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Your one-stop resource for studying in the United States. International students can search our directory of over 4,000 American educational institutions. Find the right college, university, or other school for you, and study abroad in America! Let us provide application forms as well as information on tuition, scholarships, grants, financial aid and much more.

 
 

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How is a School Ranked?

Are you curious about how various US higher educational institutions are ranked? Here's some help to get you started -- plus some great resources for further information:

Many Sources
There are numerous publications that rank US colleges, universities and graduate schools. Rankings may appear in newspapers, popular magazines, books, college guides, scholarly journals and government publications.

Use these rankings as a starting point for selecting schools for consideration. But beware of selecting a school simply because of its ranking on a particular list.

Use Your Judgment
Keep in mind that what is "best" on one list may not be so on another. That's because various ranking systems differ in terms of their methodologies -- and how they determine the characteristics of a top school. Some ranking systems base their evaluations primarily on subjective surveys, while others focus more upon objective factors.

In fact, many schools do not support, and some even boycott, popular ranking systems. That's because they feel the rankings do not capture each school's individuality or fairly represent its qualities. For best results, evaluate and compare various rankings. But don't follow any one system blindly.

These school rankings have their shortcomings. However, they are read by millions of people, including the general public, potential applicants and employers. A school's ranking can have a significant impact on the quality of its applicants, faculty and recruiters. Not to mention, the amount of money it can raise.

Most Common Ranking Methodologies
Educational Rankings Annual (ERA) reports the most common four ranking methodologies to evaluate schools include:

1) Reputational rankings;

2) Citation analysis [the number of citations appearing in printed works written by a school's faculty];

3) Faculty research and publication productivity; and

4) Statistical rankings [such as colleges with the highest endowments, the largest library facilities, the most selective admissions rates, etc.].

Many publications follow the Common Data Set (CDS) as a standard format for collecting information on schools. This helps them standardize the core information used in guidebooks and other resources.

Areas considered:

  • Admission requirements
  • Graduation rates
  • Selectivity
  • Academic offerings and policies
  • Student life
  • Annual expenses, financial aid, scholarships and grants.

Not all rankings publications adhere to the CDS. Even those that use this system may add additional categories to their surveys.

Brief Descriptions of Selected Resources
Following are a number of helpful resources about school rankings:

QS World University Rankings
This is QS's flagship ranking, established in 2004. It currently features the world's top 800 universities, with the aim of helping international students compare universities across countries on indicators reflecting global reputation, research impact, staffing levels and internationalisation. Unsurprisingly, US universities are a very strong presence.
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Asia Inc. ( Irregularly)
Asia Inc. is an English-language business periodical published in Asia. In 1994, it published a survey of thousands of recruiters in Asia titled "Asia Inc.'s Top MBA Programs in the World." It asked the recruiters to list the top 25 business schools in the world for Asian executives.

BusinessWeek (Biennially)
BusinessWeek began ranking American business schools in 1988. It publishes its list of the top twenty schools every two years. The magazine bases its rankings on surveys of recent graduates and reputation surveys at large corporations. Questionnaires are mailed to more than 6,000 graduates of the 44 top schools, and surveys are conducted at more than 350 large companies.

Educational Rankings Annual (Annually)
Educational Rankings Annual is published by Gale Research Inc. This book selectively collects and reprints rankings prepared by various rankings publications. According to the book's editors, "It does not include rankings publications which have received extensive negative criticism by ranking experts."

The Gourman Report (Annually)
The Gourman Report is an annual ranking of colleges, universities, graduate and professional schools. It is published by the National Education Standards organization. The report looks at a variety of qualitative and quantitative sources for evaluation. These include the quality of faculty, students, research, administration, libraries, career counseling, financial aid, computing facilities and curriculum. It also considers the program's history, admission criteria and financial stability.

The Gourman Report rates American universities according to the following scale:

Strong 4.41-4.99
Good 4.01-4.40
Acceptable Plus 3.51-3.99
Adequate 3.01-3.50
Marginal 2.01-2.99

Money Magazine (Annually)
Money Magazine publishes its list of "Best College Values" each year. In this ranking, schools are selected on the basis of their cost in relation to other factors, such as reputation, quality of education, quality of faculty, and so on.

Princeton Review's Best 311 Colleges (Annually)
This guide annually chooses a "College of the Year." Rankings are broken down into nine categories:

  • Academics
  • Administration
  • Quality of Life
  • Politics
  • Demographics
  • Social Life
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Parties
  • Schools by Type

A panel of professors, administrators and other education experts formulate the criteria and forward the candidate schools to the guide's editors. Some rankings are based on student surveys.

Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States, Continuity and Change (Irregularly)
Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States, Continuity and Change is a four-year study of 3,634 academic programs at 274 institutions. It was published in 1995 by the National Research Council.

Among the study data gathered:

  • Number of graduate degrees granted annually by each institution
  • Average number of faculty receiving federal grants, faculty awards and honors
  • Percentage of degrees earned by women and minorities

Science Watch (Irregularly)
Science Watch is a scholarly journal that periodically evaluates academic programs and schools based on objective statistical methods such as citation analysis.

US News & World Report's America's Best Colleges (Annually)
This guide ranks schools by the following attributes: reputation, retention, faculty resources, selectivity, financial resources, value added (for the national universities) and alumni giving.

Each of these attributes is given a percentage value that is used to calculate a school's total score. This guide ranks public and private schools; national and regional schools; and specialty programs. It also ranks schools on a state-by-state basis.

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Details

School Rankings
What is Accreditation?
Myths vs. Facts
Differences Among Schools
Public vs. Private
What is the Ivy League?
Grading Systems in US
Study Fine Arts
Distance / Online Learning

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