Rethinking MBA Rankings

MBA rankings are a tricky subject. Most applicants put an enormous amount of credence in them when making their school selections, but the results aren’t always as clear-cut as they seem. The various media outlets that publish this information each have a specific focal point, which often differs from their competitors, and at times, it can feel more like an “apples and oranges” comparison.

For example, whereas Forbes focuses on ROI five years after graduation, Businessweek looks closely at the satisfaction levels of students and recruiters. U.S. News meanwhile takes the pulse of b-school deans and takes GMAT and GRE scores into account, and the Economist wants to find out how effective the MBA degree is at opening up new professional opportunities.

In other words, the rankings are not all the same.

When the Financial Times published its annual MBA rankings at the beginning of the year, Conrad Chua, head of admissions at Cambridge Judge Business School, blogged about the low-key reaction he received internally about the program’s strong showing at no. 16 after prior years spent in the mid-twenties.

“…While rankings are important and gives us valuable benchmarking information in certain metrics, there are a lot of areas that we feel strongly about that are not captured by rankings,” Chua writes. “For example, the quality of the academic experience, the learning environment, the networks that our students and alums can tap into.”

Last week, Poets & Quants published a fascinating piece on the “love-hate relationship” b-schools have with rankings. Using the rankings see-saw experienced by the Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business over the past four years, the article points out some very real perils of taking this particular data point at face value.

Idalene “Idie” Kesner, dean of Indiana University’s Kelley School, tells P&Q, “You love them when they go in your direction, and you are frustrated when they don’t. For a long time, we said that if you do good things, the rankings will follow. We have woken up to the fact that we need to focus on the rankings in and of themselves.”

The article is a must-read, and I encourage prospective applicants to think hard about the data points that are important to your own career path when determining the value of a particular ranking. You don’t have to go to the best business school of all. Just figure out which MBA program is the best one for you.

You may also be interested in:
The Truth Behind 3 Common MBA Rankings Myths


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