U.S. News Rankings ... Accurate or not?

I’m a CS student studying at Stony Brook University, and have always thought there were better schools out there based on my U.S. news ranking. I have been considering getting my masters, particularly at a different university so I can get a change of pace, given that I’m going in-state to Stony Brook for financial reasons. However, one of my professors at Stony Brook most recently pointed out an apparent disparity in CS rankings in recent years, and I am coming to find out that Stony Brook may be ranked higher that I had thought it was.

This is quite surprising, frankly to me. The article the professor provided is here: https://cra.org/cra-statement-us-news-world-report-rankings-computer-science-universities/

In addition, an article with more realistic rankings (seemingly updated from the 2010 U.S. News Rankings): http://pages.cs.wisc.edu/~remzi/rank.html

Honestly quite surprised by this news, since rankings are something I’ve looked at for quite a while when considering undergrad colleges and even when considering possible places to get my MS. Does anyone go by using the US News when considering a university?

IMO, the only true academic ranking is nrc, which is produced by academics for academics; unfortunately it’s only updated every decade or so. NRC is based on doctoral programs, so use it as you see fit.


It’s all relative. The actual number doesn’t really matter but the general range is a decent indicator.

Focus on the outcomes of the schools you are considering. Look at each school’s career survey in detail. Where do there grads go to work? What are the pay ranges? Do students specialize in an area of interest to you?

Find schools that do the best job of taking students to places that you are interested in. Don’t assume Google is a best outcome. Many too students reject offers from Google.

Example: https://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/files/2016_Senior_Survey.pdf

The “true” ranking that really counts is what the recruiters, employers and the job market “says.” It doesn’t matter what other rankings that are on paper. So find out who hires graduates from Stony Brook.

@tiggerdad he is looking at other schools because he is considering a Masters.

Regardless, in a field like CS, the most “accurate ranking” is who’s hiring what graduates.

IMO, the U.S. News rankings aren’t very good. The general range/grouping is sort of helpful but the individual numbers are not. Methodology:

So basically, they sent a survey to a bunch of professors and asked them to vaguely rank “quality” of program on a 1-5 scale. It was never quite clear to me whether this was a single-item survey or whether they asked multiple questions for each program, but I’m betting it was single item, which is terrible.

The response rate for computer science was 35%, which is actually pretty good for a cold-open survey. U.S. News says they surveyed 177 CS programs but it’s unclear to me whether that number is the total that they sent the survey to (in which case their sample size is about 62) or if that’s the total number that actually responded.

This is not really a great methodology. On the one hand, you do know what professors in the field - department heads and other prominent people in the field, who should know - generally think about programs. And we typically tell students to ask their professors, so that’s kind of like asking many professors. On the other hand, there are SO many variable factors that make an individual department better or worse on some indicators that using the rankings as a blunt object isn’t really a good idea.

For disciplinary rankings the survey is sent to Department Chairs and (maybe) Directors of Graduate programs. Having been in the position of getting these surveys, it is really hard to make a reasonable stab at ranking all the universities listed. The best known ones wil get a ranking, of course but if I don’t know someone at a particular university, how can I possibly give a score without a ridiculous amount of effort. the result is the small departments which might be very good will just not be recognized because they have fewer faculty members and so are not as well known to the survey respondents.

The US News undergraduate rankings are much better since they use more objective metrics.

On the whole the NRC data is more reliable, if partially out of date.

If the grad school you are looking for are in R1 group by Carnegie Classification, then the chance is that school has great funding for programs and researches.

@TiggerDad There are top recruiters from my school (Google, Facebook, etc.) but at the same time I don’t have the experience to get there yet. Plus even for other internships, they’re taking Masters students, students who have more experience, side projects, etc. compared to me.