I have identified 9 schools but, as of now, I am likely to apply to 7 of them only. 1 of the other 2 schools requires me to take the GRE, which I'm not sure if I can do it in time. The other is not really that into my research interest.
Based on the most recent USNews America's Best Graduate Schools (2007) ranking, the 7 schools that I am applying can be split into 4 groups:
- (Group I) 2 in the Top 10
- (Group II) 3 in the Top 11 - 20 range
- (Group III) 1 in the Top 31 - 40 range
- (Group IV) 1 outside the Top 49 (not sure if it is ranked)
Based on the USNews America's Best Graduate Schools 2005 Information Systems speciality ranking,
- 6 in the Top 10
- 1 outside the Top 20 (a Group I school)
- Tier A: 1 Group I, 2 Group II
- Tier B: 1 each from Group II, III and IV
- Tier C: 1 Group I
How did I come up with the different tiers? There are a few criteria that I looked at, starting with the most important:
1) Research interest. I looked at the faculty's research interest, and identified those that are doing research that I'm really keen in.
2) The school's reputation - both in general and specific to Information Systems. I also considered the school's placement record.
3) Environment - as I am going with my wife and daughter, I hope the place is condusive for a healthy family life, raising up children, etc.
4) Cost and Quality of Living. I took into account the stipends and financial aid offered by the schools here.
Such tier-system would be helpful should I need to decide between offers in months to come (of course, this is what I'm hoping for...). There is a limitation though: while useful to compare between tiers, this system may not help much when comparing within a tier. Anyway, that will be a good problem to have. And I must/should not be too presumptuous for now.
At this point, it might have been better if I had expanded the list to about 10 schools. But criteria #1 (Research Interest) seriously limited my choices. I'm not sure if this is the right thing for me to do, but I guess I should just move on.