The U.S. News 2014 Best Graduate Schools rankings spotlight the country's academically excellent graduate programs and can start you on the track toward picking the right school for you.
But many other factors that cannot be measured also should figure in your decision, including the course offerings and culture of departments that interest you, the advising or mentoring you can expect to receive, career opportunities, cost of attendance, the location, and campus life.
So, why study our data at all? Because, for instance, you can see at a glance where your undergraduate academic record and admissions test scores might take you and where you would rise to the top of the applicant pool.
You can look up GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, and GRE test scores and compare them between schools. You also can see how deans rate the schools in terms of academic excellence, which may matter to job recruiters.
The data in the ranking tables allow you to compare medical, law, engineering, business, and education schools on many other key characteristics and will almost certainly open up further lines of investigation.
Someone interested in law, for example, can examine how successful the schools are at preparing graduates for the bar exam. Applicants to MBA programs can see how diplomas from various schools will affect their earning power. Future engineers can get a sense from a school's research expenditures of how cutting-edge their experience there might be. You might even discover possible choices that were not on your radar screen before.
In addition to the five main professional disciplines ranked annually, we also periodically rank graduate programs in science, social sciences and humanities, health, and many other areas based solely on the ratings of academic experts. For the 2014 edition, new rankings have been published for social sciences and humanities Ph.D. programs in economics, English, history, political science, psychology, and sociology, as well as for master's programs in library and information studies.
Rankings can inform your thinking—but they won't hand you an easy answer. The rankings should only be used as one tool in finding the right graduate school or program. You need to consider many non-rankings factors including cost, location, and course offerings.
The Best Graduate Schools rankings should not be used as the sole criteria in deciding where to go to graduate school. We urge you to use them wisely.—The Editors