Determining Departmental Rankings
Ideally, departmental rankings should not be performed by only one person. Some units conduct evaluations by committee; smaller units may want to have a two-person team consisting of the current and past Graduate Program Director (GPD), or equivalent. The committee members should have substantial experience in reviewing student applications.
It is possible the people writing the departmental evaluations may not have any information on the applicant beyond the information in the application. In this case it is useful for the department to gather further information on the applicant from supervisors, and/or course instructors.
The objective of the departmental evaluation is to provide supplementary information that justifies the department’s ranking of the applicant. This evaluation will routinely explain the applicant’s qualifications relative to the cohort, but it may also provide additional information that does not appear anywhere else in the application.
The Departmental evaluation is an extremely important element in determining which applications go forward to the University adjudication committee. The information accompanying the rankings is taken seriously by the committee, and perfunctory statements or indecisive judgments do not aid either the applicant or committee.
Inclusions in Effective Departmental Evaluations
- Why applicant 'X' was ranked higher than applicant 'Y' (this should be done positively; negative comments such as “applicant 'Z' was ranked lower than applicant 'U' may hurt an applicant’s chances).
- Any personal comments that might be helpful, including information about academic career anomalies, such as difficult episodes in the applicant's past that they have overcome.
- Comments about the applicant’s potential.
- Information about awards, conference papers, publications and other academic or scholarly contributions by the applicant.
- The departmental evaluations should highlight particularly notable contributions, and if possible, contextualize them. For instance: "in our discipline, it is unusual to publish so early in the academic career," or "this article is published in a very high impact journal,” or “attending an international conference at this stage of the student’s career is quite an achievement,” etc.