So this post coming a long time after I had written the first post about the same topic but for students in 1st and 2nd year of college. Most because I was sucked into the academic system here in the duration of the quarter. But now I thought before the second quarter began, I should finish this up.
Now for me, while I was in college, the third year was easily the most demanding(read toughest) year of college. I had a not so easy 5th semester and a very tough 6th semester followed by an even tougher summer at IISc. And in the middle of the 5th and 6th semester, I had to prepare for the GRE which i ended up giving later than I would have thought - in March - but at least it was earlier than most people. That is one issue one must decide and commit to early on, when and where to give the GRE. The centres are booked tight in Aug/Sept/Nov, so one should ideally do away with the GRE while in the third year, which adds to the commotion for being a junior(junior in the US is a student in the 3rd year of engg). One mus also, at the start of the 3rd year try to look for a good internship. Mostly people I knew went abroad for an internship, I too tried my luck out there but I didnt get a favorable call. But instead I went to the best Database Systems Lab at IISc. Anyways, in the 3rd year grades usually show a down trend, dont be too preturbed by that, it is usually common to all but try to work an extra bit to keep them above a certain respectable level. You might have to give up on a bit of socializing. But whatever you do, dont lose your sense of humor!!
In the best case you should try to get a reco from your summer internship after the 3rd year. So you would have to work on that. In my case, I had an absolute disaster of a summer. Didnt do too well. So of course I didnt even ask for the reco as I knew that would play out against me in my application. That is one important point to keep in mind while approaching profs for recos. Get recos from profs who you know would give you a good reco. Moving on, into the 4th year, try to get a job first thing at the start of the placement season. Get this mental block over with, this would keep you and your folks at home in peace that at least there is a back up. Also, start looking at the universities that have are in the top 50 as far as your specialization is concerned. Pick a couple in the top 10, a couple in the middle and a few as a backup. You also need to start working on you statement of purpose. Ideally you should start with this process by August. Slowly and steadily, work toward finalizing your univesities, start working on your SOP, start writing your reco letters in case you are on good terms with your faculty and they ask you to, else in case your reco giver is far away, then you may want to get their reco beforehand(only for a paper application). For a non-paper application, it doesnt matter that much.
For Stanford, there are a couple of essays that they ask you to fill out, and the character limit is really low. So you really have to leave out the bullshit and stick to the core issues that make you a cut above the rest. Prepare one essay on how your undergrad embedded in you an urge to seek higher education in your field, and the prepare another essay on how you would add to the diversity of the class which you would attend at Stanford. All recos at Stanford are online, so you need to remind your reco givers to fill out those recos in time, especially if they are busy or are not in your undergrad college.
Once you are done with all that by Dec 1, just wait for the great email which should reach you in March, depending on your department. Some stats for this years CS Masters class, the CS dept is not really one of the biggest, but its not small either. This year they took in 130 MS students and around 45 PhD students. There are around 10 Masters students from India and 2 PhD students from India. Out of the 10, 1 is from IIT that too with 1 year work ex, and out of the PhDs, one is from IIT, with a Masters from Georgia Tech and the other is a Masters from IISc - incidently she worked with the same prof I interned with and with his reco she is not a Stanford CS Fellow! Man i should have got his reco!
All the best to you guys! In case of any questions or if there is anything you think I can do for you, let me know.