With regard to business school rankings, BusinessWeek is arguably the one that applicants follow most closely. The rankings are released, and the BusinessWeek message boards are subsequently set ablaze with comments and speculation about one school’s demise and another’s ascendance. Then, later in the year, life choices are made on the basis of a school’s slipping or advancing a position or two.
So, on this day, as BusinessWeek releases its biennial rankings, we remind candidates that rankings are quite arbitrary. As Southern Methodist University vaults to 12th overall, two places ahead of Dartmouth-Tuck, can we truly say that Tuck has diminished significantly from earlier this morning or even two years ago, when it was six places ahead? As UVA-Darden jumps from 16th positon to 11th and UCLA falls from 14th to 17th, does either school’s core curriculum or pedagogy change? If you were turned off by the case method yesterday, is Darden any better of a fit for you today?
Our point is that rankings are arbitrary and that their purpose is to simplify what truly is a complex and personal decision. Rankings don’t measure whether you would be happier with the flexible curriculum Chicago Booth offers or with the first-year required curriculum at HBS. These two schools’ curricula are quite different and appeal to different people. Rankings cannot determine whether you would prefer the hustle and bustle of New York City’s West Village, where NYU-Stern is located, or the relative quiescence of Ithaca, where Johnson is located.
Rankings should be taken with more than a grain of salt—a bucket, perhaps?—and you should take time to determine the factors that are most important to you (e.g., pedagogy, academic/professional specializations, location, class size) in an MBA program, and then do your research to identify the schools that best meet your needs by fulfilling these factors. Further, rankings are released each year or two and thus place emphasis on the short term. However, your relationship with your school and your classmates will endure long after you graduate, regardless of how your school is ranked in two years, five years, ten years—even 50 years! In fact, when we have asked MBA grads ten years out of business school whether their school’s ranking is relevant in their current life or career, they have overwhelmingly answered in the negative.
We hope that if you choose to consult the various business school rankings, you will do so with a sense of humor and an open mind.
Southern Methodist University – Cox: +6 (12th overall)
University of Virginia – Darden: +5 (11th overall)
Carnegie Mellon University – Tepper: +4 (15th overall)
New York University – Stern: – 5 (18th overall)
Indiana University – Kelley: -4 (19th overall)
UCLA – Anderson: -4 (17th overall)