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Interested in an advanced degree?

Unsure of the best colleges in the US?

Undecided between state funded and privately funded universities?

You’ve come to the right place! In the article, we will provide you with practical tips for shortlisting MS & PhD colleges, specifically in the US.


Criteria for selecting colleges

When considering a college from where to pursue advanced studies, most applicants typically compare several factors such as admission rate, student to faculty ratio, school size, safety statistics and so on. While these are important factors applicants, we’d like to use this article to focus on four essential criteria.

  1. Quality of Education

    The two main determinants you need to consider when deciding on your choice of college are:

    • Whether the program offers you the specialization that you seek. Look beyond the program name and check if their curriculum offers courses that suit your developmental needs and career growth. For example, if you want to work in Robotics, search for courses such as Artificial Intelligence instead of simply looking for a Masters in Computer Science and Engineering.
    • Quality of education can also be gauged by the “status” of the college. As a general rule, select colleges that are of better quality and a higher level than the institution from where you earned your Bachelors degree. For example, if you studied at any of the IIT’s, a US top 10 colleges would look dramatically better on your resume. Similarly, if you studied at an NIIT, studying at a US college ranked in the top 50-60 would impress recruiters. If you studied at a decent state or government Indian university then look within the top 100 ranked colleges.
  2. Your Budget

    The second major criterion for college selection should be your budget. By budget, we don’t mean how much you want to spend on your program. Instead, think realistically about how much you can afford. You will severely limit your options, and miss out on a great college if you make your selection solely on how many scholarships they can offer.

    Common Mistakes

    • Most Indian students calculate their budget based on the cost of tuition for their selected program. Ensure that you also include the cost of living in your budget. This information is readily available on the website of your chosen college.
    • b) Don’t base your budget on your prospects of securing scholarships. While scholarships do allow you to increase your spending limit, they can be misleading as elaborated in the subsequent point.
  3. Scholarships

    While budget and scholarships are interrelated and often, synonymous to most applicants, we’re going to address the latter as a separate point simply because the “lure” of scholarships might unduly influence your choice of college.

    Most applicants believe they will be able to easily afford a program if a scholarship is also awarded to them. While that may be the case for a privately funded college, a state-funded college with a similar ranking might be able to offer you a more cost-efficient program.

    For example, a private University like NYU Tandon’s graduate tuition fee is approx. $34,000 annually whereas a state university which is at par with NYU like the Iowa State University has a graduate tuition fee of just $24,000 annually.

    Do not approach your university selection process with the mindset that you will only consider a college that will offer you a scholarship. It is essential to check programs that may not offer scholarships as they might be more cost efficient.

  4. Job Prospects

    Considering your investment – financial and otherwise – towards an advanced degree, ensure that your selection criterion offers you maximum return on your employment opportunities post completion of your program. One simple way to do so, is to consider the location of your shortlisted college.

    Tips to keep in mind

    • When considering a highly ranked college (top 10 for example), the importance of location is outweighed by the reputation of the college and its impact on your resume.
    • A higher ranked college placed in a non-metropolitan area will limit your chances of getting employment. For example, your preference should be for a college ranked 100 but located in an important city like New York rather than a college ranked 70 that is located in a rural area such as the St Olaf College
    • Preference should be for a good college surrounded by companies specializing in your chosen industry
      Here are some examples:

      • For Computer Science or Electrical Engineering applicants (MS as well as PhD), it is advisable to consider colleges in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, California and Texas in the US and Ontario in Canada because these states are richly sprinkled with software and electronics-based industries. These are also good locations because of on-going research in these fields.
      • For Mechanical Engineering, Manufacturing Engineering, Industrial Engineering or Engineering Management applicants (MS as well as PhD), it is advisable to consider colleges in Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin, Texas, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas in the US and Ontario and British Columbia in Canada as these are hotspots for auto and manufacturing industries.
      • For applicants interested in Biological Science related programs such as Biotechnology and Biomedical Engineering (MS as well as PhD), it is important to consider East Coast-based colleges such as New York, Virginia, Washington, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Florida and Maryland.
      • For applicants interested in Public Health, Health Administration or Pharmacy programs (MS as well as PhD), you can pick any US state. However, states like New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Washington, Massachusetts, California, Florida, Michigan and Texas will offer you better job prospects.

College Rankings

Confused by the numerous websites offering college rankings based on several criteria? Look no further – our recommendation is to refer to the rankings given by USNews.

Have more questions?

If you have any further questions, or require any assistance, please feel free to write to us at
You can also check deadlines of universities at

Watch the webinar on Shortlist MS and PhD colleges in the US


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