Most of my programs are top-20, risk of getting shut out? in Literature, and Rhetoric and Composition Posted October 9 14 hours ago, thecat00 said: It just so happens that a lot of the top ranked places could support my interests well. I think it's also important to realize that your definition of "fit" is likely to differ from any college's definition of fit. Schools in the top 20 often have a bigger faculty which makes it easier to fit as if anyone can fit in. However, numbers alone does not mean that the school has strengths within that particular area or are even interested in growing that particular field. It's possible that the department as a whole is leaning towards building a different area of strength. I'd encourage you to think about not only the strengths of the schools but about the culture as a whole. Are most graduate students living with roommates? Is there public transportation available? How far do graduate students live from the university? Is the area rural or urban? If it's a college town, are you comfortable with the summers being silent? You're committing 5+ years to living wherever you wind up. Is the stipend enough to not have to take on additional loans? Are you comfortable with the teaching requirements? Are there external or internal opportunities for growth? Studies have shown that depression is a very common reason why people drop out of Ph.D. program. I think it's also important to mention that there are a number of very fine universities outside the top 20 that might have better placements than those in the USNew's top 20. I think it's also important to remember that the top 20 might have an easier time placing its graduates in R1 Universities, but that doesn't mean that it's impossible to teach at an R1 school if you don't graduate from a R1 school. I know of several people who have gotten tenure-track positions at "elite" schools including Columbia who did not graduate from a top 20 program, but rather a school ranked somewhere between 30-50. I also know that they took advantage of what the school offered and took any opportunities presented to them even if they didn't always succeed in winning every competition. Ultimately, I think schools (both admissions-wise and jobs-wise) are looking for applicants that fit their culture and fill in whatever area they're interested in. 14 hours ago, Rootbound said: . The rankings are somewhat useless as a measure of the department's quality, they really only indicate its "prestige." I think the USNews does a better job of measuring a college's 'prestige' for undergraduates because they consider a wide-range of factors. However, the criteria they use for programs at the graduate level are incredibly different. More information can be found here: https://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/articles/social-sciences-and-humanities-schools-methodology "The questionnaires asked respondents to rate the academic quality of the programs at other institutions on a 5-point scale: outstanding (5), strong (4), good (3), adequate (2) or marginal (1). Individuals who were unfamiliar with a particular school's programs were asked to select "don't know." Scores for each school were determined by computing a trimmed mean – eliminating the two highest and two lowest responses – of the ratings of all respondents who rated that school; average scores were then sorted in descending order. These are the number of schools with doctoral programs surveyed in fall 2016: economics (138); English (155); history (151); political science (120); psychology (255); and sociology (118). And these were the response rates: economics (23 percent), English (14 percent), history (15 percent), political science (24 percent), psychology (14 percent) and sociology (33 percent)." 14 percent of English programs determined the rankings of 155 programs. What do you think the odds are that all 14 programs are paying attention to every school? What do you think the odds are of the 14 percent paying attention to placement rates, student happiness and all opportunities being provided to students are at the 155 programs?