I wanted to clarify something based on a comment by a supporter on the discrimination post.
I think this clarification is useful because from my own experience, the general public doesn't know that the prestige of a university has virtually nothing to do with the prestige of any given graduate program at that university. The commenter on that post was defending my credibility as a scholar or smart person based on the fact that I was accepted to UC – Berkeley's social psychology program. I think this is a common heuristic, and I want to make sure ASU gets its due.
When it comes to PhD and other graduate programs, it's only the prestige and quality of the particular program that matters.
The prestige and selectivity of the university as a whole is much less important to scientists and prospective graduate students. The public prestige of universities is largely driven by their selectivity at the undergraduate level, average incoming SAT scores, etc.
Within the field of social psychology, getting into Berkeley's program is hard because they have a good program, not because they're Berkeley.
However, it's not harder than getting into Arizona State's program. The ASU program is elite. Getting into UNC - Chapel Hill was probably slightly easier than getting into ASU's program at that time, even though UNC is a public ivy and much more selective than ASU at the undergraduate level. In any case, there aren't big differences in the selectivity of these programs.
ASU's program is well-known for its focus on evolutionary psychology mechanisms, with researchers like Doug Kendrick, Steve Neuberg, Lani Shiota, and others drawing from that framework. There's a lot of cultural psychology work too with researchers like Adam Cohen and Virginia Kwan, who also employ evolutionary approaches. For decades, ASU was home to The Master, Robert Cialdini, the leading influence and persuasion researcher in the world, in whose lab I worked as an undergraduate research assistant. He's emeritus now, but we know he's here writing his book when we see a 1965-ish Ford Mustang parked outside.
Graduate students tend to choose programs based on the overall prestige of the program along with their perceived fit with the program. Additionally, depending on the structure of the program, a graduate student might be applying to work with a particular researcher/advisor more than applying to the program per se. Some programs are mentorship programs, meaning the Jedi/medieval model of master and apprentice, while others are more "programmatic" programs, though I don't think it's a clean line or a formal decision in many cases. In any case, the decision to choose a particular program might be driven solely by one researcher/adviser who happens to be in that program.
Just wanted to make sure ASU got it props. It's a top program. ASU gets mocked a lot in general media, 30 Rock, etc. based on its rep as party school, but that has no bearing on any of the graduate programs, many of which will be world class. I've been very lucky in that the quantitative psychology programs at both UNC and ASU are among the best in the world. (We get all our statistics training from the quantitative faculty.) One ranking has them stacked at #10 and #11, though I don't trust rankings of PhD programs too much. Paraphrasing von Hayek, all knowledge is local. The knowledge of which programs are best is often held only by people in the respective fields, not easily captured by US News and whomever.