“I've got good entrance scores, I've double-buttered the recommenders and my SOP is in place. So, I definitely deserve to go to the top university in the USA. But, I don't know how to go about university selection- What are the probable criteria before I shortlist them, how many should I apply to? Also, how to shortlist universities for MS in USA?.”
Shortlisting a university is a critical stage in your journey from GRE to VISA and you can't (rather, you shouldn't) take it lightly. So, here's your detailed, yet easy-to-understand guide to shortlisting universities for MS in the USA!
Along with this we’ll also answer questions like -
- How many universities to shortlist and apply?
- When to apply to universities for Fall and Spring?
- How to apply for MS in the US?
- How to prepare application packets?
- How University shortlisting for MS & Application Process is affected by a Student's Profile?
How to Shortlist Universities for MS in USA?
Planning to pursue higher studies in the USA or anywhere abroad often gets complicated as one does not know on what basis he/she should select a university. Here's your guide on how to shortlist universities for MS.
Shortlisting of a foreign university depends on the following factors:
- Course/ Stream of your choice and interest
- On-Campus Placements and career opportunities
- Tuition Fee and Living Expenses
- Financial aid for international students
- Location (advantage in getting Off-Campus Job)
- Ranking of the University
- Acceptance rate of International students
- Course Duration
- Difficulty level of the courses
- Friends / Classmates
Of these, the most important factor is courses in the US. Your future is decided most importantly by the course you opt for. Ask your seniors who have been there in the previous Fall and tell them about your interested course to get some feedback.
Once you have finalised one or a maximum of two courses, start looking for the ideal universities.
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There are so many universities in the US that it's practically impossible for someone to remember all the names. So we've designed a simple tool for you to get started with a few university suggestions based on your profile and interest. You can try the Grad School Finder tool here.
You can then discuss the results of the Grad School Finder with seniors or other peers on Yocket discussions or read reviews of universities on Yocket.
Alternative: Another foolproof but major time-consuming method is to browse through the websites of Universities and learn about them.
Suggested: Grad School Finder Guidelines
How Many Universities Should One Shortlist?
After answering how to shortlist universities for MS in US, let us talk about another pertinent question - how many universities to apply to? Well, you can apply to as many universities as you wish. The only one factor restricting you is MONEY! Yes, the application cost can be pretty heavy on your pocket. On average, one application costs you around 100 USD.
The cost split of application to a foreign university is as follows:
- Online application form: 60 USD approx. (varies from 50 USD to 100 USD depending upon the university)
- Reporting your GRE score through ETS: 23 USD (official scores are compulsory)
- Reporting your TOEFL score through ETS: 17 USD (official scores are compulsory)
Here’s how you should apply to universities abroad and balance out the risk:
There is no rule book as to how many universities an applicant should consider and whether it's easy or difficult to get in. However, generally, students apply to 8-10 universities with 4 ambitious, 3 moderate and 2 safes (Huh?!? What’s this??)
- Ambitious: An ambitious university means the acceptance rate is low and the best profile gets in.
- Moderate: A moderate university means the acceptance rate is medium and the chances of making it to these universities are above average or somewhat realistic for your profile.
- Safe: For a safe university, the acceptance rate is pretty high and the chances of getting through are very high (though it is never 100%).
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CAUTION : Don’t apply to all safe universities so that you get more admits. There’s no point in getting an admit from all the safe ones. Getting at least one admit from an ambitious university should be the target. One admit from an ambitious one wins over many admits from the safes.
What is the Ideal time to Apply for MS: Fall or Spring?
This is by far the most common question you would hear from a student applying for MS. Ideally, the application process should begin by November first week for students planning for the Fall intake, whereas, for Spring intake it should be around September. Generally, engineers apply during this time, as after a month they have to go through the university exams which is stressful. So, all the documents required for the application should be ready by the start of November (Fall) or September (Spring).
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After shortlisting your universities, start filling the online application forms. For most universities, the deadlines for Fall intake are around mid-December. However, it is best to check with the university as some may have deadlines in January or March, while some may have a rolling admission process. Spring deadlines vary between September to November.
In short, if you are applying for Fall 2023, then you should start applying anytime post October 2022. Similarly, if you're applying for Spring 2023, you should start applying post-August 2022.
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Note: Many universities have two deadlines - General and Financial aid. You get financial aid only if you apply to a respective university before its ‘financial aid deadline’. Also, you are eligible for an F-aid if your scores, academic marks and achievements are marvellous.
Is applying early to a university an advantage?
Well, not always. Many good universities review the applications after the deadline. However, that doesn’t mean you should delay your admission process. Few of the good universities start evaluating the applications as and when they receive them. This is known as ‘Rolling Admission’. Example: University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). The advantages of an early application are that if you satisfy the criteria of the university you will get an admit at the earliest, irrespective of other applicants.
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How to Apply for MS in the US?
Once you are done shortlisting universities for MS in USA, next comes the application process. Here are a few pointers that will prove to be immensely useful.
- First and foremost, get a Forex Card. Credit cards are expensive for transactions in foreign currency. You are going to pay a hefty amount (around 1,000 USD) for applying to around 8-10 universities; and each transaction will save you up to 5% if you use a Forex card instead of a credit card.
- Go to the particular university’s website and see the tab for prospective students or apply now. See to it that you select the 'Graduate Programs' section as there will be a lot of data on the website which will be common for both undergrad and grad students.
- The forms are generally quite long extending up to 7-8 pages and you are bound to get bored and restless. But, make sure you are careful while filling the form and use the autosave facility available in all application forms.
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IMPORTANT NOTE: Start filling the form even if your SOP isn’t ready (usually it’s not ready). Enter your recommender’s email address as early as possible. The university will send an email to them and they will complete the rest of the procedure. Recommenders are EXTREMELY SLOW. You have to keep reminding them frequently.
How to Prepare and Send Applications for MS in US?
Packet (in application terms) is a set of documents enclosed in an envelope that is to be mailed physically to a university.
A university application packet generally consists of the following:
- Cover letter: It’s a letter that states the list of documents you’re sending inside the packet to the university. It consists of your application ID No. along with the address of the college. The letter is directed to the admissions committee or the Graduate Admission office.
- Official transcripts: This is the most important document inside the packet. It’s the official copy of your marks issued by your undergrad college and junior college (if required).
- Resume: Usually the resume is uploaded when you fill the application form but if there is no provision for it, then get a resume print out and send it along.
- Attested Marksheets: You have to get attested photocopies of your mark sheets of all attended semesters. The universities prefer that you get it attested by the Principal or the Registrar of the college.
- Attested photocopy of the passport
- Attested GRE and TOEFL scorecards
- Bank statement
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Letters of Recommendation and Statement of Purpose are to be uploaded directly within the Application Form. Over the last few years, many universities have made a provision of uploading all the documents in their application forms including official transcripts. So, we suggest you check with the concerned university before sending any packet.
How to Shortlist Universities for MS in US by a Student's Profile?
A student’s profile can impact the shortlisting and application process for a US university. Some of the factors that would play an important role.
Several universities in the US give substantial weightage to the academic record, GPA or percentage marks of applicants. Therefore a student with a good overall academic record sure has an advantage in the selection of a university.
Standardised Test Scores
This is the primary factor that impacts a student’s selection of universities. Higher your test scores, the better universities you can target.
For undergraduate courses, ACT/ SAT and TOEFL would be considered. Whereas for graduate programs exam scores of GRE/ GMAT and TOEFL/ IELTS scores would be taken into consideration.
Almost all major universities publish their selection criteria and required scores on their websites and students can narrow down their target universities based on their scores.
Work Experience/ Internships/ Research Papers / Projects
Relevant experience in the field can also be an important factor in the selection of schools and universities. For example a student applying for MS in Computer Science having work experience or internship in the field of AI, will have strong chances of getting into a top school (provided the minimum admission criteria is met).
Similarly, for those applying for research courses quality research papers & projects can open doors for applying into top-notch institutes.
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Strong LOR & SOP
Strong letters of recommendation and statement of purpose can impact your application and selection of universities. If you have good test scores backed by strong LORs and SOPs you can definitely target top -rated universities in the US.
Extra Curricular Activities
Some of the best universities in the US are not interested in your academics alone, they are looking for individuals who excel in diverse fields. Therefore, having proof of your participation in extracurricular activities can help you go after good institutions.
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The process of shortlisting universities for MS in the US and applying to them can come across as tedious. However, this will determine the quality of your education and future . Although a lot depends on your performance and preference, make sure you understand every aspect completely. If you are still confused about how to shortlist colleges for MS in US, hit up our Yocket Counsellors today itself!
Frequently Asked Questions about How to Shortlist Colleges for MS in US
Ques. Do top MS US universities offer admissions in Spring?
Ans. Most top universities in the US for MS do not usually offer admissions in the Spring semester.
Ques. Which factors affect shortlisting universities for MS in US according to student profile?
Ans. Factors influencing the shortlisting of MS universities in US according to student profile are:
- Academic record
- Standardised test scores
- Work experience
- LORs and SOPs
- Extra curricular activities
Ques. Which are some of the top US universities for MS?
Ans. Some of the top US universities are:
Ques. How many universities can I apply to for MS in the US?
Ans. You can apply to as many universities as you want!
Ques. Is applying early to a university advantageous?
Ans. Well, not always. Many good universities review the applications after the deadline. However, that doesn’t mean you should delay your admission process.