Engineering School Rankings
Organizations and individuals have been ranking engineering schools for years. In the US, a whole industry has arisen focused on the ranking of universities and colleges, including undergraduate engineering schools. Publications and organizations such as Student's Review of Top Engineering Schools, World Science & Engineering Top Engineering Schools, The Princeton Review, The Washington Monthly and US News & World Report regularly publish general and specialty rankings designed to identify the "best" graduate and undergraduate schools and programs according to quality and value. Individual programs may also be ranked by smaller, specific publications (such as, in the case of engineering, Small Times magazine) or on the global stage, such as in the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) based in Shanghai, China.
Each of these publications, however, uses its own particular set of criteria for ranking schools and programs. In the case of the controversial Gourman Report, the author specifically refuses to disclose his methodology. How then should all these rankings be interpreted?
First, the ranking reports often come with detailed data to support conclusions, and while data collection may be criticized, the editors of these reports usually 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, if you find that a high percentage of students participate in a co-op experience and that few opportunities are in the western states, you might want to explore during a school visit why few students go to this region of the country.
All university and college rankings have one other thing in common: they are a list of institutions and schools. Scanning the list might suggest an engineering 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 engineering school rankings alone. Engineering school rankings are important, but there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration. Schools that are less prominent may have a program that suits your needs better than any nationally ranked schools. Lesser known regional universities and colleges can also be a good choice if you wish to remain close to home during your studies. Often times, these schools have the strongest relationships with local industries and employers. Once you have accumulated this information, you can create your own engineering school rankings.
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