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US University Intakes - What You Need to Know

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US University Intakes - What You Need to Know

Jul 26, 2022Date Published
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US University Intakes - What You Need to Know

Your to-do list may feel like it’s a mile long as you work towards submitting your US university applications. Making sure you get through all of it on time needs some planning. And to plan effectively, you of course need to know when your deadlines are and how early you need to start. The US higher education calendar has some quirks you might not be familiar with. When it comes to US intakes, international students need to know not only when the deadline is but which type of application they wish to opt for. The latter could change your entire application timeline! So, let’s break it all down with our guide to US university intakes.

How Many Intakes are There in the USA?

As with other major study abroad destinations, US universities offer three intakes: Fall, Spring, and Summer. Several universities only offer Fall and Spring intakes, with Fall being the major and most popular intake semester.


Of the intakes in the USA for international students, this is the most popular. International students see a greater proportion of university acceptances for this intake! The major reason this intake sees the most competition is because it also sees the greatest number of programs on offer by the highest number of universities. If you’re aiming for a Fall semester entry, you’ll typically start classes between August and September.


With classes usually beginning in January, the spring intake is the second most popular of the intake seasons. While there won’t be as many seats for as many programs from as many schools available, it’s still a good option if you couldn’t put together your applications on time for the Fall intake.


Considerably fewer universities offer limited course options for Summer intakes. Nonetheless, since it’s less competitive compared to the Fall semesters, you might stand a better shot at getting in if your program is on offer!

Intake Season Intake MonthApplication Deadline (Regular Decision)
Fall Intake in the USA 2023August-September 2023January 2023
Spring Intake in the USA 2023January 2023October-November 2022
Summer Intake in the USA 2023May 2023March 2023

When Should I Start Applying?

This boils down to two things - which semester you want to apply to and which type of applications your university accepts. The actual intake dates and application deadlines can vary considerably across universities. Check the important dates for each of the universities you’re considering carefully as early as one year before the intake you want to apply for! Depending on the type of application, you may need to start preparing even earlier.

US University Application Options

US universities might offer some or all of the following application options:

  • Regular decision
  • Early action
  • Early decision
  • Rolling admissions

Regular Decision

This is the most common application type as well as the one universities accept across all US university intakes. Most universities will set their application deadlines for regular decisions in January. So if, for instance, you’re aiming for the Fall intake in 2022, you can expect the deadline to be around January 2022. If you were aiming for the Spring 2022 intake, the deadline would have been around October-November 2021.

While the deadlines are a couple of months before the intake date, it’s best to give yourself as much as a year before your target intake to start preparing. Waiting until the last minute to work on your application may mean you can’t create as solid a package as you could otherwise. For undergraduate students, higher education counselors recommend starting as early as the summer before your final year of secondary school. Getting to work on all the elements of your application - your essays, the background information you need to find, preparing for admissions exams, and so on - takes time. It also takes time to make sure you not only complete these requirements but complete them well. Budgeting all that time is harder when you’re splitting it between applications and other commitments like school and work. Starting early helps you stay stress-free and approach your applications methodically.

Early Decision

An early decision application is a binding agreement between you and the university you’re applying to. Essentially, when you apply for an early decision, you enter a contract committing to attend this university if you get the acceptance. This means you will have to withdraw all other applications to other universities. We recommend applying for an early decision if you are 100% set on attending the university you’re applying to. Remember, an acceptance means that regardless of the offer and scholarship options, you must attend this university. If you’re choosing this application pathway, you need to be confident that you already have the financial means to support yourself through the program!

To get a decision early, you have to apply early, so typically for the Fall intake, the early decision deadline is around November or December the year before. You’ll generally hear back from the university by January the following year - the same year as your planned intake. If you get that acceptance, congratulations! A deferral on your application, in the meantime, means that your application will undergo reevaluation with the regular decision applicants. If this is the case, you can apply to other universities too since you’re no longer in a binding agreement with the university.

Be sure to check into early decision deadlines and their availability for your chosen universities. In some cases, there may be two sets of deadlines (Early Decision I and II) available.

Early Action

For some universities, you can opt to apply earlier and get a decision earlier if they accept early action applications. Unlike early decision, early action applications aren’t usually binding. Because you typically have until May 1st of the intake year to make your decision, you can compare the admissions offers and scholarship packages of the universities you applied to before choosing where you want to go. Note, though, that some universities only accept Single-Choice Early Action applications. This means that if you apply for early action to this university, you can’t do so for other universities. Like early decision, applications for early action fall around November the year before your intake.

Both early decision and early action applications are generally open only for the Fall semester.

For the Spring and Summer US university intakes, a regular decision deadline typically applies.

Rolling Admissions

Finally, some universities also accept applications on a rolling admissions basis. This means that you can apply at any time from when the application opens down to the closing date. The difference between this and previous options is that unlike an application deadline set a few months before the intake date, rolling admissions can continue right up until the start date of the program. While this may give you more flexibility, rolling admissions are a bit of a double-edged sword. Counsellors advise that applying too late during the rolling admissions timeframe may lower your chances of admissions since fewer seats would be available. So, if the university you’re considering does have a rolling admissions system, aim to apply early to secure a seat!

When Should I Apply for Fall 2023?

With most students wrapping up their secondary or post-secondary education in time for a Fall intake, this is likely the entry window you’re also considering. Plus, you also have the greatest chance of finding your program from your top schools on offer during this intake! When you should apply for the Fall intake (and when you should start preparing) depends on the program and university. While dates may vary considerably, here’s a general overview of what to expect.

Application Deadline (for 2023 intake)Start On Applications By
Regular DecisionJanuary 2023July-August 2023
Early DecisionNovember 2022January 2022
Early ActionNovember 2022January 2022

Spring and Summer Intakes

US university intakes for the spring and summer will generally have Regular Decision deadlines. A good rule of thumb, again, is to give yourself a year before the start of the program to work on your applications. You’re going to need all that time to write your essays, sit your tests, get your transcripts and certificates, reference letters, and more.

Remember that applying to universities is just one stage of the process.

You need to give yourself enough time before your US university intakes to get admissions approval from your school, along with the I-20 form from your Designated School Official (DSO). Without this, you can’t begin on the US student visa application. To secure your dreams to study in the US, you need to build a strong application with a solid chance of admissions success. In turn, this gives you the tools you need to begin the F-1 student visa process to travel to, live, and study in the US. While we don’t want to stress you out with all these steps you need to complete, it’s good to have a long-term plan when approaching study abroad applications. Getting it all right takes some time, but the pay-off is, in our opinion, more than worth it!

Concluding Thoughts

Generally, the Fall intake sees the greatest number of applications out of all the US university intakes. This is the intake that also sees the greatest number of international student admissions. Plus, the broadest variety of programs across the highest number of schools is on offer for the Fall. The Spring intake is what students opt for if they didn’t quite make the deadlines for the Fall intake. You may not find as many programs from as many schools on offer for Spring. Nonetheless, it’s a good backup if you don’t make the Fall intake and don’t want to wait another year to start your program. Finally, the Summer intake is the least common of the US university intakes. Specific schools will offer a smaller number of courses for this intake. To give yourself the highest chances of admissions success, look into the intakes available for your chosen programs and the application deadlines as early as possible. We recommend starting on your applications as early as a year before your chosen intake date!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which intake is the best for the USA?

Since the Fall intake offers the largest variety of program options from the highest number of universities, we recommend aiming for this intake. The Fall intake also offers the greatest flexibility in terms of application options. You could opt for Regular Decision, applying at the same time as everyone else. If you want to scope out your chances of getting into your target universities early, you could go for the Early Action option. And finally, if you are completely set on the university you want to apply to, you can opt for Early Decision. Not all universities offer these options, so be sure to look into the routes available before beginning your applications. Weigh the pros and cons of each option before you begin applying too!

If you aren’t confident that you can put together a complete application in time for the Fall intake deadlines, the Spring intake is a good alternative. While fewer seats for fewer programs are on offer from fewer universities, it’s nonetheless a good opportunity to start your higher education program without waiting another year.

Lastly, if your program is on offer by your school of choice for the Summer intake, this may be the right option for you. Be sure to check out the important dates for your chosen program and university early on in your research!

What is the summer intake for the USA?

The Summer intake typically falls around May for the universities that offer it. Usually, specific programs under particular universities will have a Summer intake option. In other words, the variety of programs and the number of schools with intakes open during the summer are considerably smaller compared to Fall or Spring intakes.

When should I apply for the May intake in the USA?

This would depend on your university and program as application deadlines can vary quite a bit. Generally, for a May intake the application deadlines would be around spring of the same year.