Never be swayed by the rankings and never formulate your opinions based only on the rankings. Rankings do present a picture, but not the entire scenario. The strength of the department is as important as the name of the school. The professors and the expertise available in a particular department of a not very high ranked school is more important for you since you will be enrolled in a particular department. Look into the record of the various departments that you are interested in, do an extensive research in the professors concerned, take a look at their published work.

Another pre-requisite that must be identified before drawing any conclusion, is the location of the university.

Research we reiterate is very important, and comprehensive brainstorming should be done to collect as much as information about the university as possible. Collect and collate as much information is possible about the universities and the program that you are planning to apply for. Self-introspect, and contemplate if your interests are in sync with the ethos of the programs. Also, insufficient research will only come back to bite you when you are facing the application committee during the interviews.

The best way to get a hang of the colleges and programs is to visit the website and search for relevant information. The record and the modules available on the website will provide adequate information about the program and its effectiveness in your career ahead. And then go through the profiles of different professors, research about their recent publications etc. Get in touch with the current students and ask them about their opinions on different professors.

If you get through you might have to spend the next few years in a particular place, and it is paramount you know about the location of the university, and about the place, the cost of logistics etc.   Apply to such a place which has enough opportunities to cater to your interests. For example, if you have an interest in computers and programming make sure you look for a university somewhere near the computer hub (Silicon Valley), even if it is a lower ranked university.