U.S. News & World Report, which maintains arguably the most influential graduate school rankings in the world, has just released its new business school rankings for 2015. It’s far too easy for applicants to get caught up in the rankings, and to obsess over the fact that a school dropped three spots from one year to the next, but reality is that MBA rankings matter. They influence how recruiters look at schools, they serve as a signal to applicants and affect what caliber of applicants each school receives, and they give you an idea of where you stand relative to your target schools. You should never end your business school selection process with the rankings, but the reality is that you will probably start the process by seeing where schools sit in the MBA rankings.
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There are a number of criteria by which you can rank MBA programs: Average starting salary after graduation, average undergrad GPA of incoming students, acceptance rate, student satisfaction, and academic reputation among peer schools are all measures that publications use to try to sort the schools and create a definitive ranking.
Earlier this week The Financial Times released its new global MBA rankings for 2013. For the first time in eight years, Harvard Business School sits atop FT’s rankings, ousting last year’s #1, Stanford GSB. Harvard’s return to #1 marks the fourth time the school has topped the FT rankings since they were first launched in 1999. In fact only three other schools have ever topped the Financial Times rankings: Stanford, Wharton, and London Business School.
One driver of Harvard’s rise is its improvement in FT’s diversity measure, which rewards schools for having a greater percentage of female and international students. While 34% of Harvard’s Class of 2013 comes from overseas, 43% of the Class of 2014 are international. This surely is a reflection of Dean Nitin Nohria’s goal to boost Harvard’s international influence and outlook.
Bloomberg Businessweek has just released its business school rankings for 2012. Businessweek’s rankings aren’t the only game in town — the U.S. News business school rankings are also very influential, and others such as The Financial Times carry more clout in Europe — but the fact that Businessweek’s rankings only come out every two years always creates a little more buildup for this moment.
A word of caution before we proceed: When you look at any ranking system, remember that there’s no single “right” way to rank the schools. Each of the popular business school ranking systems below rely on a different set of criteria, including acceptance rates, average GMAT scores, and post-graduation salaries. Some also use more subjective criteria, such as peer ratings by administrators at other business schools, and how each school is rated by its current and former students. It’s therefore no surprise that no two ranking systems will completely agree with one another.
Today U.S. News & World Report unveiled its 2013 business school rankings. As we always say, it’s easy to get too caught up in the rankings and obsess over details such as a school “plunging” from 8th to 11th in the rankings or “shooting up” from 14th to 10th. Of course the rankings will have some impact on your school research, but using them as any more than a useful starting point can lead you to apply to schools which don’t fit you as well as they could.
Still, we all love rankings, whether we’re talking about education, fashion at the Oscars, or best bands of all time. And we can’t help but pay attention when U.S. News releases its influential rankings of grad schools.
The Financial Times has just released its new global MBA rankings for 2011. London Business School hangs on to the top spot, but Wharton has moved back into a tie for #1 after falling to #2 behind LBS last year.
Accompanying the rankings, FT release an update of its article called How to Choose a Programme, in which we’re quoted. As is always the case, we strongly advise that applicants don’t just go by the rankings when selecting their target business schools.