The latest U.S. News & World Report "Best Grad Schools" Rankings are out. The 2017 rankings are intended to help applicants pick a program to enter next year. Here are quick answers to five basic questions you may have about the new rankings.
What programs are ranked?
The rankings cover graduate and professional programs in twelve areas:
- Fine Arts
- Library and Information Sciences
- Public Affairs
- Social Sciences and Humanities
Schools are ranked by area as well as specialty. For example, there are "Best Education Schools" as well as "Best Schools" for Elementary Teacher Education.
Not all schools or programs make the cut. Only the top 75% of schools are listed in each set of rankings, and only the most popular (highest enrollment) specialties get ranked. For instance, within the Social Sciences, programs in Psychology are ranked but ones in Anthropology, a less popular field, are not.
Lastly, some rankings are more recent or include more programs than others. The Nursing rankings feature the most—519—and the rankings for Veterinary Medicine (categorized under Health) feature the fewest—28. Any ranking labeled "ranked in 2016" uses the most current data, whereas others use older, potential outdated info.
How are rankings calculated?
For all rankings, U.S. News surveys professors and administrators about the quality of individual programs in their fields. For the big six—Business, Education, Engineering, Law, Medicine, and Nursing—quantitative measures such as research output, job-placement rate, and average GRE score are also used.
Are the rankings free to view?
Yes. You can see rankings, tuition, and total enrollment. Specialty rankings, like those for Executive MBA programs, are truncated but the main rankings, like those for Business, are not.
What do you get if you pay?
Complete specialty rankings plus stats like acceptance rate, student-to-faculty ratio, and more. Of course, many programs will likely share those stats for free, either online or by request. So if you don't want to shell out the cash, just try getting the relevant info from the programs that interest you.
Does U.S. News recommend you NOT apply to lower ranked schools?
No. Chief Data Strategist for U.S. News, Bob Morse, tells grad school applicants that the rankings should not be "the sole factor driving their choice." Morse elaborates:
Other factors to consider include a school's course offerings and department culture, a student's total cost to obtain the degree, the advising or mentoring a student can expect to receive, and the school's location and campus life.
He's right. Rankings aren't everything. As a marker of overall program quality, a school's ranking can tell you a lot. But, like Morse suggests, it can also tell you very little about how well you'll fit and how satisifed you'll be both personally and academically.
Need help keeping track of your grad school applications? Check out the free My Grad School Apps Tracker!