I'm an 3rd year undergraduate student graduating this year studying computer science at a top 20 (read 10-20) school. I'm not sure how to even begin evaluating where I am compared to other students so that I can compile my "reach, target, safety" list, because I'm not sure what exactly admissions committees care about and most of the stuff online seems to be from seemingly disreputable sources. How do I determine what is cared about?
- Letters of recommendation - obviously matter a lot
- GPA - seems to matter, but I'm not sure where the cutoff is for Top 10 CS programs. I can find equivalence tables, but am not sure how widely used these are used or what the cutoff is for the standardized GPA
- GRE - very confounding. Many institutions don't require it, seemingly due to COVID. However, given that the schools will take the scores if you choose to provide them, they must consider it to some level. I'm not sure if/how helpful it would be to take or if I misunderstand about the GRE being an unsaid requirement.
- Statement of purpose - seems to matter a lot, but I'm not sure exactly how much. In terms of actually writing it, it seems like there's a lot of information but it should me somewhat tailored to each school
- Internships - doesn't seem to matter, but this doesn't seem to make sense. I've done almost exclusively research-based internships that were more grueling/productive than the undergraduate level of research done at university and feel like the quality of these internships speak more towards my level as a researcher than the couple labs
- Years in university - doesn't seem to matter. I'm a 3rd year student that will likely graduate early, so the opportunities for research were at least 25% lesser (although I suspect more because it's easiest to get good research later).
This is a somewhat broad question, but to summarize - I have a little idea of where I am compared to my peers on each of these metrics. I'm not sure how these metrics are weighted and how I would go about choosing which selection of colleges to apply to