Get our weekly advice

Keep up-to-date with the latest advice from Abound Grad School.

Should I Use Rankings to Find a Grad School?

If you’re thinking about going to grad school, your first question will likely be where you should go. Deciding on which school to go to for your master’s degree is a tough decision to make; you might be intimidated by the sheer number of schools you could choose from, and rankings lists can only add more pressure. So what should you do? Should you use rankings to find a grad school? Maybe, but not always. At Abound, we think the answer is complicated, but we do know that if you do use rankings, you should do so cautiously.

Rankings lists can be beneficial in a few ways. For one, can give you a sense of where your undergraduate credentials fit in with certain grad school requirements. U.S. News & World and Report, for example, considers current students’ undergraduate GPA in their analysis of grad schools. You can also see the percentage of graduates who have found employment. While there are some benefits to rankings lists, they do not accurately convey the unique attributes and experiences of an institution, which might be right for some, but maybe not right for you. 

The data used to create these lists are important to consider, but they rarely tell the full story. More often than not, these rankings provide a superficial analysis of what a grad school can offer you, so while you might use them to create a preliminary list of schools, your perception of a school shouldn’t be wholly dependent on its rank. Rather, we suggest that you discern what is most important to you and find a grad school that meets your needs and helps you accomplish your goals.

You should use whatever information you gather to create your own rankings list—one that’s based off what is most important to you. Are you looking for a school with a special emphasis on research? Are you interested in experiential learning opportunities? Do you need a program that can accommodate your busy lifestyle? These are all factors that rankings lists cannot communicate. When creating your own list of potential graduate schools, consider the following factors: 

  • Career Goals: Consider why you are pursuing a master’s degree. If your main purpose is career oriented, then your professional goals should be the utmost priority. Look for a graduate school that has a stellar graduate career services office. 
  • Learning Style: Do you thrive with a close relationship with your professors? Are you a more independent learner who benefits from online courses? However you learn best, look for programs to suit your unique needs. 
  • Location: Rankings lists rarely categorize schools by geographic location, which makes it harder to understand what great schools are in your area. If you have work and family obligations, you can’t realistically travel to a campus in another state. Even if you could, you would have to factor in out-of-state tuition. 
  • Cost: It is no secret that higher education is costly. Master’s degrees can cost anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000, making them hefty investments. Consider your means and the possible returns on said inestvent to understand what you can realistically afford. Just because a program is expensive, that doesn’t mean it will be more beneficial than a less expensive one of its kind. Look for schools that offer competitive tuition and generous financial aid packages.

Once you’ve narrowed down what’s most important to you, you can find schools that would fit at the top of your own personalized list. The next step would be to request more information from the schools you’re interested in. Grad schools understand that you need more than graduation rates and student-to-faculty ratios to make such an important decision. That is why they’re happy to send you more information about what makes their program unique. Reach out to the admissions department at your prospective institutions to get all the tools and materials you need to make an informed decision.

How I Found the Perfect Graduate Program

Another option is, if possible, to visit campus. There’s no better way to understand how you’ll fit at a school than to visit its campus. If you are able, arrange a visit and a tour of campus to see what the culture is like; you might meet some prospective professors and other students. Also take this opportunity to locate campus resources like the financial aid office, library, career services office, and a writing center, all of which may prove useful to you during your studies. 

At Abound, we understand that rankings lists are ubiquitous with wide-spread influence. And while they could offer early insight, they should not be taken at face value. No amount of data will be able to quantify how a graduate program can inspire you, help you accomplish your goals, and further your career. That’s why we suggest using rankings wisely and in consideration of the factors most important to you as an individual.

More About Abound: We’re here to help. Abound: Grad School narrows down your options and gets you in touch with schools that we can confirm are Accessible, Affordable, Accelerated, and Advanced. Take a look at the schools we trust and find the program that works for you.


Get our weekly advice

Keep up-to-date with the latest advice from Abound Grad School.