Why MBA Rankings Matter

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Why MBA Rankings Matter

With the global economy in the dumps, the business school ranking season about to get underway, and students getting ready to apply to top-ranked schools, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at why MBA rankings aren’t what they seem. They’re often more of an indication of how well the school’s alumni do rather than how well the current student body performs, and they have little to do with how employable you’ll be after graduation. However, there are some great reasons why you should still pay attention to rankings; these are just not the reasons most people think.

What MBA rankings are
They’re a score that attempts to quantify how good a program is in terms of producing successful students (or more practically, how valuable it is for networking and landing jobs). The rankings can change year-to-year, depending on what criteria are used to calculate them. It is important to note that just because a school doesn’t rank highly one year, doesn’t mean it won’t do better in subsequent years. A variety of factors can affect these scores. An upward trend may be all you need to land your dream job.

Different types of rankings
There are several different types of rankings that provide different types of information about business schools. For example, several magazines and newspapers publish overall rankings for MBA programs but only a few rank individual schools within those overall lists. So what does it mean when a school is ranked #10 or #50 in a list? It depends on which publication you’re looking at. Different ranking organizations have their own methodologies, meaning they place weight on certain metrics differently. In addition to overall rankings, there are rankings focused on career outcomes (i.e., where will graduates get jobs?) and online business degrees. Some people just want to know how their alma mater ranks; some people focus solely on job placement rates; others care more about class size and location while still others think international programs are more important than domestic ones.

Why do people care about rankings?
Getting a high score on your school’s ranking matters. It can be worth as much as five to seven percent of a salary increase and even determine whether or not you get hired in some cases.
So what are rankings and why do they matter? First, let’s make one thing clear: There are many different kinds of rankings out there. The most common and influential ones focus solely on graduate business schools. Some have been around for decades; others are relatively new creations aimed at capitalizing on recent changes in how business schools operate.

Is it possible to be unbiased?
From a business perspective, there’s no doubt that rankings play an important role in a school’s reputation. For example, one of Harvard Business School’s most recent graduates told us that during their interview with Google, they were asked to present data on why HBS was better than Wharton or Stanford. But what about when it comes to individuals? Not everyone in an applicant pool is applying to a top 10 school or Ivy League institution.

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