The Relationship between School/Department Rankings, Student Achievements, and Student Experiences: The Case of Psychology

Doug Stenstrom, Mathew Curtis, Ravi Iyer
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 10  •  2015  •  pp. 019-037
What predicts academic success during graduate school? What are the experiences of graduate students in terms of happiness, stress level, relationships in the program, and feelings of autonomy/competence? Responses from 3,311 graduate students from all psychological disciplines in the US and Canada were collected to answer questions involving (1) the relationship between student-level variables and department/school rankings (US News & World Report, Carnegie Foundation, National Research Council), (2) the determinants of important student-level variables such as number of publications, posters, and life satisfaction, and (3) examining the variables year-by-year in the program to explain changes over time at different points in the graduate career. Results reveal the degree to which certain aspects of higher ranked departments/schools impact student achievements such as number of publications and teaching experience. The results also reveal a unique year-by-year progression including a consistent decrease of happiness for every year in graduate school. While the findings were collected in psychology, the answers to these questions may resonate with graduate students across disciplines that are experiencing similar forces that characterize the graduate school experience. The results can also inform current conversations about the direction of higher education and the value of the graduate school experience.
department rankings, students, publications, happiness, life satisfaction
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