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For example, if one were to apply to Top 50 business schools for a full-time MBA program, one could get rankings from the NYTimes, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, U.S. News and World Report, and the Economist, just to name a few sources - I bet there are plenty more.

I plan to apply to Top 50 applied math phd programs, however I cannot find any sort of rankings other than the one from the U.S. News and World Report, which only ranks up to Top 14 -- schools that I wouldn't realistically have a shot at getting into. So, I am looking to aim a bit lower but am not sure where to even start.

How should I go about figuring out which applied math departments are generally regarded as "Top 50 applied math departments"?

Why aren't there a ton of different sources where I can get rankings from -- like in the business school world (and probably law school world too)?

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    U.S. News and World Report, which only ranks up to Top 14 Is that true? I seem to recall them ranking more, though the information may not be free online. – Kimball Apr 12 '16 at 2:04
  • Ah, that's probably why. I'll try to purchase the report online. Thanks so much, Professor Martin. Have a great night @Kimball. – User001 Apr 12 '16 at 2:10
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    I'm not sure if there are more, but in any case, I don't think it's so important: see my answer. – Kimball Apr 12 '16 at 2:28
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    "Why aren't there a ton of different sources where I can get rankings from?" Because many people realized that rankings of departments is inherently bogus. (E.g. many rankings use weighted means of different scores and it turns out that in most cases a slight change of the weights (by a small fraction like 1-5%) may lead to rank changes of about 30 ranks and more. There are studies on this with real ranking data, but I can't find them right now.) – Dirk Apr 12 '16 at 6:46
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Why aren't there a ton of different sources where I can get rankings from -- like in the business school world (and probably law school world too)?

One issue is that I think you are comparing apples to oranges. Applied math is generally considered a part of mathematics--it is often not a separate department: the AMS only lists 30 graduate applied math departments. What you are asking seems to me more akin to "what are the top 50 schools in environmental law"? (I don't know whether such lists exist or not.)

Second, what is considered "applied mathematics" varies from department to department, and perhaps from person to person.

Last, neither overall rankings nor specialized rankings should be regarded with too much seriousness. There aren't meaningful, natural orderings on departments which measure "how good" a department is, largely because "good" is a nebulous concept.

As for how to choose schools, here are a couple suggestions:

  1. Ask some of your professors in applied math for ideas. Where I went to grad school was a place suggested by an undergrad professor.
  2. Use general math rankings to get an idea of reputation (and thus selectiveness) of departments, and look at department websites to see which have active applied math groups.

Note: many students won't know going into math grad school won't know whether they want to do applied math, stats, probability, analysis, algebra etc etc, so in terms of selectivity, looking at the general reputation of the department may be more helpful anyway.

  • Ok, got it. Thanks so much for your time, Professor Martin. – User001 Apr 13 '16 at 4:44
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As Kimball notes, there are not 50 programs devoted exclusively to applied math in the US.

For a PhD, you should really be looking at potential advisors, not programs. This is especially true in applied math, where most programs have a very small number of faculty. Your options for thesis research in a given program will be essentially restricted to the specialties of the faculty in that program. Also, the quality of your training (and your subsequent career opportunities) will often depend more on your advisor than on the program.

  • Ok, got it. Thanks so much for your time, Professor Ketcheson. – User001 Apr 13 '16 at 4:46

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