I made a ranking of Astronomy/Astrophysics graduate programs in the the US based on experience of finding out where to apply, applying, and then getting accepted, wait-listed, and rejected; then finally deciding and having afterthoughts. This is certainly not a definitive list, but should help future applicants. Plus, I am adding short notes about most of them.Top 5,
Broad Based Strengths:
1. Caltech - I know ppl with 3.5/830 and research experience getting in.
2. Harvard - Very large department; impersonal, arguably top.
3. Ohio State - Research from Day 1. Grads happy, get good jobs.
4. Berkeley - See note about UC schools.
5. UT-Austin - Has own observatory, good health insurance.Next 5
, Good Reputation:
6. Columbia - Makes living in NYC affordable with subsidized on-campus housing.
7. UCSC - See note about UC schools.
8. Cornell - Strong in theory and computation. Very cold in winter.
9. UCLA - See note about UC schools.
10. Yale - Friendly dept. Just a train ride away from NYC.Strong in Specialty
, Lacks Diversity in Astro Research:
Princeton - Theoretical Astrophysics. Not good for observational work.
Illinois-Urbana - Computational Astrophysics. Focused on courses not research.
Chicago - Cosmology. Kavli Inst.
Arizona - Instrumentation. Good pay.
Hawaii - Observation. Big pay (30k). Islands/town/no-life.
MIT - Planetary Sciences. Doesn't have Astro dept/program though.Top Safety Schools
, worth going to:
Michigan - Good Physics faculty.
Colorado - Earth and Planetary Sci strong.
Penn State - No application fee.
UW-Seattle - Depends on who you work with.
Maryland (UMD) - NASA-GSFC and STSci nearby.
Florida-Gainsville (UFL) - Has money problem.
UW-Madison - Decision on May 2 !!!Joint Programs
, Physics Dept. with Astro Strength:
NYU - Strong in Cosmology. Live in downtown Manhattan.
UPenn - Live in Philly. TA Ivy students.
UCSB - See note about UC schools
UCSD - See note about UC schools
Vanderbilt - No application fee.Notes:
1. About UC Schools: The UC schools hire tons of grad students to use as TA, only to chop off most of them with a Masters. Unless you have commitment from a faculty member that you will be funded after the first 2 years, be careful when deciding. They have a ridiculously low international to domestic students ratio and their bureaucratic mess is notorious. However, on the upside, you have access to most of the world's best telescopes and many reputed faculty.
2. Princeton has recently lifted their strict 4-year finishing line requirement amidst burn-out cases. They are top for theory by any measure, and have just poached Burrows from Arizona.
3. OSU has very good faculty members in each Astro sub-field and they really care for their graduate students' research. Most students have their first publication in the first year.
4. At UT-Austin the grad students get almost unlimited access to the McDonald observatory ran by Austin. However, their observatory is now aging, as are majority of the faculty members.
5. Columbia, Cornell, Yale, and UPenn have strong departments with rich and diverse faculty along with Ivy league brand value. They pay generously as well. Certainly worth considering.
6. Arizona's instrumentalists are the best in their business but they don't observe. Since Burrows left and Arnett retired, their theory has snagged too. Good pay for a small town though.
7. Go to UIUC if you know for sure that you want to do Computational Astrophysics, and that you perform better in a classroom than out of it. Good for international students finishing college abroad.
8. In Michigan and Chicago, the Astro and Physics grad programs have a similar track, which is a positive for students looking for grad level pure-physics classes in a Astro program.
9. Penn State and Vanderbilt do not have any application fee. So these are great picks as safety schools, specially if you have application fee headaches.
10. I have listed only a fraction of all Astro graduate programs here. A fuller list can be seen here - http://www.astro.umass.edu/~arny/astro_gradprogs.html
For detailed statistics on program size, recent incoming class sizes, number of international students in program etc. information, please see -http://www.aip.org/statistics/trends/re ... strost.pdfhttp://www.aip.org/statistics/trends/ar ... rorost.htm