How to Shortlist Universities for MS in USA for Fall 2023

Application season is in full swing and will be getting busier for any student applying for study abroad graduate programs in the US, Canada, the UK, and many other European countries. The deadlines start in December and go on to Feb/March 2023. Here is a quick guide on how to shortlist universities for MS in USA for Fall 2023.

As hundreds of thousands of students across the world embark on the application process, most of them, especially anyone who may not have sufficient guidance or know which colleges to apply to struggle with how do I shortlist my college list.

Additionally, the test-optional policies for certain universities have made the university shortlisting process much trickier. A significant majority of US universities, which didn’t require GRE for Fall 2022, have made GRE mandatory for Fall 2023.

Here are a few factors to consider while doing University Shortlist for MS as you think about your applications for 2023 Fall.

Initial Factors to Consider to Shortlist Universities for MS in USA

  • Total expenses including both tuition fees and living expenses
  • The course which you want to study
  • Ranking and Reputation of the University
  • On-campus placements opportunities
  • Location of the university/college, if you can get off campus job there or not
  • Acceptance rate (especially of international students)
  • Financial Aid for international students
  • Can you adjust to the weather of the place or not

How many universities should you shortlist and apply to?

There is no cap on the number of universities to which you can apply. However, please keep in mind that each application costs USD $75 – $90. Apart from this, sending GRE scores and TOEFL scores also cost you.

Sending GRE scores to every university can cost you USD $27 and $20 for sending TOEFL scores to any university. In addition to this, sending IELTS score reports electronically from IPD will also cost you INR 250.

We recommend 5 – 8 universities is a decent number.

How much weightage to give to GPA and GRE while university shortlisting for MS?

The three most parts of your profile to decide where to apply are:

  1. Your Class rank and your overall GPA. In addition to your overall GPA, the admissions committee will closely look at your 3rd year and 4th-year grades in key areas of your study program, progressing of grades over the 4 years. This is about 25-30% of the application profile.
  2. Recognition of your Undergraduate University: This is another 10-20% of the application as most of the top 500 global universities have a very good idea of colleges around the world. They have been admitting students over the last 50-60 years and hence do know the rigor of each university and how students from those UG colleges perform in their program.
  3. The other key score they look for standardization is GRE where it may play another 10-20% role in your application profile. This is more relevant when colleges do not know much about your university or a high GRE may compensate for mediocre grades. 

How to Shortlist Universities with Low GPA or Low GRE score?

  • Every student and a higher study aspirant should remember that there are more than 500+ universities around the world that will give you an excellent education, opportunity to learn, develop and go find a job.
  • What every student needs to remember is that more than 50% of the CEOs of the top fortune companies are not graduates of nationally or internationally recognized universities.
  • If you have less GRE score or less GPA, just change your aspirations on the college list. You may still apply to a few competitive colleges but you should have many other colleges from the top 100-250 ranked universities.
  • Also, try to position your application strongly through good LORs, CVs, and SOPs. There are a few other tricks you can use to make your application stronger, something our counselors can guide you through.

Need Personalized Advice?

Get onto a 30/60-Minute Consultation Session with Ajay Singh

What to do if the University is GRE-optional or GRE Recommended for Fall 2023?

  • “Optional” and “Recommended” are words that cause a lot of confusion and pain among students in regards to what to do if your GRE score is not among the highest percentile of students.
  • If a university is saying “GRE Recommended”, go with the assumption that they are looking at GRE scores and will play an important part in the decision-making process.
  • If you have a good GRE score, go ahead and apply as it will benefit your application. If you have an average score but a very strong GPA, SOP, LORs, and profile, go ahead and apply with submitting the score.
  • If you have a low GRE score, you can still apply but do not submit the score as it will not add anything to your application and you may get a benefit of the doubt from the admissions team if they like your other parts of the application.
  • Always remember if any college is asking for any data point, even if it is optional, it means they are going to look at it during the decision-making process. If they are not going to consider the data point in the application, they would rather not ask for it at all.

Related Posts:

List of Top US Universities for GRE Scores 300 – 305, 305 – 310, 310 – 315, and 315 – 320

List of Top US Universities Offering GRE Waiver for Fall 2022

How to Shortlist Universities if I want to apply to a maximum of 8 universities?

If your target is to apply to 8-10 universities for your MS program, put about 2 universities that may be aspirational for your profile, 3 universities that may be targeted, and about 3 that are safe bets for you. One of the most common mistakes I have seen students make is to have a lot of aspirational universities on their list. 

Ambitious Schools

Aspirational universities are colleges where you have anywhere from 5-10% chance of admission. If you do not have a strong profile (class rank, GRE score, national university recognition), don’t go for the top 20-30 colleges where all the students from your state or country would be applying to. 

Target / Reach Schools

Target universities are the ones where you have a chance of anywhere from 20%-50% probability of getting admissions. For a profile of GRE score of 320-325 and a GPA of 8.0+, most of the universities in the US ranked between 50-150 rankings would be your target list. You may still want to review which ones are the right fit for what you want to do, location, budget, diversity, job placement opportunities, and your seniors from college.

Safe Schools

Safety colleges on your list are the most important part of your list that many students overlook. Why focus on safety when everyone is focusing on aspirational colleges. Since safety is your last resort, you should select these colleges very carefully so you are excited to attend them if they are the only ones where you gain an admit. These colleges usually have a 60-75% chance of admission rate for your profile.

If you are applying to just the US, know there are 200+ universities to choose from so no shortage of options. If you are open to a number of countries, there is no dearth of choice and wonderful opportunities. So, don’t worry about not having an option, contact us and we will help you.

Need Personalized Guidance?

You can sign up for University Shortlist or List Review Service

Should I look at universities across different countries?

Even if you have your sight set on only one country, it is always recommended and good to have colleges from 1-2 other countries on your list.

All the countries, including UK and Canada, have a number of excellent universities with graduate research opportunities and post-graduation employment. Canada has recently become a favorite destination for many students since it has liberal visa policies.

Having options at the end of your application and admission process is always good so you can compare your results, costs, and opportunities before making a final decision.

If you still have questions or want some professional advice for shortlisting the college list, contact us today at or book a session with one of our counselors. Don’t feel like you don’t have an opportunity that others may have.

Featured Image Credit: Avanse

Translate »