I have been awarded the Fulbright Student Award (up to $35k for first year of Master's in the US) and at the end of the week I have to send the list of universities I prefer applying to. My problem is that I don't know how competitive I am and thus how high I should aim in selecting universities.
I have obtained a BS in Computer Science from one of (if not the) best universities in my country (Romania): University of Bucharest. I have about 1.5 of work experience as a Data Scientist (at Adobe Romania, then at Bitdefender). Unfortunately I have no pure research experience, let alone publications.
GPA: 3.85 (converted from 9.6/10) undergrad
GRE*: ~160Q, 167+V, 5.0A (estimated from latest practice tests)
TOEFL: ~110 (estimated from latest practice tests)
CV / Resume
Letters of Recommendation: I can provide them if someone is really interested in reading them
*I haven't taken the GRE yet because at the end, I should provide the list of schools I want to my scores sent to and that is precisely why I am here — I haven't settled on the schools yet.
I want to pursue a research-oriented Master's of Science program in Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning / Data Science. I do not have a requirement for a sub-field (NLP / CV / DM / IR). Interdisciplinary opportunities (HCI / Data Visualization / Social Computing) would be a great bonus.
University preferences, in this order:
These preferences are based almost exclusively on the high university rankings (taken mostly from here) and the presence of strong ML faculty.
I do not want to fool myself into thinking I can get into even one of these top schools. I would be very grateful if I could get some advice / evaluation on where I stand, what my chances are and what is the approximate range of schools I am competitive for — what I should realistically aim for. Also any advice on what I am lacking / I can improve is greatly appreciated.
Notes: because my application process will be partly handled by the Institute of International Education, I cannot customize my essays for each university. Also I am limited to five schools to send my application to. The scholarship is offered for pursuing a Master's Degree only.