What are the “Top 5”?

Thank you, Vatsa! I wanted to applaud when I read this recent blog entry: “Any of the 19 schools on the WSJ list can help a motivated individual achieve his or her career aspirations, and it’s up to the individual to decide what his own internal ‘ranking’ of schools is.”

This addresses a couple of important points. Firstly, any of the top schools can help a motivated individual achieve his or her goals. Conversely, HBS on your resume is not an instant ticket to the job of your dreams. It’s a great tool, but you need to know how to put that tool to work. In the end, your intelligence, focus, personality, perseverance and more are all going to factor into your success. It’s important to keep in mind that there are a ton of great schools out there, all with different offerings and different networks. Getting in to a great school is important. However, what you do with that opportunity is much more important.

Secondly, the notion of an internal ranking is important. Many applicants will call me saying that they want to apply to “the top 5 schools.” My first question: “What are your top five?” You would be surprised by how much the answers vary. Kellogg, Chicago, Wharton, Columbia, Harvard, Michigan, MIT, Stanford, Tuck – these are all names that are mentioned with regularity. Every list is different. This variance is reflected in the “official” published lists – EIU, the Financial Times, US News, Business Week, WSJ and Forbes all publish lists, and they all use different criteria. Instead of choosing from one of these lists, an applicant needs to determine their personal criteria. An article published last week by the Economist quotes former HBS Dean, Kim Clark, who said that he would like a school to be judged by the “achievement of its alumni”. That’s his criteria. What’s yours? When selecting your schools, use the rankings as one piece of research, but realize that it is a subjective judgement, and what matters most is not what is important to Forbes, but what is important to you.

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