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Thread: University Selection Help

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    Question University Selection Help

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    Hi,
    I am going through the university programs to finalize the list of universities I will apply to. The general idea recommended is to select approx. 2-3 programs from each bracket (i.e: 0-10, 10-20, etc) using the UT Dallas ranking. However, what I am concerned about is that Stanford, for example, is ranked 13th while University of North Carolina is ranked 9th but I am sure the admission at Stanford would be much more competitive. How much should I factor in the ranking or the general reputation of the university when selecting universities to apply to? Can you have a universities like Yale ranked at 38 or Georgetown ranked 56 as you back up?

    Thanks

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    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage
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    Re: University Selection Help

    This depends on field and specialty. I can think of areas where UNC clearly dominates Stanford. All rankings have issues. I have been thinking about doing a detailed post on this for awhile now.

    Generally, I would add a small premium to a few elite schools but I wouldn't assume a top public has easier admission.

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    A long long time ago XanthusARES's Avatar
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    Re: University Selection Help

    Yas' response is spot on. The UTD rankings have flaws. UNC is easier to get into than Yale or Stanford. The reason for that is unrelated to research productivity. People perceive those schools as top schools so they are more likely to apply. More applications means lower acceptance percentages. There is also an inherent bias in the ranking by publication system, such that profs at some of the top schools are publishing in other journals/writing books/writing cases. This causes their ranking to take a "hit", but look at placements from these schools. That is the true meaning of rankings.

    Please write a post about rankings YaS. It would be nice to point to a post when people ask ranking questions.
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    Re: University Selection Help

    I think rankings are an important factor, but the program focus and your potential mentors are just as important to finding a good school. Even if I could get into a Top 10 school, I would pick my research focus and mentor relationships over prestige. I started my search for school by looking at interesting papers and finding which school the professor is based.

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    Re: University Selection Help

    As people said, rankings are flawed and problematic. Use them just as a starting point. During the process, you'll filter based on a lot of things you're looking for in a PhD.

    You wrote about taking 2-3 programs from each bracket. But what if you find 5 schools which are an extremely good fit for your research in a bracket, and no school fitting your interests in another bracket? I had to drop several schools that were in my initial list because I didn't find any professors with similar interests at those schools. On the other hand, I found great schools I had not thought about.

    Also be very careful about the notion of "back up school". I really don't know if there is really such a thing when you're talking about PhD. There are lots of cases when people don't get accepted by "lower ranked, safe schools" but get accepted by a higher ranked school. A school ranked 50th may be harder than a 10th, specially if you don't evaluate well things like research fit (which is usually hard to evaluate).

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