Cancel Forgot Password?

Going Beyond Graduate School Ranking to Evaluate U.S. Schools

By Peterson's Staff updated on Friday, January 10, 2014

When you hear the names of Harvard, Stanford, Yale, or the University of California at Berkeley, what comes to mind? There's a good chance you're familiar with these schools because their reputations are well-known, even halfway across the globe. With their first-rate research and graduate programs and high grad school rankings, it might seem like those are the schools you should attend, but your choices for a quality American education extend far beyond the Ivy League.

America hosts both private and public universities, a dynamic that helps fuel the diversity and vitality of the American university system. The variety that exists means that there are hundreds of American schools to choose from that offer excellent graduate education. Be sure not to overlook the many options during your graduate school search.

Public Universities

State universities are partially supported and indirectly controlled by their respective state governments. This means that they blend their aspirations for academic distinction with state mandates to serve and educate their citizens.

To accomplish that, most public universities offer broader admission criteria than private universities. Typically, this results in large enrollments, as well as multiple schools and departments within a single university. With so many programs on campus, they may put support into building an excellent reputation in a few areas, rather than many. For example, several programs may have a distinguished graduate school ranking, while others are not as highly thought of. In addition, some of their graduate and research programs may be small but top-notch.

Private Universities

In contrast, the average private research university is less than half the size of a public university. They tend to be more selective in their offerings, preferring to strive for high quality rather than enrolling large numbers of students. Often, 50% or more of their student population consists of graduate and professional students, and they graduate 1/3 of the Ph.D.'s in the U.S.

Quality is Not All About Graduate School Ranking

You can find a reputable program in your field of study at both public and private universities. Try gathering as much graduate school information as you can before making a decision. If money is an issue for you, it's important to research which programs meet your needs. You may be able to gain impressions of the general reputation of the school or schools you're considering, but your graduate studies will take place predominantly in a single department or program.

Certainly, the reputation and grad school ranking of the overall university is important, since it is primarily responsible for setting the intellectual atmosphere, providing resources such as libraries and computer facilities, and for assembling your peer group. However, you need to weigh the reputations, resources, and grad school rankings of individual graduate programs, as well. Sometimes the reputations of individual scholars or special institutes may be greater than the departments in which they are located.

If you have a thorough knowledge of your field, you may already know which schools are best suited for you. Your expertise of your subject will also help you to judge which schools are preferable.

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

More articles by this author
Find a graduate school that's right for you!
1Choose a state

2Choose a major
3Choose a degree type


Graduate Schools you might like...

  • Type Private
  • Setting Urban
  • Size 188 students
  • In-State $38,888
  • Out-of-State $38,888
  • Degrees
    Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in biochemical chemistry, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in physical chemistry, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in inorganic chemistry, and 1 more.
View Full School Profile
  • Type Private
  • Setting Urban
  • Size 956 students
  • In-State Not Reported
  • Out-of-State Not Reported
View Full School Profile
View Full School Profile

Advanced Search Options

Search your needs below, and view information about the schools that meet those needs by clicking "Search."
Step 1: Select Subject Area(s)
Step 2: Select Program(s) that Interest You
Complete step 1 before selcting a major
Step 3: Select Location
Complete step 1 and 2 before selecting a location
Step 4: Select Degree Level
Search

Forgot Your Password?

To reset your password, simply enter your email address in the field below and click the Reset Password button. You will receive an email with a link and instructions to reset your password.

Check your email.

Please check your email and click on the link provided in the message to reset your password.