Natural and Applied Sciences School Rankings
Organizations and individuals have been ranking natural and applied science schools for years. In the US, a whole industry has arisen focused on the ranking of universities and colleges, including undergraduate natural and applied science schools. National and international organizations such as The Princeton Review, The Washington Monthly, US News & World Report and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) based in Shanghai, China, regularly publish both general and specialty rankings designed to identify the "best" graduate and undergraduate schools and programs according to quality and value. Some program-specific organizations like the National Research Council and the National Science Foundation also rank schools based on research funding received or expended, and you may find rankings for specific natural and applied science departments, for example a Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology. Less "official" rankings can also be found in resources like StudentsReview, Rugg's Recommendations on the Colleges, or Community College Week, and there are also a number of college guides (e.g., Fiske, Kaplan's, Barron's, etc.) and surveys (of guidance counselors, of students) which provide still more school or program rankings.
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 a school receives a lot of research funding but has a low graduation rate, you may want to ask questions about the strength of their teaching.
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 natural and applied sciences 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 natural and applied sciences school rankings alone. Natural and applied sciences 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 natural and applied sciences school rankings.
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