Americans love lists.
Whether it’s the Top 100 this or the Final 10 that; or the best of this or the worst of that, most of us attach meaning to how something gets ranked.
For example, the no. 3 joke on Letterman’s Top 10 list has got to be funnier than no.7. That no 1 water purifier rated in a consumer study must somehow produce water that is wetter than the rest of the competition.
One group of lists that many would-be doctors, lawyers, and even agricultural engineers across the country eagerly anticipate is the annual U.S. News and World Report annual rankings of graduate schools and programs.
The 2001 rankings were released recently and features business schools, engineering programs, schools of education, medical schools and law schools.
The rankings include several categories of information such as the percentage of graduates employed nine months after graduation, the average GRE/MCAT/LSAT scores of accepted students, and the faculty/student ratio.
The report also ranks specialties within programs. For example, law schools are further dissected into “Dispute Resolution,” “Tax Law,” and “Environmental Law” to name a few.
For many students planning to attend graduate school, picking the right school can be as nerve- racking as well, waiting to find out who’s the next person voted off of Survivor. For others, the task is not quite as anxiety laden.
Jessica Brown, a third year law student at Temple, said she didn’t use the rankings at all when deciding on a law school. “I used them for undergraduate school but not law school,” said Brown.
A second year law student who asked to remain anonymous said that he was familiar with U.S. News’ rankings but didn’t use them because he was “from Philly and knew the reputation of the local schools.”
He applied to 13 schools but chose Temple. U.S. News ranks Temple as a “Second Tier” school. “I chose Temple because I wanted to remain local… at the time I didn’t know about the rankings. I found out once I got here,” he said
For Tamika Edwards, however, the U.S. News’ rankings were essential. Edwards didn’t have the opportunity to visit any schools so the rankings and her conversations with people about various schools were key in her applying to law school. “They [rankings] are very good. It shows tuition costs, the average LSAT scores, and average GPA,” said Edwards, a first year student at Temple Law.
In spite of being informative, the rankings are not without its critics. On their website, The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) explains that the ranking system does not take into an applicant’s special needs and circumstances.
The site also declares that the U.S. News rankings “reflect only the view of the magazine’s editors.” Drs. Klein and Hamilton, in a study commissioned by the Association of American Law Schools, also challenge the validity of the rankings.
Despite the controversy surrounding these rankings, U.S. News’ rankings will undoubtedly continue to play a part in many students selection of a graduate program.
Elise Fialkowski, a partner and recruiter with Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, one of the Philly’s top law firms does not feel the magazine’s rankings are important in the firm’s hiring decisions. She says, “Reputation comes from the students themselves.”