As for the factors listed below, each of them is considered important when you apply to university. Your admission will be determined as an additive of all the factors. All students must satisfy basic requirement for each of the factors. Those students that qualify for all factors are considered; and the best among those students get admitted. For example, if you score above the SAT or GRE cutoff; it does not matter how much above the cutoff score you get. It only matters that you met the basic requirement for the university.
- GRE Score
- TOEFL Score (for International Applicants)
- Your Grades or GPA: The GPA requirement is consistent for universities across the USA, but the cutoff differs for different universities around the world depending on reputation of university.
- Statement of Purpose / Application Essay
- Previous Work / Research / Internship Experience
So, which are the most important factors? And what are the cutoffs? These differ from university to university; and the cutoffs will be much higher for the better ranked universities.
If you are a few years from graduation, focus on your grades and work experience.
If you are applying in a few months, spend most of your time focusing on your GRE and Statement of Purpose.
Your university reputation does matter significantly, but you can make up for it by improving your other factors.
Author, Scholarships for Indian Citizens