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Schools in the USA

How Film Schools are Ranked in the US

In the US, a whole industry has arisen focused on the ranking of universities and colleges. While there is no specific ranking of undergraduate film schools, national and international organizations such as US News & World Report, The Princeton Review, The Washington Monthly and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) based in Shanghai, China, regularly publish general rankings designed to identify the "best" graduate and undergraduate schools and programs according to quality and value. Less "official" rankings can also be found in resources like StudentsReview, and Rugg's Recommendations on the Colleges. For schools offering film programs at the community college level, you can consult community college rankings in The Washington Monthly and Community College Week.

Schools and programs may also ranked, or at least discussed,by industry-specific publications (for instance Cinema Journal, published by the Society for Cinema & Media Studies) so it's worth it to do a library and Internet search. Professional associations can also be consulted for information about various schools and programs. For instance, Independent Media Publications--which has taken over the resources of the now-defunct Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers (AIVF)--lists its "10 Best Academic Programs for Documentary Filmmakers." Such associations may also offer awards and honors for teaching excellence, and looking at who they have honored can also be used to supplement your 'ranking' of film schools.

Each of these sources, however, has its own particular set of criteria for evaluating schools and programs. In the case of the controversial Gourman Report (which ranks all undergraduate programs), the author specifically refuses to disclose his methodology. How then should all these rankings be interpreted?

First, the ranking reports usually come with data to support conclusions, and while data collection can be subjective (in the case of student surveys in particular), the editors of these reports generally make an effort to ensure that statistics are comparable. So the reports can be used by you to compare institutions and schools on the basis of the data provided.

Second, the statistics that come from the rankings can also suggest topics that need to be studied in more detail. For instance, these programs often offer field work or industry internships, but if the graduation and employment rates of grads are low, you may want to ask why.

All university and college rankings have one other thing in common: they are a list of institutions and schools. Scanning the list might suggest a film school that you had not considered or perhaps even heard of. Used this way, the rankings can help expand your list of schools that can then be researched in more detail.


However, you should never judge based on rankings alone. Film school rankings are important, but there may be other factors that need to be taken into consideration. Schools that are less prominent may have a program that might suit your needs better than any nationally ranked schools. Lesser known regional universities and colleges may also be a wise choice if you wish to remain close to home during your studies. Often times, these schools may have the strongest relationships with local companies and employers. Once you have accumulated this information, you could be able to create your own film school rankings.

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