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Let’s Talk About MBA Rankings

If you want to stress out any MBA admissions official or MBA applicant, simply mention MBA rankings. MBA programs worry that even a slight slip in rank will affect their application volume, their class yield, and their reputation among top employers.

Applicants worry that negative perception of their chosen program’s ranking will impact their employability, salary and competitiveness.

MBA Rankings

Adding to that worry, there are several different ranking systems out there, and each one has its own peculiar methodology, which can often skew the numbers in bizarrely different directions.

Varied Methodologies Trouble MBA Programs

Take The Economist’s rankings, for example. In the past 12 years, neither Harvard, nor Stanford, nor Wharton has topped the magazine’s list of best business schools. As these schools are most often considered the best in the world by faculty, students, consultants and employers, their absence in the top spot raises questions about The Economist’s methodology.

In fact, at least 17 business schools- many of them very reputable- have decided to opt out of the rankings this year, questioning the magazine’s methods.

They are not the first to do so- over the years, many top programs, including HBS and Wharton, have declined to participate in various ranking systems.

When explaining one of those decisions, Wharton’s dean commented, “The most important thing is that I firmly reject the idea that there is a No. 1 school. Different schools are unique.”

This is such an important point for MBA applicants to remember. No school is perfect- the goal, instead, is to find the school that is most perfect for your particular needs and abilities.

Other Factors to Consider

Perhaps achieving that goal requires a new metric, or at least criteria beyond the rankings. Here are some other factors to look for:

  • Alumni Employers– Look for statistics about the industries and companies where recent graduates have landed. Does this profile fit with your own ambitions?
  • Faculty research- What are the program’s top professors working on? Does it fit your interest? Have they garnered respect in their field?
  • Faculty turnover– How well does the MBA program hold onto their top faculty?
  • Alumni giving– An engaged and generous alumni base is a good indicator of satisfaction.
  • Business partnerships– Can a particular program give you access to a certain company or industry that you are interested in? Do they attract high-caliber speakers and mentors for their students?

These factors are often considered in ranking metrics, but it is useful to look at them separately, particularly if you are considering a school that is slightly inconsistent across the different rankings.



While a dramatic slide in rankings could indicate trouble, slight changes should not discourage you from pursuing a particular school if it is a clear fit with your ambitions and goals. Do not let a single number determine your MBA choice- take ownership and do enough research to make a truly informed decision.

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