The fact that Harvard Business School jockeys for the top spot in all major rankings will surprise no one. But how much weight do HBS admits give those rankings when finalizing their target school list? HBS seeks answers to this question in a survey on MBA rankings recently posed to the entire student body.
With ten+ popular business school rankings released annually, there’s a lot of overlap and information to consider. In its survey on MBA rankings, HBS wants to find out whether students favored certain rankings outlets over others. Next, HBS asks how influential rankings were in guiding the applicant’s final selection of target schools. Also, the school wants to learn how important a school’s reputation on entrepreneurship was to the applicant when considering programs.
This week in The Harbus, the business school’s student-run paper, first-year Raseem Farook shares initial thoughts on the subject gleaned from conversations with the marketing and admissions teams at HBS. Take a look at some of their comments on the subject of business school rankings.
The HBS survey of MBA rankings, from the school’s perspective
“Participating in these rankings takes a lot of time and effort,” Mark Cautela, Director of Communications at HBS, tells Farook. “We used to participate in over 10 different rankings. But a few years back we made the decision to reduce our participation to just five, and we haven’t noticed a drop in interest.”
This prompted the marketing and admissions teams at HBS to investigate whether rankings mattered to incoming students.
Also, was it worth the effort to participate in them?
Brian Kenny, Chief Marketing Officer at HBS, tells Farook he thinks rankings might help applicants come up with an initial list. But then, the search must get more personal. “Each student’s motivation and reason to attend business school will be unique,” he says.
“Some come to pursue entrepreneurial paths, while others may come to switch careers. And it is not possible to create one list that captures the requirements of all these different individuals. So, rankings should just be one data point in the decision-making process and not the sole criterion.”
Meanwhile, Chad Losee, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid at HBS, shares this view about rankings. “We are not solving for rankings as we make our admissions decisions,” Losee says. “Our goal is to admit a class of talented, curious leaders with different perspectives on how to solve important problems in business and society.”
What is HBS’ secret formula?
Farook then asked Losee for insight into how HBS keeps a consistently high yield rate despite participating in fewer rankings. Here is Losee’s response:
“Many of our admissions outreach efforts aim to help prospective students get to know HBS on a much deeper level—and to imagine themselves here. For example, I just held admissions information sessions in four cities in Africa, and in each one we had inspirational local alumni come and share their experience at HBS and thereafter.
“In an event like that, or in the digital outreach we do, prospective students learn a lot more about HBS than they can from a ranking. As a result, our yield has stayed pretty stable over time, thanks to the countless efforts of students and alumni chatting with newly admitted students about the experience they can have at HBS.”
Evidently, as Farook notes, the magic formula for success is helping prospective students to imagine themselves at HBS.
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