Each spring, US News & World Report releases its annual graduate school rankings. Their release is, as always, timely for graduate school applicants who are starting to focus on school selection for next year – but, we caution you to look beyond the rankings as you develop your target-school list.

For better or worse, the rankings do affect the graduate schools. A high ranking is a feather in their cap that boosts competition for enrollment, puts a shine on fundraising activities, and always gets cited in grant applications. While many graduate school applicants rely heavily on these rankings to identify their A-list schools, choosing the right graduate school is a deeply personal decision. By all means, use the rankings as a guidepost, but remember the path is your own. And just as admissions officers look beyond GRE scores and GPAs when assessing applicants, so should you look beyond the numbers in the many publications that rank various graduate programs.

Many students seek program features that don’t weigh into how the popular rankings publications calculate a school’s ranking. Cost, location, ethnic diversity, or the availability of specialized joint-degree programs don’t often play a role in the rankings, yet for many applicants these considerations comprise the most important aspects of their program selection decision process.

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