If you are visiting this site you are thinking about applying to grad school sometime in the near future and may be using these rankings as your guide. Like with any set of rankings you should take these with a grain of salt. Don’t get me wrong, the top departments are ranked towards the top for a reason, but you shouldn’t discount the schools towards the lower half of the list.
Selecting a grad school isn’t all about rankings. It is about finding an advisor that you work well with that is doing research that you want to do and build on. You also have to find a department that feels right, is in a location you want to be in, and can provide the support you need.
I earned my Ph.D. from UCONN in 2010, which you can see from the 2010 rankings is towards the very bottom of the list. I started my Ph.D. studies in 2006, a year after the data for the rankings were compiled. I can tell you that I had great resources, excellent funding (I have zero grad school debt), a great advisor, and the other students I worked with are some of my best friends and colleagues. I was able to teach a number of different classes, do research, publish, and build my skills as a geographer in many different ways.
During my last year of grad school I started pursing private sector jobs in New York and Boston and before I graduated I had several job offers.I did not apply to a single academic job, not because I didn’t have the skills to do it, but the private sector jobs were more attractive in terms of location and compensation. Today I have an awesome job for a large analytical software company in Boston, where I am able to fully take of advantage of the set of skills I developed in grad school.
If you are a self motivated person, and you should be if you want to earn a Ph.D., I believe you can accomplish what you want at any number of schools. Yes, some schools will have more a diverse faculty with lots of citations, some will have better funding, some will have libraries with larger journal collections, and some will have great health care coverage. There are so many factors that you should take into account when deciding on where you will spend the next four to eight years that rankings should not be the only factor you use to make your choice of where you apply.
Questions? Send me an email!