50 Best Graduate Schools in America

| Staff

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Making the decision to pursue an advanced degree is not one to be taken lightly. Not only is it a serious financial investment, it’s a choice that can affect your future career and pay grade as well. Although the best graduate school for you may depend on a host of factors including your chosen area of study, it’s a good idea to be aware of the graduate schools that stand out as the most prestigious. The following schools have made that cut based on the rating and ranking methodology explained at the end of the article.

Top 10 Best Graduate Schools in America for

Rank School Location
1 University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC
2 University of California – Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA
3 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
4 New York University New York City, NY
5 University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA
6 Northwestern University Evanston, IL
7 Yale University New Haven, CT
8 Harvard University Cambridge, MA
9 University of Michigan – Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI
10 Columbia University New York City, NY
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Ranking the Best Graduate Schools in America

Although there are many ways to evaluate graduate schools, for our list of the best graduate schools, we decided to focus on a number of factors including class size, level of degree awarded, prestige of the faculty, and program rankings. We present the following 50 schools here in descending order according to the number of points awarded. Please note that in some cases, two or more schools received the same ranking. In order to break the tie, we took the school’s graduate tuition into consideration and awarded the higher ranking to the more affordable school.

  1. University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
    Location

    Chapel Hill, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Points: 19
    Enrollment: 29,135

    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers more than 80 graduate programs, several of which are highly ranked by multiple publications. Outside of teaching students, the university's main goal is to improve society by doing research and making university resources and knowledge available to the public. UNC is one of the top universities in the U.S. in research funding, and this is reflected in the high quality research carried out by students and faculty. Students' participation in meaningful research and public service give them the experience they need to become leaders in their fields.

    More information on the University of North Carolina

  2. University of California – Los Angeles
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Points: 17
    Enrollment: 41,845

    The University of California, Los Angeles boasts an atmosphere of optimism, community, and diversity that compels students to pursue knowledge. Its location in Los Angeles, the second largest city in the U.S., allows it to provide students with many unique resources, connections, and opportunities. Graduate students at UCLA are known for their leadership and contributions to their fields of study. Several of UCLA's graduate and professional programs are highly ranked, and the university is well-respected around the world.

    More information on the University of California, Los Angeles

  3. University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Points: 17
    Enrollment: 24,806

    Graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania are connected with their peers across the university's 12 schools to create a close-knit community and take part in interdisciplinary research. Penn's student body is diverse, with more than one-third of graduate students coming from other countries. Students also have access to the university's more than 170 institutes and research centers, including the Nanotechnology Institute, the Center for Public Health Initiatives, and the Center for Neuroscience and Society.

    More information on the University of Pennsylvania

  4. New York University
    Location

    New York City, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Points: 17
    Enrollment: 49,274

    Graduate research and studies are held to the highest standard at New York University. Professors and instructors are from the top of their fields and have valuable experience that they integrate into their classrooms. The university's location also benefits students, giving them ample resources and connections to potential employers. More than 17,000 students come from around the world to take advantage of NYU's diverse and creative learning environment. Almost every field of study has an advanced degree available, including public affairs, fine arts, engineering, law, and social sciences.

    More information on New York University

  5. University of Southern California
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Points: 17
    Enrollment: 42,453

    The University of Southern California is a major center for arts, communication, technology, and health services. Students participate in and are exposed to the rigorous atmosphere and research that the faculty at a prominent research university undertakes. They also take part in career path preparation, interdisciplinary programs, and communication development to prepare them for a professional environment. USC's location in Los Angeles creates a diverse environment and gives students connections to academic and cultural resources, as well as connections to potential employers.

    More information on the University of Southern California

  6. Northwestern University
    Location

    Evanston, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Points: 17
    Enrollment: 21,544

    Northwestern University offers its graduate students a demanding but nurturing environment that encourages them to find a healthy work-life balance. Diversity, engagement, and service are highly valued and a key part of graduate education at the university. Master's and doctoral degree programs are available in over 70 disciplines, and students are encouraged to collaborate across disciplines through interdisciplinary clusters and certificates. Graduate students also have the opportunity to participate in more than 100 international programs.

    More information on Northwestern University

  7. Yale University
    Location

    New Haven, CT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Points: 16
    Enrollment: 12,336

    Yale University boasts all of the resources of a large university with the benefits of a small school. Students come from several different countries and every state in the U.S. to study in Yale's graduate programs. Master's and Doctoral degrees are available in subjects such as architecture, engineering, drama, and nursing. The degree programs are flexible and supportive, but rigorous enough to make students competitive in their fields. Students have ample opportunities to participate in research and public service alongside faculty.

    More information on Yale University

  8. Harvard University
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Points: 16
    Enrollment: 28,791

    Harvard University is the oldest institution of higher education in the country. The university's three graduate schools offer a variety of master's and doctoral degrees in education, the arts and sciences, and design. A rigorous curriculum challenges students and prepares them to attain high positions in their chosen career paths. Students are taught by experts, and they work alongside a diverse group of peers who share their passion for learning. These talented students work closely with highly qualified faculty in exploring the most significant issues in their fields.

    More information on Harvard University

  9. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
    Location

    Ann Arbor, MI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Points: 16
    Enrollment: 43,625

    The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor immerses its students in a community of peers and faculty who they can collaborate with in research and other academic pursuits. Advancement of knowledge, new discoveries, and production of leaders are priorities at the university. Students can choose from over 200 advanced degrees in a variety of fields, and several on-campus resources are available to graduate students. Students are supported throughout their time at the university by both faculty and other students.

    More information on the University of Michigan

  10. Columbia University
    Location

    New York City, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Points: 16
    Enrollment: 27,589

    Columbia University is an Ivy League research university and the oldest higher learning institution in the state of New York. The school is one of the most selective universities in the U.S., and it consistently produces students who are experts in their fields. The university uses its location to its advantage, connecting students to the many resources available in New York City. Hands-on experience and research are prioritized, especially in the graduate programs. Several scientific breakthroughs have been made by Columbia faculty, including lasers, atomic fission, and many medical discoveries.

    More information on Columbia University

Rating and Ranking Methodology

Faculty/Student Ratio

  • Less than 10 to 1 – 2 points
  • Less than 15 to 1 – 1 point

Graduate Degree Programs Offered

  • Presence of Doctoral Program(s) – 2 points
  • Presence of Master’s Program(s)– 1 point

U.S. News & World Report Best Grad School Rankings – 1 point per area of study ranked

  • Nobel Laureate or Pulitzer Prize Winner Alumni or Faculty – 2 points

Wow Factor

  • 1 point awarded per program or feature that “wowed” us

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