Sep 4, 2015

A great tool for discovering which colleges send the most students to grad school

UC Berkely is the nation's largest undergraduate producer of PhD's
Once again, self-descripted “tableau dabbler,” Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president for enrollment management at DePaul University, has come up with a really nifty tool for analyzing which undergraduate programs send the most students on to graduate school.  And for counselors working with students who already have a hunch they may want to go on for postgraduate studies in a particular field, this information is pure gold.

“I normally just think data are interesting, but in this case, I want to show a couple of things,” explained Boeckenstedt.  “If you are a student who is already thinking you want to get a Ph.D. in chemistry or history, for instance, it might be helpful in finding one where the department seems to be especially well suited or oriented to preparing or encouraging students in that area.”

Here’s how it works:  through a series of charts, Boeckenstedt has compiled National Science Foundation (NSF) data from 2012 (the most recent available) showing doctoral degrees awarded to students by undergraduate institution awarding the bachelor’s degree.  In other words, using these charts it’s easy to visualize which undergraduate institutions are sending the most students to grad schools.  One view looks at the entire universe of undergraduate programs while another breaks the schools down into Carnegie type—doctoral, master’s, baccalaureate, and “other.”  Here are the top ten results for doctoral institutions:

  • UC Berkeley (514)
  • Cornell University (368)
  • University of Pennsylvania (368)
  • University of Michigan (347)
  • University of Texas at Austin (298)
  • UCLA (295)
  • University of Florida (294)
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison (289)
  • Brigham Young University, Main Campus (283)
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

 And for baccalaureate institutions:
  • Carleton College (109)
  • Oberlin College (84)
  • Swarthmore College (84)
  • Williams College (84)
  • Smith College (73)
  • Wesleyan University (72)
  • Reed College (67)
  • Bucknell University (66)
  • Wellesley College (65)
  • Vassar College (62)
  • Barnard College (59)
As an added bonus, Boeckenstedt provides a series of filters for the chart under the tab labeled “All Institutions in One Chart,” which enable a more refined search by categories of majors.  Most useful is the filter for broad doctoral areas such as engineering, psychology, business and management or life sciences.  Another filter breaks the broad category into slightly more detail.  For example the broad area labeled “Physical Sciences” can be broken down to astronomy, chemistry, and physics.  Using this refinement, the top undergraduate producers of  PhD’s in physics in 2012 were:
  • Cal Tech
  • Cornell University
  • MIT
  • UC Berkeley
  • Harvard University
  • Princeton University
  • Stanford University
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Purdue University
Within “Humanities” the top producers of PhD’s in history were:
  • UC Berkeley
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Yale University
  • Harvard University
  • Stanford University
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Brigham Young University
  • Brown University
  • Duke University
  • University of Michigan
  • The College of William and Mary
  • UCLA
  • University of Chicago
In another series of charts under the tab labeled "Foreign/US Origins," you can see how many PhD’s were awarded in various areas to students coming from foreign universities.

“One thing that jumped out is the surprisingly high percentage of doctorates in engineering earned by graduates of foreign colleges,” notes Boeckenstedt in his blog.

Students coming from foreign undergraduate programs made up 57% of the PhD’s in engineering and 52% in math and computer science.

Note that the data is only as good as that which is provided to IPEDS and the categories are those defined by the government.  Nevertheless, these charts are great tools for working with kids who are willing to think outside the box about undergraduate programs that have solid track records for sending students on to graduate school.

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