Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Does the Ranking of a University matter: Decision of Application year

Once again of course, it does. If you are a Harvard graduate employers are ready to welcome you their arms wide open when you approach them. A Harvard graduate certainly has advantage over the graduates from a university which is not in top 10. And yes, spending 5 years in top university with top intellectuals and a highly intellectual environment indeed inspires you to give your best and after 5 years you come out as a real intellectual.
Having said that, we can divide universities in four categories: top 10, ranked between 11-50, ranked between 51-150 and below 150.  Essentially the ranking is US university ranking and not the world ranking. Also this is not a very scientific method to divide the universities in different categories and there is not hard and fast rule about deciding the exact number in each category. The sole purpose of the discussion here is to make the decision easier for those who are in a fix if they shall apply immediately or shall wait for a few years so that they can get into a higher ranked university.
Therefore, if you are not from top 10 but from top 50 and when you go to job market you have revealed advantage over those who are not from top 50. What I essentially mean here is say you are from a university ranked 15 then you don’t have revealed advantage over a candidate who is from a university ranked 45. The decision is going to be taken depending on other factors. I am not saying that if you go to a top 15 university it’s not worth. It is but I don’t personally think that it’s such a worth that you decide to wait for 2-3 years to make yourself get accepted by that university. Ultimately in PhD, it’s your work that counts. But yes…. If you can’t even make to a top 50 university then probably I would say that it’s worth to wait for a few years.
Same logic applies to an applicant who is in a state of fix where he can get admission to a university ranked 100 but can’t make to a university ranked around 50. In fact it’s very difficult to decide on the basis of ranking after top 50. Can you really make a clear difference between two universities one figuring in early 50’s and another in late 50’s. So ranking must not be the most important criteria while seeking admission according to me. And of course, some faces matter too. If a professor is well known for his research productivity in a certain area then for an applicant who is also interested in same area, the particular university could be a better option than some other university which is ranked higher than this university but not so well known professors in the same area. However, normally you find top professors in almost every field are in top university.
The choosing a university ranked below 150 is indeed a tough decision. You might not get a very intellectual company in such university. However I must say ‘something is better than nothing” applies here too. Get your PhD from such university, work hard, produce good results and publications and if not immediately you would be able to carve a niche for yourself with the course of time.
I am sure that there are so many holes in the post to argue about and raise your finger on. But at the same time I hope that it helps at least a few applicants who are in a transfix to apply this year or next year or may be dropping the idea of doing PhD altogether. Leave your comments.


  1. i was just wondering about the top ten programs are they just a wow effect or is it substantially harder to achieve your PhD from there than for anywhere else? or is it the fact that your taught by influential people that makes your degree better than that of other universities...basically my question is what the difference between the top 10 programs and say the 11-50 best and those below 150??

  2. It's very hard to answer this question. But I guess it's a combination of all those factors. It's certainly harder compared to other low ranking universities, taught by influential people have both effects- you are perceived to be better by others and you indeed learn more and become inspired if you constantly interact with them.
    Top 10 programs, if you survive and pass out, gives you a better job guarantee. Since ultimately a PhD is all about your research so having a PhD from a university ranked below 150 is also valuable if you work hard and manage to write good papers and dissertation.