Spring Intake at Universities in the USA – The What, When and Why
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Spring Intake at Universities in the USA – The What, When and Why

Written by Sarah Hastings-Woodhouse

With over 1,000 universities offering postgraduate degrees, a globally-renowned research output and a thriving international community, it’s no wonder the USA is the world’s most popular study abroad destination! American universities generally operate two intakes per year, the autumn intake and the spring intake.

If you’re part of the spring intake, you’ll generally start your course in January. We’ve put together an application timetable below with all the key dates and deadlines to be aware of.

If you’d rather start your course in the autumn, you can read our guide to the autumn intake.


Key features of autumn intake in Italy
Application start time May (the year before your course starts)
Application end time August - November
Acceptance letters November - December
Term dates January start

The spring intake

The spring intake is less popular than the autumn intake, and not all universities will accept students in the spring. However, there are still many courses to choose from!

Applications may open as early as a year before your start date. Deadlines will vary between universities, so make sure you check your university’s website to find out when you should apply.

Some universities will have a priority deadline, followed by a rolling admissions period. Those who apply early will be prioritised by the admissions team, and the rolling admissions period could end early if all spaces are filled. So, it’s a good idea to aim for the priority deadline, even if you can technically apply later! This may also be a requirement if you wish to be considered for a particular scholarship.

The spring intake timeline

Applying for a postgraduate course in the USA can be a lengthy process. We’d recommend starting to prepare at least a year before your start date. If you’re planning to apply early, you may want to start up to 18 months in advance. Below is a rough application timeline to help you get started:

Step #1: July/ August (approximately 18 months before the start of your course) – Start shortlisting courses

It’s never too soon to start exploring your course options, and starting this process two springs before your start date will ensure you have plenty of time to prepare. Start by shortlisting the courses you’re interested in and making a note of entry requirements and deadlines.

Step #2: September/October – Start preparing for standardised tests

Standardised tests are a common requirement in the USA. You may have to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) which can be taken at any time in the year. You’ll generally receive your score within two weeks, but it’s a good idea to start preparing a few months in advance.

Step #3: November/ December – Explore your funding options

Take note of any funding opportunities you’re eligible for, and whether they require a separate application. Most students will receive some kind of funding. This could be in the form of a scholarship or assistantship from your university, or from an external organisation. If you’re applying for funding from your university, you may have to meet the priority deadline.

Step #4: September/ October – Get your supporting documents ready

Leave yourself plenty of time to get all the required documents ready for your application. These generally include a research proposal, academic references, GRE scores and transcripts from previous degree(s).

Step #5: May - November – Apply to your chosen university!

Applications for spring intake programmes may open as early as the May before your course starts, and generally close between August and November. Applications are generally accepted on a rolling basis later in the application window. Check whether your university has a priority deadline, as this will likely in the spring or summer.

How long it will take to hear back about your application can vary between universities, but you’ll generally know whether you’ve been accepted by November or December.

Step #6: November/ December – Apply for your student visa and accommodation

There can be quite a quick turnaround for international students looking to enter an American university in the spring intake, because you may not hear whether you have been accepted until a couple of months before your start date.

Wait times for US student visas can vary depending on your country of origin. It’s a good idea to check these in advance for your country and see whether it’s feasible for you to start your course in the spring.

Places in on-campus housing are often allotted on a first-come-first-served basis, and whether you are guaranteed a place may depend on whether you apply by a particular deadline, but when this is can vary between universities. Make sure you check the deadlines for your university and apply as early as you can! Alternatively, now is also a good time to start exploring private housing options if you’d rather live off-campus.

Step #7: December/ January – Get ready to fly!

Classes for the spring intake generally start in January, but it’s a good idea to arrive a couple of weeks early so you can time to settle in! Keep in mind that you can’t arrive in the USA on a student visa more than 30 days before your course starts.

Why study in the USA in the spring intake?

The spring intake is the less common choice for Masters/ PhD students in the USA, but there are some advantages to considering it:

  • Studying your Masters over a calendar year (or two) can be more convenient for international students whose country follows a different academic calendar, or professionals taking time out of work.
  • If you’re planning on going straight from undergraduate to postgraduate study, starting in January can give you a few extra months to prepare.
  • Prolonging the start of your degree might also help if you’re looking for extra funding opportunities as you’ve got more time to approach employers, charities and trusts.

To find out more about PhD study in the USA, read our detailed guides to universities, accommodation, applications and more!

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Last Updated: 08 January 2024