Thoughts on considering an obscure, "low-ranked" university

<p>As some of you may remember, I'm planning to apply to Ph.D. programs in biology this fall. Most of these schools are not even in the Top 20, but are still extremely competitive (Top 20-50, let's say). One school I'm interested is actually ranked #100 in Biological Sciences grad programs in US News. This worries me a little. I know US News Ranking doesn't mean much, so I'm wondering why it might fall so short in their eyes. The university is lesser-well known but includes full tuition and a stipend like any other school, and seems just as competitive to get into (I got their stats). </p>

<p>The reason I'm interested in this university is because I found it while doing some research on the work I'm doing. Some of the professors' research seems to line up right with mine. I know there's no such thing as a "safety" school given the competition, but it's tempting to think of this school as one, given it's low rank and obscure prestige. Is it even worth it applying to this program, or should I aim slightly higher?</p>

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<li>3.5-3.6 gpa, 1250-1300 gre, 2 years industry, no publications.</li>
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<p>Nobody inside academia gives a rip about USNWR. Their "ranking" methodologies are complete and utter tripe.</p>

<p>Even if you take them at face value, "#100" is not "low-ranking" by any objective measure. There's maybe 500+ schools in the U.S. that have graduate programs in biological sciences. Being in the top 20 percent of that pool is not even close to "mediocre." </p>

<p>You just said the school "seems just as competitive to get into." That should be your answer right there.</p>

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<p>Then you need to apply to that school. The most important thing in graduate school is to find a professor/advisor whose interests connect with your experience and intended research direction. That connection (or lack thereof) can make or break your program.</p>

<p>And no, there are no "safety schools" for admission to funded graduate programs. Well, maybe if you have a 4.0, 1600 GRE and LoRs from two Nobel winners and a Genius Grant recipient.</p>

<p>Thanks PS, for putting it in perspective. In my mind I was going back and forth with it, like I do with all the schools I consider. But after your post I think I'll add this to my core group, which is now at 7 schools.</p>

<p>Where do you find out about the other 500+ programs? Haha, and do I actually want to know? My research on universities has been, well uhhh, at best...eclectic, but probably scattered, by looking at a culmination of several different lists (like USNWR) combined with a preconception of where I see myself.</p>

<p>That's the best way to do it. You're not going to be able to review all 500 schools in your field. Likely, you'll be familiar with a handful - from reading articles, meeting people, web-surfing and professors that you talk to. There's a tiny chance you might miss the "perfect" program for you, but if you are doing the right things in your field that chance is vanishingly small.</p>

<p>Do it if it looks like a good fit for you.</p>

<p>You are approaching the application process from a wrong direction. What you should do is consider your field in Biology first. PhD in Biology can me anything! What exact area are you interested in? For example, DNA repair or tissue regeneration or T-cell activation etc.. then you need to find top schools like your doing now but also find top researchers in your field. It should be a balance between the perfect lab, perfect city, perfect environment in lab and stipend, curriculum, rate of publication of the PI etc...</p>

<p>When I first applied to PhD I was looking at list that you are looking at but after getting a Masters and getting work experience in the industry I know that it comes down to finding a school that work for you.</p>

<p>Also, apply to around 10 schools. Pick 3-4 that are the top schools with top PI's in your field then pick 3-4 that are still competitive schools but not the top and pick 3-4 that are back up schools. So, never sell yourself short of at the same time never blindly apply as well. </p>

<p>I say apply to it and it's not going to hurt you in anyway. You can decide one you hear back from all the other schools you apply to as well.</p>

<p>Also here is another list...best stipends and it has the top universities on there as well.
<a href="http://www.wendychao.com/science/stipends/2009-10.html%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.wendychao.com/science/stipends/2009-10.html&lt;/a>
Hope that helped!</p>

<p>Thanks vj. Though that list is missing *a lot *of schools w/ stipends, I appreciate your help. </p>

<p>BTW - I'm not actually going after a phd in "biology." I just used that as a general discipline to describe my field, since most schools accept you under an umbrella program like "Graduate Program in Biomedical Science," etc. My real interest of course is much more focused than that, I just don't like to give too much info on these public boards.</p>