The Craze for Branded Universities-
Most of the students aiming for a great master’s education want to get into one of those “Branded” universities everyone is talking about. I’m not just talking about the Harvards and Stanfords of US but even the next tier of Universities such as University of California, LA or SD or North Carolina, Chapel Hill or TAMU, college station etc.. Remember, even these universities have a huge number of applicants from all around the world, especially from the Subcontinent, China, Korea etc.. . Getting into such Universities of course takes a great profile with good GPAs, GREs etc.. An added hurdle is the sheer amount of competition the applicants face.
For example, even after guiding multiple students over the years, for us it’s still quite hard to tell if a student with a great profile can get into CS program of North Carolina, Chapel Hill or not. It really depends on how competitive the Pool of applicants is.
What I can safely claim is that there are Universities which are almost on an equal footing as the “Popular” ones in terms of quality of education, but have somehow missed the limelight. To be honest, a few reasons for them not being that popular could be High tuition fees, Location, limited intake etc.. However, one secret advantage these Universities enjoy is the “Relatively low volume of applicants”. This very situation can increase one’s chances of admit into a great graduate course. Note that some courses in such universities might be ranked higher than the popular ones.
Also, one’s chance of getting on campus jobs or Assistantship increases owing to less number of students in the program, which in turn decrease your expenses.
Branded V/S Not-Branded-
For many students, the “Craze for Brand” is not just the driving factor to aim for such universities, but the opportunities that are created in terms of Job. I cannot deny that. Graduating from a “Maryland, college park” or “Columbia” definitely turns heads. The competition is crushing though.
On the other hand, graduating from a good Master’s course offered by these Not-branded Universities can also positively impact one’s resume, because employers usually look not only at the “brands” but also the content in an applicant.
In my opinion, if you are looking for an enriching education experience, do not limit yourself by just applying for brands. You should also give a shot to the other set of Universities.
QS rankings for some Popular Universities-
University of California, Los Angeles – 35
University of Illinois, Urbana Champagne - 75
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill- 90
University of Southern California- 129
Texas A&M, College Station – 189
University of Illinois, Chicago- 231
UMass, Amherst- 305
Northeastern University- 344
Stony Brook University, SUNY – 359
University of Texas, Dallas – 501-510
University of Cincinnati – 561-570
QS Rankings of some “Not so popular” Universities
Northwestern University 31
Rice University 85
Boston University 98
Case Western Reserve 167
Dartmouth College- 207
Georgetown University- 226
University of Notre Dame- 241
Tufts University 253
LeHigh University 551-560
Drexel University 561-571
College of William and Mary – 600+
Of course some might not agree with the Universities in the “Not so Popular” list, but we have observed fewer students applying to them (from India).
I also tried to include popular universities from different “Tiers” keeping all sorts of profiles in mind.