that yo follow. And these core courses are typically offered in the Fall session.
Most importantly for you, all international students typically start their program of study in the Fall (August-September) session. We would like to dispel the myth that the student visa or financial aid is easier to obtain for the Fall session. It is simply not the case. It is a function of when the core or beginning courses are offered. Although you can apply for entry in the Winter (January) session for most programs, we would strongly recommend that you plan to start in the Fall session.
The admissions process for the Fall session typically starts almost a year in advance in the September-October timeframe. For example, the admission process for the Fall 2002 session begins in September-October 2001. The colleges follow what is referred to as a "rolling admission" process; that is, they make decisions on an on-going basis during the entire admissions cycle. They do, however, sometimes specify 2 to 3 deadlines: late October-early November, late December - early January, and late March - early April. These deadlines simply mean that the school promises to notify you of its decision within a certain time, say with 1 to 2 months, after the deadline, provided your completed application was received by the deadline. The first deadline - late October-early November - is often referred to as the early admission deadline. "Early" simply means early decision; it does not mean that your studies will start early.
We strongly urge you to apply for admission no later than December. You are then likely to hear back from prospective colleges by late Winter or Early spring and you will have enough time to take care of the visa process and make other necessary preparations. This would also allow for the situation where the college requests additional information prior to making its decision. Since you are geographically so far away, this step, should it occur, would add more time to the decision-making process. By applying early and not waiting until the last deadline, you will be in a better position to handle the coincidentals and still have the time to prepare for your trip.
In many instances, the candidate at the time of applying may be in the last year of completing the academic qualifications and would not thus have the final grades available. In such a case, you can apply and submit only the grades that you have available thus far. Schools in America and Canada understand the situation and would offer you admission contingent upon successful completion of your program and submission of your final official transcripts (academic scores or marks sheet) when available.
Although we would advise against it, you could submit you application ahead of taking your required entrance exam. When you take the entrance exam, your score are sent directly to the colleges that you select. You should note, however, that the college would not make any decision until your file is complete and, as such, you do not gain any advantage. In fact, it may prove to be a disadvantage. When you take the entrance exam, you will know your score. Using this information, you can better identify target colleges by comparing your score with the historic information on acceptable scores for prospective colleges. You would be much more informed and your chances of success would be much greater. We recommend that you take the entrance exam not only before applying, but also before selecting colleges. We address the issue of identifying target colleges in Section 3.6.
To summarize, you should: