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College rankings, math?

ClendenenatorClendenenator Posts: 1,671Registered User Senior Member
edited August 2008 in College Search & Selection
I'm looking for a good college and I'm having trouble finding all these "rankings" in certain fields people always talk about.

Can someone tell me what schools are considered the BEST at math (undergrad), for example? Top...10 or so. Regardless of size, location, acceptance, etc. If possible, maybe the same thing for physics, too.

**Don't let it affect the previous answers, but I'm sort of taken with Cornell University. Be perfectly honest: is the math program there considered one of their strong suits?
Post edited by Clendenenator on
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Replies to: College rankings, math?

  • dilksydilksy Posts: 1,903- Senior Member
    Well, 3 weeks later, here we go...

    Roughly top 10 in math are Princeton, MIT, Caltech, Stanford, Harvard, Berkely, Chicago, Michigan, UCLA, Yale, NYU. Cornell is just a little bit past those, but they still have a strong math department, as far as I know. Keep in mind that most "rankings" aren't for undergrad programs, but for graduate programs and faculty research. If you plan on being far enough ahead so that you'll be doing graduate classes as an undergrad, or want to do research as an undergrad, then the rankings should have more weight.

    Once you get up to top 10-15, there's not too much to really distinguish the different schools, so you have to start thinking about what qualities are most important to you, and which ones meet them best. MIT and Caltech and strong technology schools, so if you were thinking about doing something more engineering-like, that would be your best path. If you want to be able to branch out into non-science related subjects, then they might not be the best choice. Princeton/Harvard/Stanford all have very strong name recognition. Harvard/Chicago/Michigan are the only three schools I know of with an introductory theoretical math sequence.
  • nodnardnodnard Posts: 467Registered User Member
    If you want to throw in an LAC, (I believe) Williams has a very good math program.

    Duke seems to do well in Putnam competitions, yet is never thought of as a top-10 math school...why?
  • AlexandreAlexandre Posts: 21,421Super Moderator Senior Member
    In my personal opinion, here are the top undergraduate math departments:

    GROUP I
    Harvard University
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Princeton University
    Stanford University
    University of California-Berkeley
    University of Chicago

    GROUP II
    Brown University
    California Institute of Technology
    Columbia University
    Cornell University
    Duke University
    New York University
    University of California-Los Angeles
    University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
    University of Pennsylvania
    Yale University

    GROUP III
    Johns Hopkins University
    Northwestern University
    Rice University
    University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign
    University of Maryland-College Park
    University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
    University of Texas-Austin
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • abemartinabemartin Posts: 159- Junior Member
    alexandre i think your a cool person, but your list is full of flaws. I also happend to see your departmental ranking for economics and some of the colleges where in improper order and some not listed.
  • MUnitedMUnited Posts: 535Registered User Member
    that makes no sense, Cornell is number one for engineering physics, how would it not be good for math. (meaning it's in group I)
  • AlexandreAlexandre Posts: 21,421Super Moderator Senior Member
    abemartin, like I said, I am merely stating an opinion based on my experience and exposure. Care to tell me what schools I missed or missplaced? I am sure I missed some (there are thousands of universities out there) but I rarely missplace.

    Munited, what does Engineering Physics have to do with Mathematics. Caltech is #1 in Physics, but it's math department isn't one of the top 5 or 6 in the nation. Chicago has a top 5 Physics and Math department, but they don't have a top Engineering program. Princeton's Econ department is arguably #1, but it has not Business school. Etc...
  • abemartinabemartin Posts: 159- Junior Member
    i know, excuse me, my comment could be seen acromonius. no offense. like UNC is not listed. anyways, your studying in UAE? i was born there; however, i am a syrian arab. are you studying down there?
  • AlexandreAlexandre Posts: 21,421Super Moderator Senior Member
    I grew up in the UAE, but I spent a year as a boarding student in the DC are and I also went to college and graduate school in the US. I am now back in the UAE because it is the only reasonable place to live in the Middle East (most of my family lives in the area) and I want to be close to them.

    As for UNC, it belongs in Group III for Math, as do Carnege Mellon and a few other programs. I also did not include LACs, many of which have excellent math departments.
  • ericatbucknellericatbucknell Posts: 748Registered User Member
    since im of the opinion that alexandre tends to overrate public universities with strong graduate departments, a few privates id add to group iii: washu, brandeis, carnegie mellon and dartmouth. a few others (public and private) with solid math programs are notre dame, usc, rochester, lehigh, uc-sd, stony brook, purdue and washington.

    among liberal arts colleges id consider williams, swarthmore, harvey mudd, haverford, wesleyan, reed, colgate, oberlin, bryn mawr, bucknell and holy cross.
  • AlexandreAlexandre Posts: 21,421Super Moderator Senior Member
    Erica, only 9 of the 27 universities I mention above are public. I usually leave out LACs because they are harder to rate.
  • vonlostvonlost Posts: 13,629Super Moderator Senior Member
    One way to rate undergraduate math departments is by the percentage of its students who go on to earn a PhD in math. These top ten are:

    CalTech
    Harvey Mudd
    MIT
    Reed
    Rice
    Princeton
    U Chicago
    Carnegie Mellon
    St. John's
    Pomona

    Source: Weighted Baccalaureate Origins Study, Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium, 1992 to 2001.
  • AlexandreAlexandre Posts: 21,421Super Moderator Senior Member
    Not really vossron. The %age of students who go on to get PhDs in meaningless. Whether it is as high as 7% or as low as 2% does not speak to the quality of department. St John's math department is not better than Harvard's or Stanford's or Cal's.
  • Tonyt88Tonyt88 Posts: 2,177Registered User Senior Member
    I would have to agree, especially when a school has what like seven majors to choose from [such as Harvey Mudd, though it is nonetheless an incredible school for math majors] of course the percentage of math majors will be higher than a school that offers 20x more majors, but yeah.

    And I'm trying to remember, I forgot where I saw it, but I remember they ranked the best three math programs as:
    MIT
    Harvard
    Caltech
    and they gave MIT a score of 5.0/5.0 and Harvard and Caltech a 4.9/5.0 though I can't remember where I read this, anyone know, though I do believe that these three are definitely at the top [Note: comments contain bias ;)]
  • vonlostvonlost Posts: 13,629Super Moderator Senior Member
    "One way to rate...", not *the* way to rate. The percentage is meaningful to a high school student who has the goal of earning a PhD; her chances are better at a school where 20% of math BS/BA graduates go on to earn a math PhD, than at a 10% school, regardless of school, class or department size. The data prove nothing about the quality of math departments, which may be better at a large university which grants PhDs. The data suggest that undergraduate PhD preparation is best at these high-ranked schools, but does not prove such. It may well be that math students attending Harvard or Stanford or Cal are not as interested in earning a math PhD as students attending the schools on this list, which may well be self-selecting by PhD seekers.

    "I want a PhD in math, I see that a BS in math from CalTech provides the best statistical chance of it, so I want to go to CalTech. By the way, I *assume* that CalTech provides excellent preparation towards a PhD in math, and excellent preparation in math in general."
  • im_blueim_blue Posts: 2,142Registered User Senior Member
    For whatever it's worth, which may not be much at all, these are the top 25 math PhD programs as ranked by US News. Yes, I realize these are graduate rankings, so no need for anyone to jump in and say how irrelevant they think these are.

    1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology 5.0
    2. Harvard University 4.9
    Princeton University 4.9
    Stanford University 4.9
    University of California–Berkeley 4.9
    6. University of Chicago 4.8
    7. California Institute of Technology 4.6
    New York University 4.6
    University of Michigan–Ann Arbor 4.6
    Yale University 4.6
    11. Columbia University 4.5
    12. Cornell University 4.4
    University of California–Los Angeles 4.4
    14. University of Wisconsin–Madison 4.3
    15. Brown University 4.2
    University of Texas–Austin 4.2
    17. University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign 4.1
    University of Minnesota–Twin Cities 4.1
    University of Pennsylvania 4.1
    20. University of Maryland–College Park 4.0
    21. Duke University 3.9
    Johns Hopkins University 3.9
    Northwestern University 3.9
    Rutgers State University–New Brunswick 3.9
    University of California–San Diego 3.9
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