Masters abroad: preps and steps

How to Shortlist Universities for MS in the USA in 2025?

Tumul Buch

“So, I nailed the GRE, got amazing recommendation letters, and my statement of purpose is ready to rock! I’m ready to tackle the next step: choosing the perfect university for my MS in the USA! But with so many options and wanting to make the best decision, I’m unsure where to start. What factors should I consider when short-listing universities? How many should I apply to?”

Are you also facing a similar dilemma to the one above? Choosing a university is a huge step in your MS journey, and it’s not something you should take lightly. To help you ease your process of shortlisting universities for MS in the USA, we have something for you! If you are frequent here, you must already know about Yocket Premium, but if you’re new, why not try Yocket Premium and get the best of study abroad services? With a team of 50+ specialists who are dedicated to your preferences and priorities and 10k+ successful Premium admits you can be sure of your dreams turning into a reality!

While you explore Yocket Premium, here’s your guide to shortlisting universities for MS in the USA, made simple and clear!

Table of Content

How Do I Shortlist Universities for MS in the USA?

Feeling overwhelmed by the options for your Master’s degree in the USA? Don’t worry, we are here to help you navigate the process of selecting the perfect university!

First things first, let’s consider what truly matters to you. What field are you passionate about? Where do you see yourself working after graduation? These questions will guide your search for the perfect course—the most important factor in shaping your future. Talk to your seniors who’ve recently completed their Master’s programs in the USA and get their insights on different courses and universities.

Once you’ve narrowed it down to one or two dream courses, the search for the ideal university can begin! Here are some key factors to keep in mind:

  • Specialization: Top priority! Choose a program aligned with your interests and career goals. Research strengths, faculty expertise, and course offerings.
  • Research opportunities: Look for universities with active research labs and faculty aligned with your interests.
  • University ranking: Consider university rankings, but prioritize program-specific rankings for better accuracy.
  • Acceptance rate: While prestigious universities are great, don’t forget about acceptance rates and the difficulty level of courses. Aim for a balanced mix of safe, reach, and dream universities based on your profile and the university’s selectivity.
  • Standardized test scores: Analyze your GRE/TOEFL/IELTS scores and target universities with average scores in your range.
  • Campus life and culture: Research student organizations, events, and the overall campus environment to find a place where you’ll thrive.
  • Job prospects: Does the university offer strong on-campus placements and career opportunities in your chosen field?
  • Career services and alumni network: Strong career support services and a vibrant alumni network can be invaluable for job placement after graduation.
  • Cost of living: Will the tuition fees and living expenses be manageable? Research tuition fees, scholarships, and financial aid options to ensure affordability. Look for financial aid options for international students.
  • Location: Do you crave bustling city life or a quieter college town? Consider if the location offers opportunities for part-time jobs or internships.
  • Duration and weather: How long is the program? Consider the climate and cultural environment.
  • Friends and family: Is there a support network nearby? This can be a major factor in your overall experience.

Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Choose the university that best aligns with your academic goals, career aspirations, and personal preferences. So, grab your coffee, do your research, and find the perfect place to launch your future!

Suggested: Learn All About Fall Intake in the USA

Woah! The number of universities in the US is seriously mind-blowing; even remembering a few can be tough. But don’t worry! We’ve created a super-simple tool to get you started. Based on your interests and unique profile, it’ll recommend personalized universities that might be a great fit. Check out the College Finder—it’s just a click away!

Once you’ve used the Grad School Finder, you have two awesome options:

  • Chat it up with your fellow grad school peeps! Head over to Yocket’s discussion boards and connect with seniors and other students who’ve already been through the process. They can offer valuable insights and answer any questions you might have.
  • Have a look at the real reviews! Yocket has a treasure trove of reviews of the universities you’re interested in. Get the inside scoop on campus life, academics, and everything in between.

Do you still want to do some extra research? You can always go directly to the universities' websites, but be warned: it can take a long time.

Also Read: Grad School Finder Guidelines

How Many Universities Should I Shortlist?

So, we’ve tackled how to choose the right universities for your US MS dream. Now, let’s talk about another crucial question: how many should you apply to?

Technically, the sky’s the limit! But here’s the catch: money. Application fees can add up quickly, with each one averaging around $100. So, the real question is, how much are you willing to spend?

Think about it like this: you want enough applications to increase your chances of admission, but not so many that you’re stretched thin financially and end up rushing through applications.

Here’s the breakdown for getting your application ready for MS in the USA:

  • Online application form: This will cost you around 60 bucks, but it could be anywhere from 50 to 100 USD, depending on the university.
  • Reporting your GRE score: Sending your official GRE score costs 23 USD; you have to send the official one!
  • Reporting your TOEFL score: Same deal with your TOEFL score—got to be official, and it’ll cost 17 USD to send.

There are no hard-and-fast rules about how many universities you should apply to or how easy or difficult it is to get in. However, most students apply to 8–10 schools, with a mix of:

  • Reach schools: These are the universities that are a bit of a stretch for your academic profile. The acceptance rate is low, but if you get in, it would be amazing!
  • Match schools: These are universities where your academic profile is a good fit. The acceptance rate is higher than reaching schools, and you have a good chance of getting in.
  • Safety schools: These are universities where your academic profile is well above average. The acceptance rate is very high, and you are almost certain to get in.

Also Read: Top Universities for MS in the USA


Don’t just play it safe when applying to universities. Sure, having safe schools is good, but applying to only safe ones won’t get you anywhere. Aim high and shoot for those ambitious universities! Even just one admit from a dream school is way better than a bunch of admits from safe ones. Remember, quality over quantity, right? So go ahead, take that chance, and apply to those universities that make your heart skip a beat. You might just surprise yourself!

What Is the Right Time to Apply for MS in the USA: Fall or Spring?

Have you ever wondered when to start the whole MS application process? Well, wonder no more!

For Fall intake, the best time to get going is the first week of November. ️Spring intake? Pencil in September. Why these dates? Well, engineers usually tackle applications around this time to avoid clashing with their stressful university exams a month later. So ideally, have all your documents ready by November (Fall) or September (Spring) to jump right in.

Most universities have deadlines for Fall intake around mid-December, but keep an eye out, as some may have them as early as January or March, or even have rolling admissions (meaning they review applications as they come in). Spring deadlines are a bit earlier, usually between September and November.

So, if you’re aiming for Fall 2025, get cracking on those applications after October 2024. For Spring 2025, start after August 2024.

Remember, the early bird gets the worm (or, in this case, the acceptance letter)! So don’t procrastinate, get those documents organized, and start crafting those compelling applications.


Most colleges have two deadlines: one for everyone and another for financial aid. That’s right, if you want that sweet, sweet scholarship money, you have to submit your application before the “financial aid deadline” rolls around. And guess what? You’re only eligible for that F-aid if you’re rocking some seriously awesome grades and accomplishments. So, if you want to save some serious cash on college, you better get your act together and apply early!

Also Read: Fall vs. Spring Intake: Which One Should You Prefer?

Is applying early to a university an added advantage?

While it’s true that most good universities review applications after the deadline, some start much earlier! These universities, such as the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), use a process called “rolling admissions,” where applications are reviewed as they come in.

The best part about applying early? If you meet their criteria, you can score an admission offer way before everyone else, regardless of other applicants. So, don’t wait until the last minute to submit your application; you might be missing out on an early acceptance!

Suggested: University Deadlines For the USA 

How Do I Prepare and Send Applications for MS in the USA?

A university application packet is essentially a bunch of documents you mail to the university. Here’s a rundown of what you’ll typically find in a packet:

  1. Cover letter: This is like a little intro letter where you tell the admissions team what goodies are packed inside. Don’t forget to mention your application ID and the school’s address.
  2. Official transcripts: This is the star of the show—the official record of your academic achievements from your previous schools.
  3. Resume: You probably already uploaded this online, but if not, cross-check the packet for good measure.
  4. Attested mark sheets: Copies of your grades from each semester, officially stamped by your school’s principal or registrar.
  5. Attested passport photocopy: Just a copy of your passport, stamped for good measure.
  6. Attested GRE and TOEFL scorecards: Show off your standardized test scores with these official documents, also stamped.
  7. Bank statement: Proof you can afford that education.
  8. Affidavit: A statement, usually about your financial situation or something else the university requires.


Just a heads-up that you’ll need to upload your LORs and SOP directly through the application form itself. In fact, many universities have been doing this for a while now, even for things like official transcripts. Check with the university you’re applying to to see what their process is.

How Do Universities Shortlist Applicants for MS in the USA?

Your profile can make a big difference when it comes to applying to US universities. Here’s the lowdown on the things that matter most:

Academic Record

Many colleges in the USA care about your grades, GPA, or percentage marks. So, if you’ve got a solid track record in school, you’re definitely ahead of the game when it comes to getting into college.

Standardized Test Scores

Your test scores are huge when it comes to picking universities. The higher they are, the more awesome the universities you can apply to. For graduate programs, you’ll need to think about GRE/GMAT and TOEFL/IELTS scores.

Most major universities have their selection criteria and required scores listed on their websites, so you can easily narrow down your choices based on your grades.

Work Experience/Internships/Research Papers/Projects

Having relevant work experience in your field can be a major game-changer when it comes to getting into your dream school. For example, take an MS in Computer Science. If you’ve already dipped your toes into the world of AI through work or internships, you’ll be way ahead of the curve and have a much better shot at securing a spot at a top university (assuming you meet the basic requirements, of course).

Similarly, if you’re aiming for a research program, having high-quality research papers and projects under your belt can unlock doors to some seriously prestigious institutions. Your hard work and dedication could open up a whole new world of academic opportunities.

Suggested: Learn About the Highest-Paying Jobs in the USA!


Having a stellar recommendation letter and a rock-solid statement of purpose can seriously boost your application and open doors to top universities, especially if your test scores are already on point.

Extracurricular Activities

Forget just about straight A’s; top universities want well-rounded humans! Participating in extracurricular activities shows you’re more than just a bookworm and helps you stand out from the crowd, making you a more attractive candidate for those prestigious institutions.

From the Desk of Yocket

Deciding on which universities to apply to for your Master’s in the US can feel like a real brain-buster, right? It’s a big decision that can shape your future, so it’s no wonder it’s stressful. But don’t worry, you’re not alone in this! Shortlisting universities for an MS in the USA requires careful consideration and research. Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to shortlisting universities. Customize your list by prioritizing factors that matter most to your academic and personal goals.

Here’s the thing: while it might seem complicated, taking the time to understand the whole process is super important. This is your education we’re talking about, and you want to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success.

Now, if you’re feeling lost and overwhelmed by the whole “shortlisting universities” thing, don’t worry! The Yocket Premium is a click away, ready to guide you through this whole journey. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our advisors by booking a 15-minute free consultation call for personalized guidance throughout the process.

Frequently Asked Questions about How to Shortlist Colleges for MS in US

Do top US universities offer admissions in the Spring for MS programs?

Which factors affect shortlisting universities for MS in the US according to the student profile?

How many universities can I apply to for MS in the US?

Is applying early to a US university advantageous for MS programs?

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