Shortlisting Universities


Step by Step Process

If you give a man food, you will feed him for a day. If you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.

America has an abundance of universities. There are over 4000 universities all across the country. Of course, we can safely say that most international students get into the top 200 universities. Each university has a certain advantage and disadvantage. Everybody wants to get into MIT but not everyone can.

Shortlisting university is just research, research and research; you can never be 100% sure that if you are applying to the correct universities or not. It’s a hit and miss.

Usually what students do is have the quantitative factors (GRE, GPA & TOEFL scores) and compare them. That’s the easiest and most reliable way to calculate and assess something correctly.

If you have 2 bottles of water, one is $2 and one is $1; by instincts, we would just take the $1 one because it’s water; it wouldn’t be that different. But in terms of universities; here are some of the factors which come into play:

  1. University ranking/ reputation
  2. course curriculum
  3. Fees
  4. Location 
  5. Weather
  6. Previous salary data of the department
  7. Data of previous employment 
  8. Future Plans

The first step is pretty common and having an idea is essential.

Determine what you would like to do – RESEARCH 🔬 OR WORK 👷

  1. Research 🔬
    1. if you would like to do research then the main factor for you while considering universities is the number of publications coming out.
    2. some websites rank universities based on publications while others based on academics.
    3. or are the ones where publications matter a lot.
  2. Work 👷
    1. If you’d like to work after your masters, looking for research ranking is great. If there is tremendous research taking place at the university, it means there are more industrial partners that they can hire you later.
    2. For rankings based on academics, you can look for QSranking and RUR rankings.
    3. Focus on the employment data in this case.

How you focus on the university is completely different. It could be various things

  1. GRE/GMAT scores
  2. TOEFL scores
  3. GPA – Academics
  4. College/ college projects 
  5. Research 

Shortlisting can be divided into 3 stages

Stage – 1

Start looking up generalized terms. Look up terms like

  • MS in Us
  • MS in mechanical engineering
  • mechanical engineering top college
  • study abroad
  • scope of mechanical engineering master

What we are trying to do here is just get a taste of the space and understand it from an overall perspective. This will help you go deeper while shortlisting universities. If this is the first time you are learning about the study abroad space; it will give you a generalized idea of the basic terms, university options; what other people think about it, etc

First 4 links that open up

Also, start looking into the course you are planning to go for. Maybe you are planning to switch your branch, or get into a school and is willing to compromise on the subject you go for.

You will find a lot of information available on certain common courses like engineering, MBA, etc. On the contrary, certain courses do not provide much information. In that case do look for the website, qs rankings, Let me tell you why the information on all courses is not there. There are some comparatively new courses. Also, there are so many courses that it gets difficult to even for the websites to have information on it. In these cases, you should be the one to start these lists.


Create a list comprising of 20-25 universities and create an excel sheet with the following entries.

Stage 2 Table

NameRequirementGRE/GMAT RequirementsGeneralised notes on hat you like about universityCampus/ friend already in that collegeFormal life/ professors/ curriculumFeesLocation/WeatherAchievable (1 – easy/ 5 hard)
Michigan UniversityPut this link in there160 Quant, 155 Verbal

Don’t worry on how much you are writing; we will eliminate and improvise in the next stages.

You can pick up salary data from Glassdoor/ indeed/ Linkedin by matching the job profiles of other graduates from the same course.

  • – they give out salaries for CS grads and big tech companies
  • – you can check how much companies pay; they have huge data and not just for tech.

All above 5 resources will help you find average salary data in different locations.

notion image
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For fees structure, you can read one of our blogs on how the fee system works in the U.S.

There is a website created by our fellow international students called – They have accumulated data from 350k students on their GRE, TOEFL, GPA, major etc. This will help you eliminate some options. Remember!! You should not just look at the above website and decide which universities to go for. Rather, use this tool as an extra filtration criterion while shortlisting universities. 

A small piece of advice here, only you can help yourself in this process, because paying someone or a career counsellor can only get you a generic list. You can also reach out to a senior for the same.

But remember, not every senior can help you to great lengths even if they want to. Some may have just landed in the united states and could prove to be of no help due to lack of experience.

I am extremely involved with students and keep myself posted with everything, but here I am, still learning.

After conversing with many students, I found out that a lot of safe universities receiving 1000s of applications every year use quantitative methods to eliminate applications. Whereas the top universities with lesser applications go through them in-depth and try to justify what we call a HOLISTIC APPROACH IN ADMISSIONS. 

Now for the courses where there are fewer data available I will tell you how you can use LinkedIn to your benefit.

When you go to Linkedin and search for a particular university or a name you know from that university, there are other recommendations on the right side which you can look up. Once you are there – remember you have to be polite and should not expect an immediate reply.

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The expectation is the worst enemy here. Do not expect, if someone doesn’t reply, try approaching others. This way you can get some insights from students who are already studying there.

Do not send them your profile and ask if you will get in or not because even they cannot assure you that.

Stage 3 

Stage 3 means your ultimate resource is LinkedIn.

Linkedin → people → Salary search

  • GRE score – how much you might get or already have got
  • GPA
  • Related background

Stage 3 table 

UniversityRequirementsGRE/GMATPersonal/Professional reasonsFeesLocationAchievable (1 – easy/ 5 hard)Previous Salary DataLinkedin ContactsOther notes

Now that you have this data, the research is more validated. This is going to help you in the following ways:

  1. Discussing possibilities with consultants (avoid them at all cost)
  2. Discussion admits with senior/ students already in the US
  3. Your catch on the subject during the live session. [you can register for our upcoming events on the EVENTS page]
  4. You will have a better idea of what to ask

Your motive here is to prepare a list of 10 universities which you feel confident about. Even if you are 50 % correct, that’s 5/10 universities you will get into. It’s great to have choices but it’s worse to have only one admit. So do these exercises and you will be able to pin them down during the shortlisting process.

It’s not rocket science. It’s basic research, but we all tend to avoid it. 

The truth about admissions

  1. A holistic approach is not completely true because a lot of applicants every year use their GPA, college reputation and GRE score to get filtered from the pile.
  2. The reason being, it is the most reliable data source for the admission committee since they have limited time and a lot of applicants to filter from.
  3. They are looking for exceptional candidates similar to them which is why in some applications they ask you to name 2-3 professors you would like to work with. These professors assess your profile and decide if you are a suitable candidate for research work
  4. Even though the admission committee would like to avoid using GPA/GRE as the skimming method, they do so due to the lack of reliable quantitative data for looking into student profiles.

A Website that will come in handy while shortlisting universities.