Step by Step – University Selection, Application & Admission

Raghuram Sukumar Admission 12 Comments

Here’s a guest post by Sameer about U.S. graduate school application. This is his second post. His first article at HSB is about GRE Exam Preparation Tips.

Though the admissions are open in all 3 seasons, fall is the actual start of academic seasons in universities.
Most of the opportunities in terms of funding and on-campus jobs open mainly just before start of Fall and get filled up within a month. So you got to be an early starter to grab these opportunities.

A foreign student in new land needs time to adjust to the climate and culture. Hence, you must not overlook the timing and the season when first setting foot in the U.S. when you make your plans.

College Admission

The are 2 types of college / university admission:

  1. Early
  2. Normal
  • Early Admissions for Fall: Things must be planned at least a year in advance. Candidates applying to top 25 -30 colleges must go for this.
  • Normal Admission for Spring: This is a rare option. Usually it’s like a deferred admission case that lands up here.
  • Normal Admission for Summers: Very Rare. In fact, you cannot plan your master’s starting around summertime. This is fun time for all, with lots of activity around. And for the student community, it’s also time to go for internships, earn some quick bucks, and explore the job market. Roam around some places.

Note from HSB about academic application deadlines – Early admission deadlines are typically for financial aid. It is possible to start the semester in Spring and in some cases during Summer. But if you look at the time when students complete their bachelor’s degrees, which is usually in April, majority of students apply for Fall.

University Selection

General Advice: If you have enough money to splurge around OR you are short of time then you go for admission consultants. But BEWARE, you cannot trust them completely to make decisions in your favor. After all, they are businessmen who think of their commercial interests first. You got to be smart, just don’t buy everything they sell. I hope you got it.

Do some Googling: You have to do some research over the internet. Try finding good resources to get university rankings information. A couple of them I remember are US News and Report, FT Rankings, etc.

List your Priorities: Priorities in terms of location(urban / semi-urban / rural), state (Indian diaspora is spread greatly in northeastern States of IL, OH, PA, to name a few), university funding. Your list need not be in that order. Come on, you better know what your priorities are. Make a target list of colleges.

Socialize over the Internet: Next, find online communities on social media sites and other related internet platforms related to these colleges or universities, get to know some seniors and professors from colleges and universities you are targeting. Try to get as much information as possible. When you’re dealing with professors, present yourself professionally when exploring for funding opportunities.

Application Mailing

To start with: Fill-out the online application for as many universities as possible even before making a short list of universities. Thinking that I have gone crazy…but not yet. It does not cost you a penny to fill out an online form. By doing so you get to know in advance the requirements for the paper work. When you mail your paper work, try to track it through the courier agency.

Be Proactive: Inform your university officials about the expected arrival of your application package. They tend to forget and mishandle things. You must bug them and follow up about it through emails and phone calls to ensure your application is on track and is moving forward.

5 ways to check application status
Note: Check to see that your names in your certificates do match the one on your passport. If not, try to get a letter from the university to acknowledge that the different versions of your name are actually one and the same.

Score Forwarding: Do not forward scores until the university asks you to. That is because some universities may not require you to send a GRE score as they might look at your GPA in your undergraduate. Ask for a specific receiving department to which you need to send your scores. Name issues could come up here, too. Just check on the names on your GRE score report and passport.

How to report GRE Scores Online

Note from HSB: Don’t wait for universities to ask for your GRE scores. This will delay your application processing. If they have asked you to forward the GRE (GMAT, etc.) and TOEFL scores, go ahead and do it. Usually, correctness of the department is not an important factor. GRE scores will be sent to the university and they will be able to verify your scores.



  1. Dear Sir/Ma'am,

    I'am a 4th year Engineering(Computer Science) student, and i'm planning to take my GRE exam in October 2010 and

    TOEFL in the next 10days after my GRE. I have loads of queries and unfortunately they are still unsolved.

    I plan to change my stream from Comp. Science to Environmental Science, would like to pursue a 2yrs course in EVS,

    which would focus on Ecology part of it.

    Firstly, i'm clueless about the U.S colleges and universities that are offering such course, and the admission criteria they


    Secondly, if i apply in colleges by November, will my chances of getting a scholarship reduce?

    I heard that in spring session colleges don't admit students as readily as they do in the fall season .

    So, which session should i apply for?

    What are the problems that i would face due to this change in stream?

    I'll be grateful if you would guide me through this confusing phase :).

    Thanking you

    Himanshu Rawat

  2. iam presently doing my 4th year 1st sem.. i had 2 backlogs with aggregate of 57%…

    iam planning for fall 2011.. when it is good to apply for universities.. i will give my gre xam in novmber..tell me da differences between spring and fall in terms of funding….

  3. Hie HSB and Sameer,

    HSB in his posts mentions that there is virtually no difference in applying for Spring or Fall. He seemed to have given a post for that. Sameer on the other hands draws a different line saying Fall is the best. Which one of u should the readers believe???

    By the way. ur posts are excellent HSB.. keep posting.

  4. i hav completed my BAMS and preparing for gre. i m planning to get addmission in public health. can any one tell me the minimum score required for addmission

  5. hey
    can someone suggest me some good colleges for ms in motorsport engineering and/or bioinfo which still have their deadlines open..

    please reply

  6. Hi .This is RABI from Bangladesh..I am utterly interested to do MS in any US university in BIOTECHNOLOGY …I've accomplished BS.c in Genetic engineering & Biotechnology from Shahjalal University Of science & Technology,Sylhet.Bangladesh.I am involved in the University as research assistant in the molecular lab in my department.I do not know about the selection criteria in the US can i get admission without GRE ,where i can get opportunity etc..

    with regards.

    Mohammed Rabiul Hosen

    Department of Genetic Engineering& Biotechnology

    Shahjalal University Of science & Technology


  7. Hi,

    I am new to HSB here. I am in a career dilemma now as I think of doing a post grad after almost 5 yrs of exp in IT industry in India. I have been mostly a developer and would like to continue with technologies but at the same time I could not think of an MS adding more value at this stage of my career.

    Can you suggest me a better post graduation as I am eager for higher studies?



    1. Everything really depends on your personal interest and where you want to be in future – Tech role or management role. If you decide on Tech then doing Masters or Phd is an option. If you want to go towards Management, MBA is another option.

      1. I would like to continue with tech role and after some search am interested in courses like Informations Systems/Systems Integration/ERP. Can you suggest some good univ in UK (as they are of 1 yr duration) offering these courses, please?

        Thanks in Advance.

      2. HI, i have got admit from :
        1. UT Arlington, MS in EE for fall-10(I-20 Amount- 25000$)
        2. Texas Tech, Ms in EE fall-10 (I-20 Amount-25689$)

        Waiting: 1. Latech, for MS in Molecular Science & Nanotechnology(MSNT), fall-10 (I-20 amount-18322$, plus chance of funding)

        Rejection: CNSE ALBANY(SUNY ALBANY) for MS in Nanoscale Engg,

        Can you suggest me which universities to join, considering research, course work, fee and Funding Chances after going thr.

        Also my VISA has been rejected twice last year for UTA due to Finance Problem.

        Thanx, do reply. Urgent, as i have to prepare for VISA in advance.

  8. Hi

    I am a student of 4th sem enngeneering and is willing to go for GRE this year itself so need guidence from you since i don't know anything about how to start or select any university.

  9. Hi HSB,

    I am working in a leading semiconductor company and I aspire to go for MS after 3 years of experience. I find your blog extremely useful and nicely organized.

    Wish to say thanks.


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