Recruiters and Schools Value MBA Rankings

MBA rankingsThe subject of MBA rankings comes up a lot with b-school applicants. We’re always surprised by the extreme interest in rankings, which are, after all, rather fleeting. You may have your sights set on the “No. 1” business school. But a decade from now, that same stellar program might have slipped to number 10.

Make sure you’re looking at the data points that are important to your own career path when determining the value of a particular ranking. However, know that if you aspire to a highly competitive position in banking or consulting, a potential employer will likely give an advantage to an applicant from one of the elite schools. That’s the reality of the game.

Major MBA Rankings

A snapshot of how MBA programs rank:

School Name US News 2021 US News 2020 US News 2019 Total Enrollment GMAT GPA
Stanford 1 2 4 833 737 3.73
Penn Wharton 2 1 3 1,708 730 3.6
Northwestern Kellogg 3 6 6 1,301 728 3.6
Chicago Booth 4 5 2 1,185 726 3.58
MIT Sloan 5 4 5 809 724 3.58
Harvard 6 3 1 1,871 729 3.67
Berkeley Haas 7 6 7 502 717 3.64
Columbia 8 6 9 1,326 720 3.5
Yale 9 9 11 694 725 3.63
NYU Stern 10 12 13 790 710 3.51
Virginia Darden 11 12 13 678 712 3.5
Dartmouth Tuck 12 12 10 567 717 3.53
Duke Fuqua 13 10 11 896 695 3.47
Michigan Ross 14 10 8 801 708 3.44
Cornell Johnson 15 15 15 580 700 3.37
UCLA Anderson 16 16 16 734 715 3.52
USC Marshall 17 17 21 441 692 3.37
Texas McCombs 18 19 17 521 699 3.42
Carnegie Tepper 19 17 17 428 686 3.3
UNC Kenan-Flagler 20 19 19 574 700 3.37
Washington Foster 21 21 22 253 691 3.38
Emory 22 21 20 350 683 3.3
Indiana Kelley 23 21 27 370 670 3.34
Vanderbilt Owen 24 29 26 341 691 3.4
Georgetown McDonough 25 24 25 546 692 3.4
Rice Jones 26 26 23 226 690 3.42
Georgia Tech Scheller 27 29 28 143 680 3.39
Florida Hough 28 25 34 100 685 3.43
Minnesota Carlson 29 35 29 193 675 3.43

Recruiters’ view of MBA rankings

Despite periodic grumblings over the value of the various MBA rankings, a recent article by Seb Murray in BusinessBecause supports the notion that corporate recruiters still consider them a valuable tool. Keith Bevans, global head of consultant recruiting for Bain & Company, tells Murray that they use rankings to determine which business schools to invest resources into, such as on-campus recruiting.

“We use rankings at a macro rather than micro level,” Bevans explains. Rankings provide an initial guide, but the rest comes down to the appropriateness of each individual candidate. It’s worth noting that Bain hired over 500 consultants in 2018 and plans to expand on that figure this year.

The schools’ view of MBA rankings

UV Darden School of Business‘s assistant dean for career services, Jeff McNish, points to another value of MBA rankings. McNish tells BusinessBecause that rankings are among the only ways recruiters can assess the quality of an MBA cohort. This matters because  much of the learning at business school happens during case discussions among students.

Along those lines, Columbia Business School‘s former dean Glenn Hubbard once noted that it’s human nature to want to experience the best of anything. But Hubbard suggested that applicants take a closer look at the students of the programs they are targeting as they come up with their shortlist of schools.

“It’s in the student network that you will find the metrics that matter for assessing any business school: inputs and outputs,” he explained.

Employers want the best employees money can buy. Hubbard said students will receive good job offers if the job market believes they have received a valuable education.

“Schools that routinely graduate classes at full or near-full employment, with good job satisfaction, have reason to believe they’re receiving a vote of confidence from the market,” he said.

SBC’s view of MBA rankings

We don’t like to encourage clients to focus too heavily on rankings when they’re making their MBA program selections. In fact, placing a heavy emphasis on rankings can actually become a distraction for some applicants. Applicants would do well to focus more on a program’s culture, size, or the strength of its alumni network.

If you’re a prospective MBA, you should decide the factors that will play a role in where you apply. Consider cost, location, program specialties, faculty’s areas of expertise and so on. Keep these factors in mind as you research specific programs. This will help you home in on the ones that are your best fit.

Most likely, your list will contain a few under-the-radar programs that aren’t at the top of the rankings—provided, of course, that reputation isn’t the only factor that matters to you.

Photo by Rochelle Nicole on Unsplash
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