The Lowdown on Nursing School Ranking Lists

According to U.S. News and World Report the top rated graduate nursing schools include the University of Washington, UC San Francisco, U of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins, U of Michigan, and UNC-Chapel Hill.

Does this mean the top 5 or 6 schools are more outstanding than others further down in the ranks?

While these results were for graduate schools of nursing, in 2007 at that, the question is just as apropos when applied to any type of nursing school, undergraduate included.

The College Ranking Debate

First the U.S. News and World Report college ranking lists are now famous. Debate over their general fairness and precision flares up whenever the newest publications hit the newsstands. Critics claim the original rankings were a blatant attempt at boosting otherwise stagnant circulation and that the ensuing stampede of sales has kept the rankings a popular read ever since.

How Are Schools Ranked on Popular Lists?

General studies colleges and universities are ranked according to two types of sources: statistics and opinion. However, according to U.S. News and World Report specialty healthcare schools are ranked according to academic opinion only.

How Nursing School Ranking Lists are Used

Proponents, particularly the top-ranked schools in any category, use their stellar rank as advertising and marketing fodder. This is big business and the U.S. News and World Report annual publication nets millions of readers both online and offline.

Do students actually make choices based on school rank? You bet some do. See, it’s much simpler to let someone else—in this case a popular magazine—make a decision for you. It takes work to evaluate a school of nursing or any school for that matter.

Most academicians suggest that you take the rankings not too seriously and use them only as a tool in the decision-making process.

Alternative Means to Choose a School

Outside the college ranking you have many other alternatives when it comes to measuring a school for your purposes. Here are a few tactics other than ranking lists:

  • Here’s a strategy: within the top 2 dozen ranked nursing schools are there any located in your region? Why not start there with narrowing down degree type, faculty, curriculum, accreditation, and more.
  • Consider heavily the nursing program’s curriculum, the actual courses available to you, the types of clinical experiences you’ll have access to, and possibly talk to a few students currently engaged in the same nursing program.
  • Does the nursing school provide career assistance or job placement for nursing grads? Review assistance for the NCLEX exam?
  • Is the school located in a rural or urban location? Do you have access to other activities you enjoy?
  • These are just a few other considerations that should keep you from relying solely on a popular list of top ranked nursing schools.

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