Do MBA Rankings Really Matter?

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Do MBA Rankings Really Matter?

by VP_MBA_Guru » Thu May 01, 2008 8:54 pm
Hi Everyone,

I posted this topic on another thread, but thought it was interesting/useful enough to also discuss here...

Something to consider… through my work as an MBA Admissions Consultant, I often get asked ‘do school rankings really matter?’
Whats the REAL DEAL with those BW, WSJ, FT, USNews rankings?

I strongly believe that while a school’s ranking is important (lets face it, who doesn’t want to be affiliated with a top program…besides my Detroit Lions), it is by no means a measure of a student’s ability to obtain the education or post-MBA career they desire.

First of all, there is considerable debate about the legitimacy of rating systems, specifically the various methodologies they use to rank the programs. (I would not be surprised if some of these rankings evaluate school colors… if so, count my vote for Maize and Blue!)

More importantly, there are many factors to consider about the MBA program itself – including alumni network, specialty rankings and geographic location. For example, while Wharton has a ‘higher’ overall ranking, the school does not have the same recruiting strength for Brand Management / Marketing positions as does a ‘lower’ overall ranked school such as Michigan.

Similarly, while UC Berkeley and UCLA are not ranked in the top 3-5 range; in the West Coast they have greater alumni connections (and in some cases reputations) than ‘higher’ ranked East Coast schools.

Ultimately, your success in the MBA program and beyond is really dependent on you! Despite the rankings of your school, you need to work hard to network with classmates, reach out to alumni and utilize the resources of the career center to find your dream opportunity.

So look beyond a school’s overall ranking. Research the programs and make your ‘own’ rankings based on criteria that is relevant to you (I think ‘number of social functions’ was on my list!) Otherwise, you might overlook a program that could be well suited for your post-MBA goals.

p.s. As always, this is my opinion. I am curious to hear what others have to say.


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by beatthegmat » Thu May 01, 2008 9:11 pm
Thanks for starting the debate, Nikhil. By the way, I wanted to give you major props to your Michigan references. I grew up in metro Detroit and I'm big Lions/UofM/RedWings/Pistons fan!

I agree with your perspective that school 'rankings' are really nuanced, and that fit should trump considerations of some rankings by a third party.

At the same time though, I do believe that attending the highest ranked MBA program you get accepted to does matter--the reason why is that business is not a profession, unlike law or medicine. Whether you go to Wayne State Law School or Harvard Law, at the end of the day people will call you an attorney. Same with going to a Caribbean Medical School or Johns Hopkins Medical School--graduates are still called doctors.

Because business is not a profession, I believe that the school brand names matter more because brand becomes one of the primary ways for employers to judge you. Employers aren't going to just look at the fact that you have an MBA and assume the quality of your training is consistent with any other MBA, unlike MDs or JDs (my generalization).

At the end of the day though, you are correct that it's up to the individual to define success. Bill Gates never graduated from college and I think he's doing okay...
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by VP_RedSoxFan » Fri May 02, 2008 7:40 am
I am super careful when I talk about rankings. I believe the previous poster had it right, that the rankings are very nuanced. I would also agree that going to a good school is important. However, it is important to the extent that it helps accomplish the reason one goes to business school--a career.

I hope no one goes to business school solely for the novelty school-related decal one can get for their car's back window. Business school is about getting the training to think differently than you did before about life and, let's be frank, capitalism.

That said, I generally advise people to not focus on the discrete ranking a school received (#3 vs. #4) but look for a good fit (i.e. alumni network in desired living location, career services, specializations, etc.) within the best tier of 10-15 schools one can be admitted to.

Having gone to Chicago as a PhD student, I heard of plenty of MBAs complain incessantly about the weather or because it was difficult to manage interviews with VCs in Silicon Valley.

Point is, arrived at very circumlocutiously, think of schools as tiers rather than discrete rankings and go for the best fit from there.

Good luck
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