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University Shortlisting for MS in USA

University Shortlisting for MS/MBA

University shortlisting is one of the trickiest components of applying to any Master’s program. US has more than 1500 universities – obviously you need good research and guidance to pick what’s right for you.

Applying to right graduate school can determine your job & scholarship prospects, so spend good time researching which schools suit your financial & career needs.

Let’s take a look at steps involved in shortlisting right universities

  1. Create a list of criteria that matters to you

    Criteria can include cost of attendance, ranks, job placements, weather etc

  2. Use a university search engine (or a proven study abroad counselor) to narrow your search to 10-20 universities meeting your criteria

  3. Visit the website of each of the school to further confirm your interest

  4. Check the deadlines and apply

University Shortlisting in USA

We are going to discuss the most important topic of your applications today i.e. which schools should you apply to. We recommend applying to at least 10 schools for MS and 5 schools for MBA programs.

University shortlisting is a very strategic decision that can determine:

  • Whether you get admitted or not
  • Even if you get admitted, whether you get scholarship or not
  • What will be your job prospects upon graduating

As you can see, all of these are critical factors for your future. Let us explore them further now.

Create a list of criteria that matters to you

Every applicant has different risk profile and financial constraints – hence, it is very important that you decide what matters most to you.

Mostly, people shortlist schools based on costs and availability of funding, job prospects, program ranking, class size, location, competition and living conditions such as weather, population of international students etc.

In our experience, job prospects and cost of attendance are the most important considerations. Let’s explore them further.

Job prospects at a school

Job hunt is a bigger topic but the bottomline is that there are two ways you are going to land a job interview when studying in US – on campus recruitment or applying on your own (off-campus). There are some companies that will come on campus and you can apply through your school’s career office. Obviously, this is easier than hunting companies and applying on their websites because an employer is going to devote more attention to students in person. So, higher the number of employers that come on campus in a school, better the job prospects will be for you.

Therefore, one of your criteria for university shortlisting should be to find schools that have more employers coming for placements on-campus. This is often correlated to the ranking of the program. Top 20 schools in your area of interest would be more attractive to the employers. If not, it would be help if the university is located in a job friendly city (such as NYC) rather than a suburban town (Dartmouth).

Cost of attendance

And you also don’t want to end up in huge debt while studying. So you want schools that are affordable or more likely to offer at least some kind of scholarship.

Of course, if you are looking to start your own company instead of joining a job, you should take that into account instead of maximizing job prospects. If you want to learn more about how we do it, check out our counseling packages and contact us.

Additionally, you might have some other personal factors while university shortlisting (for e.g. I have to study in Tristate area (NY, NJ, CT) because my aunt lives there). We advise not to restrict yourself and try to get into the best school you can because studying abroad is big investment both of money and time. So, you should try to get the maximum return and not restrain yourself. It’s fine if your brother lives in Iowa, studying from San Francisco is still going to be better for you.

Narrow your search to 10-20 universities meeting your criteria

Using a trusted counselor such as Scholar Strategy or by your own research, create an initial list of universities that meet your preferences. Look at our results page to get an idea of real applicant profiles and what programs did they get into.

Often local counselors make you apply to 2-3 safe schools where you are most likely to get admitted. It is fine as long as the schools are legit and will not compromise on your career prospects but sometimes, they have tie ups with not so legit schools. Most of the times, your visa will be rejected for such schools.

What is worse is when some unfortunate students end up going to these schools only to discover later that there are zero job prospects or that the degree itself is not recognized. This is terrible and the only option left at that point is to come back to India with a hefty education loan and a not so worthy degree. A student should be smart enough to not fall into these traps and make sure that you are taking counseling with someone who knows about this domain and is providing genuine guidance. A good counselor will tell you where NOT to go.

Secondly, most counselors have set universities that they make all students apply to irrespective of their profiles. This is because they have tie-ups with these universities. Unfortunately, if a counselor is earning from these schools, then its interest is aligned with them and not YOU. Have a say in school selection process and try to use your own due diligence to determine if it is worth applying to a school or not.

Sometimes, its better to take a job in India and wait another year before applying instead of going to a worthless school.

Visit the website of each of the school to further confirm your interest

The best place to get up-to-date information about a university is on its official website. Research university websites carefully to find out:

  • University’s selection criteria, application process and deadlines
  • Financial aid page for information on costs and university-funded scholarship, fellowships, or assistantships.
  • Curriculum, courses, capstone projects etc.
  • How is the campus life and activities? Does it fit your personality?

Key Takeaways

Remember that university shortlisting is the MOST critical part of your application and if done carelessly, can ruin all other efforts you put in GRE and application documents. Schools can largely determine your job and scholarship prospects, so it makes sense to spend enough time researching on which schools suit your financial and career needs. In our online counseling program, we use a proprietary triangulation technique for this which takes multiple criteria that have direct bearing upon your career prospect into account.

This post is the part of MS in USA application process series.

1 Comment

  1. sir,im a student of BE MECHANICAL ENGINEERING studying in deemed university i had interest in doing MS in abroad after my BE, I have to know wether its possible to study MS in abroad????????????????


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It was awesome to work with Nistha, on my applications. I received regular responses to improve on my SOP and LOR’s. Great help in shortlisting universities. Thank you Nistha 🙂
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