The worth of a ranking…

I think the emissaries have given some excellent advice on school rankings this past month. I’ve found it a very interesting discussion because I know very little about rankings myself. In fact… I’m a little embarrassed to say that I didn’t look at rankings at all when I applied to graduate school. So I decided to look up the Anthropology program and see what the numbers said. I used phd.org which provides data collected by the National Research Council.

IU’s Anthropology graduate program fell a little short of the middle of the 82 programs that were ranked. Like other emissaries have commented, however, this is only one measure of a grad program. By itself, it’s not very useful information. Perhaps if IU was dead last on the list, it might make me reconsider applying. But there are many other factors to weigh in, including the strengths of individual programs, faculty’s research interests, location, funding, and so on.

What I did find useful was all the information which followed the ranking. For example:

The numbers for “time to degree” and “completion rates” can be very telling. On this website you can also find numbers on job placement after graduation, average funding received, debt after graduation, and so on. If you are in the application process, it is definitely worth your time to compare these numbers between schools. If any numbers seem particularly low or high, consider talking to department staff and faculty to find out why. Of course the numbers can’t tell you everything – it’s hard to quantify how “welcoming” a place is – but they do provide some useful data that may influence your final decision.