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How to Use the 2015 Best Graduate Schools Rankings Wisely

Use our data, including admissions test scores and job placement rates, to compare graduate schools.

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The 2015 U.S. News Best Graduate Schools rankings spotlight the country's academically excellent graduate programs and can start you on the track toward picking the right school for you.

But many other factors that cannot be measured also should figure in your decision, including the course offerings and culture of departments that interest you, the advising or mentoring you can expect to receive, career opportunities, cost of attendance, the location and campus life.

So, why study our data at all? Because, for instance, you can see at a glance where your undergraduate academic record and admissions test scores might take you and where you would rise to the top of the applicant pool.

You can look up GMATLSATMCAT and GRE test scores and compare them between schools. You also can see how deans rate the schools in terms of academic excellence, which may matter to job recruiters.

The data in the ranking tables allow you to compare medical, law, engineering, business and education schools on many other key characteristics and will almost certainly open up further lines of investigation.

Someone interested in law, for example, can examine how successful the schools are at preparing graduates for the bar exam or how likely they are to get a job after graduation. Applicants to MBA programs can see how diplomas from various schools will affect their earning power. Future engineers can get a sense from a school's research expenditures of how cutting-edge their experience there might be. You might even discover possible choices that were not on your radar screen before.

In addition to the five main professional disciplines ranked annually, we also periodically rank graduate programs in sciencesocial sciences and humanitieshealth and many other areas based solely on the ratings of academic experts. For the 2015 edition, new peer assessment surveys were conducted and new rankings published for science Ph.D. programs in biological sciences, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, mathematics, physics and statistics, as well as key specialties associated with those disciplines.

Rankings can inform your thinking – but they won't hand you an easy answer. The rankings should only be used as one tool in finding the right graduate school or program. You need to consider many factors including cost, location, job prospects and course offerings.

The Best Graduate Schools rankings should not be used as the sole criteria in deciding where to go to graduate school. We urge you to use them wisely.—The Editors

Searching for a grad school? Get our complete rankings of Best Graduate Schools.