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Program rankings/tiers


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It seems like most of the people on this forum are applying to the same 20 or so schools. Is it because these are the top tier schools? Where can I find out what tier/ranking each school is in? I don't have the best GPA and I would probably get in much easier at a medium-ranked school.

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A lot of people look at US news graduate school rankings. However, I find the National Research Council's data to be much more helpful. 

 

http://www.nap.edu/rdp/

 

I think you have to sign up, but I was able to download their data in an excel file for free. You can look at individual programs and find out what their stats are, i.e. average publications per faculty, how many times cited, how long it takes for students to graduate, etc. They also don't have a set in stone ranking. Look at their pdf manual and it will explain the statistics, but basically they generate 90% confidence intervals. Ex. If a program ranks .05R (or .05S) =2 and .95R (or .95S)=8, then you can be 90% confident that the program is ranked between #2 and #8. 

 

It's very hard to rank the quality of programs, so this can at least help you pick programs that you're interested in.

Also, US news ranks some schools higher compared to others, but you can't look at individual programs. Some schools that are lower ranked have certain programs that are a lot better than the higher ranked programs.

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I applied to schools based on research fit. It just so happens that these schools have either the largest amount of faculty for specific research interests, or the largest amount of known/famous faculty. The most popular schools here tend to have the largest amount of faculty and be well funded. That's just for me personally. I viewed rankings on US news, but I also take these with a grain of salt.

 

As far as where you will get in, I attended an undergrad school that no one out of my state knows much about, definitely ranked lower, and I graduated with a 3.5 GPA, and was accepted into an Ivy, and I was rejected from lower ranked schools. Don't let that sway you. Research experience and fit is most important.

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Rankings are worthless. They're mostly arbitrary and when it comes down to schools within a "tier", they're mostly comparable and it's just a wash to rank them. I've always felt that rankings are designed to boost the egos of some people and allow parents to brag. Instead, you should look up PIs in the fields or areas that you're interested in.

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Rankings are crap.  I would focus on research fit, like the others mentioned.  As long as your GPA is over a 3.0 I would still try for schools you feel are a good fit for you.  Some places will have GPA/GRE filters (I think this is the case for University of Washington), but others won't and will look at the whole application.  It doesn't matter as much what you look like numerically if you've done good, quality research and have strong LORs.

 

In my opinion, it matters who you work with as opposed to the name of school you go to.  One could argue that places like Harvard and UCSF have the best labs, but it depends on the type of lab you would like to work in, and you'd be surprised who you'd find at less popular programs.

Edited by Biohopeful
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If you haven't done well as far as your GPA in your undergraduate, what makes you think you'll do great (B+) or better in a top tier graduate program? Wouldn't you struggle? Would you feel you need to go to a better program, one that will help you do well in a less stressful environment and a faculty that will be extremely supportive to you? 

 

Ask yourself those questions before considering a top tier university. They'll likely accept their applicants with 3.9 GPAs and perfect GRE scores. 

 

Not necessarily true. I had a horrible GPA, but that's mostly borne out laziness and having too much fun. Grad school is more about research than studying anyway. Likewise, I've gotten into arguably the best program in my field whereas I know some perfect GPA/GRE folks who did not. GPA/GRE is really a tiny, tiny part of the app process, and carry very little weight compared to the rest of the app. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Rankings are very misleading. While I was interviewed by schools like Tufts, UAB, UC, Rutgers, Albany and offered admission in Rutgers and UC (yet), I received rejection letters from the so-called safety schools such as SIU, University of Louisville without even any interview. A few 'middle-tier'/upper-tier school also rejected me  such as IUPUI, UVa, NYMC etc. So it is very unpredictable. The schools see how the applicants 'match' to their program and from my experience, I can only tell you that nobody can predict which school might see you fit. So it is prefereable to apply to schools with larger classes, better fundings and those who are not 'ivy league', to remain on the safer side, but still nobody can promise anything.

 

Also, as per as I know, the usual number of application is not twenty, but around ten for the domestic applicants and 15 for international students. I applied to 12 programs (which is on the lower side, being an internatinal applicant) based on this stat ;)

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My friends and I who applied 20 or more schools only because we are international applicants and we didn't settle for safety schools. Technically, there isn't a thing called "safety school" (especially for internationals), but rather, school that fits ones research or not.

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