How To Choose A University For MS In USA

how to chosse universities in US


A Student Should Choose A University-Based On The Following Criteria

Considering the immigration issues that the students are facing in the recent times, it’s very important for a student to choose the right university. Generally, students choose the universities based on the senior’s advice or consultancy advice on their scores of IELTS/TOEFL, GRE, and Academics.

  • If the consultancy has tie-ups, it might guide the student only to those universities where there is a tie-up benefit.
  • We advise all the students to verify the list of universities freely at our profile evaluator tool
  • and also consider the below points before choosing the list of five or six universities you want to apply for.


  • Each university has a different course structure.
  • Course structure at a university may be classified as Tough, Moderate or Easy based on the courses offered, evaluation criteria, professor’s expectations from students etc.
  • The number of courses in MS programs may vary from 10 to 12 to as many as 14 depending on the university. However, the general rule is that each course carries 3 credits.
  • The universities offering 14 courses in MS are very few and those aiming at completing the course in a short period of time should go for less number of courses.
  • More the number of subjects more may be the time taken to complete the program. So, students should take the help of their seniors in the university before registering for the courses.
  • If a student fails in a course in the first semester, all his time, effort and fee paid for the course will go waste. As a result of this, he/she may lose confidence and shift to a different university in the second semester, which again entails extra costs and burden of other formalities.

Course Duration

  • The minimum duration of MS course is generally 12 months and maximum duration is 36 months
  • The number of universities in which the course can be completed in 12 months is relatively very less.
  • Some universities do not conduct classes during summer. In such universities, the minimum time taken to complete the course would be 16 months.

Cost Of Living

  • The cost of living differs from state to state.
  • States such as California, Illinois, Indianan, Florida, New York, New Jersey have a high cost of living whereas Kansas, Texas, Missouri, New Hampshire is quite affordable. However, transportation cost in former set of states is lesser than in latter ones. So, having a car in states like Texas and Missouri to commute to and from the university is a necessity. Your friends/roommates may reduce the burden by sharing the cost of buying the car and the fuel.
  • The number of people you want to share your accommodation with will also influence your expenses. If you are comfortable sharing your living space with more number of people, the rent amount would come down significantly.

Fee Structure

  • There is a general misnomer that the tuition fee is assessed on a per semester basis. However, the fee is charged on a per-credit basis i.e. higher the number of credits, higher the fee you need to pay.
  • Low-fee universities charge less that 500 USD per credit while the fee may go up to 1000 USD for top universities.
  • Sometimes, students choose their university as the program can be completed in less number of courses and credits. But some universities conduct an English as a Second Language (ESL) test for foreign students and burden them with 3 or 4 extra courses if they do not meet the standard set by them. This may lead to an increase of a minimum of 5 lakh rupees in total fee. So, students have to check whether the university conducts ESL and if yes, what is standard expected.
Fee Payment Schedule: Universities generally allow following modes of payment:
  • Direct cash payment – Carry cash to the USA and pay the fee at the University
  • Wire transfer from India – Every university has its wire details on its website. Go to a bank (like SBI) and provide the wire details of the university to them. They will transfer the money from your account and charge a fee of 30-40 USD
  • Payment through US debit or credit card – If you have a relative or a close friend in the USA, you can make payment through their debit or credit card also
  • Deposit fee in bank account and pay by check – For this, you need to have a bank account in the USA


  • Assistantships are paid academic appointments of graduate students for teaching or assisting the professors
  • The number of assistantships offered by a university is limited by its budget. So, students have to send emails to professors, take their appointments and convince them of their caliber and commitment to secure assistantships
  • References from existing students doing their assistantships could be of help
  • Assistantships could be of four types
Student Assistantship– Assist professors in minor works such as designing logos for their website, proof-reading their research papers etc. Pay is very less.
Graduate Assistantship – Professors give important tasks to students and if they are impressed with their work, they could even recommend a full or 50% fee waiver. Pay is also good.
Teaching Assistantship – Take classes in the absence of the professor, evaluate answer sheets, clear doubts, etc. No fee waiver but the pay is decent.
Research Assistantship – Work full-time under the professor researching on a topic/subject assigned by him/her. While full fee waiver is possible, it might take more time to complete the MS program (it could take up to 2.5 years). So, not many students prefer this assistantship.

On-Campus Jobs

  • Competition for on-campus jobs, especially in universities with high Indian student population, is very heavy.
  • Students should invest the first month of their stay at the university in scouting for jobs vigorously especially at cafeteria, library and admission department.
  • Building a rapport with seniors could prove to be of great help as they may refer you to a vacant job or to their current job, which they would be leaving in a few days.

Scholarships / Funding

  • The number of scholarships being offered to Indian students has come down significantly in the recent past given that universities are not finding difficult to attract them.
  • However, some universities are offering scholarships to students with very good profiles i.e. good GRE and IELTS scores and exceptional academic or extra-curricular record.
  • Some low ranking universities with a high fee are also offering scholarships but the final cost for the student would more or less be the same as a university charging a normal fee.
  • The possibility of getting funding in a top ranking university is high.

Low Tuition Fee

  • If the tuition fee at a university is less than 15 lakhs rupees (when converted in INR), then we can say that the university is charging a low fee
  • But, as discussed earlier, the tuition fee might suddenly surge if you do not perform well in the ESL test.
  • If your profile is not very impressive, it is better to opt for a low-fee university. However, the competition for on-campus jobs at such university would be high.

Other Parameters

Number of Indians – Getting jobs might be so difficult if desis are more. If their number is too low, the cost of accommodation and transportation may increase. Moreover, working on your assignments may not get so much help. So, choose the university with neither too many nor too few Indians
Climatic conditions – Those unaware of climatic conditions in different regions of the USA may choose universities in states with extreme climates such as Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota etc. known for their freezing cold temperatures during winter. Some students might fall ill and some may even develop chronic health conditions. Further, jobs during winter months would be very scarce as the economy comes to a standstill. So, students should choose a university after thorough research about the climatic conditions there
Accreditation – Students have to ensure that the accreditation, which the university, especially a low-ranking one, is claiming, is not expired. If they join a university without a valid accreditation, they may face many problems and may even have to return to India.
      • An MS student should secure a minimum of 9 credits per semester. Else, the university would terminate his/her admission.
      • If a student fails in many subjects in a semester, he may be forced to shift to another university
When Traveling
      • Students should apply for state ID cards immediately after joining their universities. It can be used as an identity proof while traveling. It is not safe to carry Indian passport at all times as there is a risk of losing it.
      • While they are in vacation, the students should carry their i20 with a travel endorsement from the University. If they forget to do this, they cannot reenter the USA.
Follow the Law
      • The USA is known as a ‘nation of laws’ and not of people. It means laws are taken very seriously in the USA.
      • A student should have a basic understanding of both federal laws and the laws of her universityState.
      • Not following traffic rules and driving without a valid license could result in heavy fines and punishments.
Changing Major
      • Students changing their majors (shifting to CSE to ME) should know the university prerequisites. Generally, universities have 3-4 extra courses for such students.

As a saying goes, “It is better to prepare and prevent than repair and repent”. So, have a complete understanding of your program, the university, state, and the USA before your expedition begins.

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Chaitanya Vaddi, popularly known as CV, has a rich experience of over a decade in the IT industry as an HR professional.

He worked in HR senior managerial positions in several reputed IT companies such as Oracle India, IBM, Apps Associates and Netxcell. He did his Masters in Business Administration from Sri Venkateswara University in Tirupati and holds a certificate in Executive Program in Human Resource from IIM Kolkata.