US News & World Report releases its 2014 edition of the Best Graduate Schools online today. The printed guidebook will be available in stores on April 9.
The rankings are divided into categories for Ph.D. programs, MFA, JD, MD, MBA, and include Engineering, Health, Social Sciences & Humanities, Sciences, Library and Information Sciences, Public Affairs, and Nursing.
The guide is clearly helpful to college graduates looking to sort through the hundreds of options for continuing education in professional and academic fields, but the rankings are also very helpful to prospective college students who want a better guide to choosing undergraduate colleges specifically for the strength of the major. While the US News & World Report publishes a popular ranking of undergraduate colleges, those rankings don't dig deep into specific fields of study, with the exception of Engineering and Business programs.
What students will find in the Graduate School rankings are peer-evaluated reviews of departments which are often hard to glean from general undergraduate college rankings where factors such as alumni contributions, library holdings, and selectivity are an important part of the rankings methodology. Looking at Graduate rankings allows students to see the breadth and depth of particular academic departments.
Robert Morse, Director of Data Research for US News & World Report, said, "Ph.D. programs will probably have top quality faculty and people who are very highly thought of. What degree those faculty teach undergrad courses is an unknown but these programs are likely to have high quality of faculty at the undergraduate level also. I think there is a correlation, and I definitely think where a student goes to college as an undergraduate matters. Typically a PhD is very oriented to the personal relationship of the people and their undergraduate background. Many Ph.D. programs use a very holistic approach to admissions and don't just rely on GRE scores."
The Graduate rankings can lead prospective undergraduate students to consider colleges that would not rank as highly on an overall undergraduate college index. For example, the No. 1 Ph.D program in Women's History is at Rutgers. A tie for the best PhD program in Industrial and Organizational Psychology is Michigan State and University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. In the top 15 colleges in the Fine Arts are Virginia Commonwealth University, Alfred University, and Hunter College. The top 10 Public Affairs programs include No. 1 Syracuse, No. 4 University of Georgia, and No. 9 University of Kansas.
As high school seniors are receiving admissions letters this month, checking out the quality and reputation of departmental faculty using the Best Graduate Schools rankings may be very instrumental in helping students choose the right college to attend.