Selection of Universities is the most important task of your admission process. There are various criteria that one has to factor into before short-listing universities (graduate programs). Some of them are listed below (though not necessarily in the order of importance):
- GRE®/TOEFL Score
You should check if the university/program of your interest has any specific GRE/TOEFL score as a pre-requisite for the application process. If yes, you should prepare well to achieve those scores.
Here, you should note that a "cut-off GRE/TOEFL" score is different from an "average or mean GRE/TOEFL" score. A "cut-off" score refers to the score that a student must achieve to be considered for admission. An "average or mean" score refers to the score that was the statistical average of all the scores of students in the previous intake.
- Academic scores, Achievements, Research Publications
Your academic scores (percentage or Grade Point Average) and achievements and how they can improve your chances of getting admission into good universities are points you need to consider.
- Chances of getting financial aid – tuition waiver, scholarship, assistantship etc.
Financial aid/Scholarships: Universities provide merit scholarships to deserving students. These scholarships are usually in the form of a certain percentage waiver from the tuition fee. Universities may also encourage meritorious students to enrol in their programs by offering financial aid in the form of Teaching Assistantships or Research Assistantships. Students should actively pursue such opportunities at the time of application itself.
- Relevance of the graduate program to your goals (employment – industry/academic)
Some questions you need to consider are:
Does the focus of the graduate program align with my interests and goals?
How relevant and/or industry-specific is the program?
- Placement record of the university/program
You should actively go through the placement/employment report (if published) of the university apart from contacting the existing students and alumni of the specific program. These indicators will guide you better in making decisions.
- Budget (how much are you willing to spend) and Return on Investment
One of the most important parameters in the selection of a university/program would be the return on investment. You need to consider how much money (in salary terms) you can expect to make post graduation and how much money will be spent in acquiring the degree. However, financing your higher education should not be based solely on the financial cost of the program.
Bank Loans: One positive factor is that these days, it is also relatively easy to get an education loan from banks at concessional rates of interest. A number of banks, both in the public and the private sector, are willing to provide these loans to those who have gained admission to good universities abroad. In most cases, loans from these banks cover the cost of tuition and may also cover some of the other costs such as insurance, living expenses etc.
- Geographical preference
You might want to look into the climatic conditions of the location of the university if you are very particular about it. However, this should not influence your decision to choose a university as there are many good universities in all types of climatic regions, unless you have a medical condition that requires you to live in one particular type of climate.