How much does the ranking of a graduate program affect the ranking of the undergraduate program?

How do you gauge the quality of an undergraduate program? If the graduate program is amazing and doing groundbreaking research, how much would that weigh as a factor in favor of an undergraduate program?

Virtually none. They are independent entities. Sometimes, it’s even detrimental, detracting from undergrad. That said, you might have lab opportunities that are interesting.

You really need to vet the undergrad for what it is, and if you like the lab, consider that a bonus factor IF most everything else aligns with what you want from a school.


How do you assess the strength of an undergraduate program then?

In another post you said you are between SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Binghamton, and possibly RPI. I would try to re-visit the top choices. Look for a good mix of education and campus life.

At some point person’s success after graduation will be determined more by what he/she achieves at a college rather than which college he/she attends.


You can use 3rd party tools (rankings) - which we know don’t necessarily provide truth in quality.

You can check curriculums, classes offered and then catalogues to ensure they are offered with regularity. You can check Rate My Professor rankings, ask to talk to a kid in a program, etc. and judge for yourself.

You can also ask for career outcomes or look on linkedin - in theory, a quality program will produce productive graduates.

I do think you can look at grad rankings as a baseline - in most cases grad rankings will somewhat correlate to undergrad - but again, that’s not a measure of quality.

You can also look at Niche - which is another ranking - but they rank schools in very subjects so if it’s physics, they’ll give each one a rank out of all the colleges that offer the major. What is the major? But again, rank isn’t quality per se - but it might give you a directional type opinion as to who might be stronger.


They’re all good schools. Your success will be based on your effort and capitalizing on your opportunities no matter where you go.

Look at things that matter to you. They could be class size, location, facilities, and whether or not undergrads can use them, support for your extracurricular interests, etc. Don’t ignore budget.

There is no “best,” just what’s best for you.

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Also, be realistic: for most kids the actual differences in practical terms are more experiential. Unless the student is already way, way above grade level they are unlikely to outgrow (academically) what even a middling university can offer. Elements such as how easy it is to get research from the beginning, what forms of practical support (from tutoring labs to TA availability etc) are easily accessible and so on. The biggest obstacle to student success is usually the student themselves- unis that make it easy to get support can help minimize that. And finally, don’t underestimate the impact - and usually the validity- of gut reactions.

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I strongly disagree. Although you may not have full access to the full resources of the graduate school, they are not also mutually exclusive. Just because a professor is a world class researcher doesn’t preclude them from also being great teachers. Some really enjoy having contact to undergrads either through teaching, advising or participating in research. Also, if you have a strong grad program, the TA’s are also likely to be strong.


I think you misunderstood me. I was simply saying not to disregard all the things you’d normally look at in vetting an undergraduate program based on a really cool lab.

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Thank you, this is all very helpful info.

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While we didn’t take the strength of the grad program into account at all when my D was choosing, I would now. I didn’t realize at the time that my D would be able to take grad school courses as an undergrad and they’ve been fabulous. I also think it impacts the research opportunities on campus and for engineering, the relationships with industry partners and quality of the facilities.


How relevant the grad program is depends on whehter you’ll be able to take advantage of it. The potential benefits include:

  • Greater selections of graduate level courses

  • Better opportunities for more meaningful researches

  • Higher likelihood of interactions with, and often getting some uncommon insights from, professors who are at the forefront of their fields

  • More research seminars and colloquia on subjects that may be of interest

  • If grad school is in your future, more professors who can point you in the right direction and write better recommendations

  • Even if grad school isn’t in your future, more professors who may have industry connections/relationships that can be valuable to you


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