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How much should I weigh in on the ranking of a university (provided by various academic ranking websites) while choosing a university for graduate studies? The universities that I am considering have equally strong faculty profiles in the areas of my interest. So in order to take the final decision, should I factor in this 'so-called' measure of academic repute in the form of rankings?

Though the phrasing of the question apparently makes it akin to how university ranking affects post-Ph.D. prospects, the detailing in my question reveals that I am not really looking for that answer. My question is that if I have been accepted at several places (outside the top 5) all having similar faculty profiles, should I use 'rank' as a deciding factor?

  • +1 + voting to close: Second part of your question makes your post eligible to be closed as "too broad" and "primarily opinion-based" question. Please edit your question to fit on this site. P.S: I really like the first part of your post, so I up-voted it. – Enthusiastic Engineer Apr 3 '16 at 12:02
  • Agree with @EnthusiasticStudent. It seems to me the second part of your question is another question. Would you please split this question into two separate questions? – scaaahu Apr 3 '16 at 12:18
  • I have edited the question, retaining only the first part that conforms with the title of the question. Thanks for pointing it out. Looking forward to more answers. – user252334 Apr 3 '16 at 17:39
  • I don't see how your question is different from the marked duplicate. Surely "should I use rank to decide" is equivalent to asking "how will university rank affect me"? Why do you think the answers to the marked duplicate not address your situation? – ff524 Apr 3 '16 at 19:00
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This is a very good and tricky question to answer. In my field, ranking doesn't really matter unless the school is one of the top 5.

If this is the case in your field too, then you would use ranking to help you make a decision if everything else is very similar (in my field, advisor's reputation and research topic is way important). I imagine that highly ranked schools have very reputable faculty too, but in a PhD, the specificity of a topic plays a higher rule. Not all too five schools have resources/faculty to study/test topic X. For instance, in civil engineering, UC Berkley is one of the prestigious school and always have a 1-5 ranking at any given year. It very famous for earthquake engineering, however if you would like to study something like structural fire engineering (keep in mind both earthquake and structural fire eng. are sub fields of civil engineering), you are better off going to a school ranked way below Berkley (or even to a Canadian/European school)!

As for the faculty, I'm not sure if some departments have more "young" faculty as oppose to older faculty. I have worked with both and can assure you that it is highly dependent on the faculty member persona. Age of a faculty doesn't or shouldn't be a very important criterion. If you are thinking in the line of being active, have unique ideas and stuff like that and you are worried that being with an older faculty member would mean that you will be working with an old school arrogant guy who you will meet once a month and publish minimum number of papers, then fear not!

You will be surprised of how many young professors who get their PhD and think that they know everything. Also, you will be equally surprised of how many well established professors who think anything new (for instance, FE simulation) is a type of a gaming platform.

The key is to choose an active faculty with high reputation and who is easy to work with. Do your research and ask graduate students. They should have better insight and can provide with behind the scene information.

One more thing, good professors will always be on top of their research, aware of the up-to-date technology and current research regardless of their age. It is true that well established faculty might have better connection and funding. This is due to how long they have been around and their natural progression. It is also true that younger professors might have a better grasp at newer technologies. But keep in mind that those young professors that might have graduated in the last few years most likely had an "older" advisor.

  • Thank you for such a detailed response. I removed the second part of the question based on several inputs, but nonetheless I would like to thank you for discussing about that aspect as well. And, I was talking about schools that are just outside the top 5 but not too far way down any list, say within the top 30. – user252334 Apr 3 '16 at 17:46
  • You are most welcome! I'm glad My answer was useful. I'm sure will hear other useful answers soon. – The Guy Apr 3 '16 at 20:07

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