How to Shortlist Universities in the USA?
Faisal Kakar

Faisal Kakar

Jan 23, 2022
05 mins

Step 1: Explore Ranking

Before applying to the USA universities/schools, the most important step is to explore the university where you want to apply. The majority of students fail to make it to good schools due to a lack of guidance and information. The majority think that IVY leagues are the top schools and studying from other top schools will not be a good choice for their career. Indeed, IVY leagues are of the top schools but they are not the only good schools. Moreover, a particular university might be good in one field but might not be good in another. For instance: Dartmouth is an IVY league school but it is ranked in number the 60s. This simply means that there are other 59 schools better than Dartmouth in the engineering field. So it’s very important that we get ourselves familiar with the university ranking.

Globally, there are many ranking websites and you might get confused if you follow any one of them. We would recommend starting off with the US NEWS website because that is the most recognized one among educationists.

The purpose of knowing the school ranking is to make you familiar with the schools in the United States or other countries and also it helps you to analyze which ones fulfill your needs based on your academic profile.

  1. Go to the US News Website.
  2. Select your majors or the subject you want to study. For Example: If you want to study engineering, then please select program as “Engineering” and then press “Go”. You would see the list of engineering schools. If you want to further filter your field, then you can choose “Civil Engineering”, “Electrical Engineering” etc.
  3. After checking the ranking, note down the names of schools where you intend to apply.
  4. Explore the schools which you noted down to go to schools’ websites and check the admission requirements, FAQs, Eligibility Criteria Class profile, etc.

Generally, the top 50 schools within the USA are very good in every field of study. But if you have an engineering background, then competition is pretty high and you might need to explore schools in the top 100.

Step 2: Shortlisting Universities USA

After you get to know about school rankings, the next most important step is to shortlist the right schools. This is by far the most neglected step by the majority of students.

You need to see the school’s ranking note down the schools where you want to apply and then go to the main page of the university/school to explore more details.

Check each and every detail on the university (department) page. We recommend checking the following details if they are available on the university website:

Eligibility Criteria

  • Admission Requirement
  • Application Requirement
  • Class Profile
  • FAQ
  • Curriculum

Please note that all schools or universities might not have the same headings or titles as mentioned above but try to explore all pages.

It’s very important that you get yourself familiar with the following university requirements for the particular program as follows:

  • GRE Scores
  • GPA
  • IELTS/TOEFL (International Students)
  • Statement of Purpose (SoP) /Essay Questions
  • Application Fee
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Faculty Research Areas (Ph.D. and Research-Based MS Programs)
  • Scholarship Deadline
  • Application Deadline

By checking all the details on the university website, you would get an idea of what sort of profile do they prefer for admission and hence the scholarships.

How to Shortlist Universities in the USA:

We would recommend creating a spreadsheet/excel document and mentioning all schools where you want to apply based on your profile and the profile university prefers to admit. Moreover, it’s also very important to note down the deadlines dates, so you can prepare your applications accordingly.

Against, every university you had listed on the excel document, do share all the above university requirements in front of the university name such as GRE, GPA, Deadline Date, IELTS, Application Fee, Faculty research, etc.

You should shortlist schools based on your profile. While shortlisting, your profile should be better than the average profile mentioned on the university requirement. For example, if the university requirement is Average GRE is 320, then you need to make sure your score should be 320+. Similarly, the GPA requirement is 3.0, so you need to make sure it’s higher than 3. You can not apply to the same university with a GPA of 2.9 or 2.8.

Let’s say you have a low GPA, then you need to look for that university that has a low GPA requirement or no requirement at all.

The idea is to apply smartly and shortlist only those universities where your profile matches the average class profile of the university.

We have seen students get overwhelmed by doubts and uncertainty related to the US admission process. There are two broad reasons why they don’t understand the overall admission process.

  • Lack of Awareness

We have prepared a checklist document so that the students can use it to make their short-listing process far simpler and easier.

Detailed Admission Checklist:

  • Admission Requirement
  • Application Form
  • Test Scores (Institutes GRE Code/TOEFL code, they want Official or unofficial)
  • Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement or Goal Statement or Essay (Format, word limit, and the questions to be answered).
  • CV
  • Letters of Recommendations (LOR) (Number of LOR, its requirements, and how to send it)
  • Publications (If applicable)
  • Research (If applicable)
  • Admission Type
  • Application fee and waiver policy, if any.
  • Transcripts to be sent (Upload scan copies of transcripts and degree certificate in the online application).
  • Check whether schools require your degree evaluation by WES.
  • Financial Aid (Application for financial aid, Financial aid policy, Deadline for Financial Aid, policies for RA/TA/GA, working hours, Summer internship, Graduate Co-op Program).
  • Scholarship Deadline
  • Application Deadline

Based on your entire profile such as GPA, GRE, TOEFL, Research (If applicable), etc, apply to 6 to 10 universities in the USA.

If you want to know how much it costs to apply for the USA Application process, then read this next article.

Next Article: Cost of USA Application Process



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