US School Rankings

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Joined: Fri Oct 21, 2016 11:19 am

US School Rankings

Post by mandarin » Fri Oct 21, 2016 11:28 am

I'm an international student and I'm trying to finalise the schools I'm applying to this year. After a lot of creeping around on this forum I'm getting a good idea of the level required for the different 'tiers' of universities, i.e. getting into the top 10 would require an excellent application, and so forth. I'm just wondering what exactly these tiers refer to - overall university rankings, or specific physics rankings? I know that this won't make a difference in some cases - MIT seems to be at the top either way - but, for example, University of Pennsylvania appears around 10th in the US rankings overall and ~17th in physics according to QS. I don't want to be deterred from applying to my dream schools just by a high ranking, but it would be good to gauge my chances of getting accepted. Could anyone shed some light on this?

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Re: US School Rankings

Post by TakeruK » Fri Oct 21, 2016 12:11 pm

I would say it's both, but it's the physics (or whatever department you are applying to) ranking that matters more. Ranking itself does not affect your admission chances directly because there aren't any rules like "If School X is a Tier Y school, then it must only accept students above GPA scores of Z". Instead, the reason why top tier schools are competitive is that their earned high ranking attracts more applicants and typically, more competitive applicants. And these applicants look at both school-wide and department rankings, but I'd say that in our field, department rankings matter more than school-wide ranking.

Also, you are an international student, like me, which means that you will probably have a tougher time at public schools. As you may know, international students cost a lot more than American students at public schools, so fewer of us are accepted at public schools. I would say that for us, this makes the competitiveness of the tiers more "smeared out" and I would probably group all schools ranked from 1 to about 25 as the same difficulty level. This is because the top 10 schools are generally private schools (where the extra cost for international students don't apply) and the top 25 schools generally include the best public universities. You will likely find yourself accepted at private schools ranked high and rejected from public schools ranked lower.

I realise that both example schools you mention (MIT and UPenn) are both private schools, but I'm just saying this since I don't know the rest of your list. In my opinion, if you are a competitive international student, then you should not be deterred at all by ranking when applying. If a school is a good fit for your research and personal life, then apply for it!

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