Nothing sends a business school community deep into depression like seeing its MBA program fall out of the top ten in a major ranking. Well, yesterday, Bloomberg Businessweek released its biannual rankings, and the losers were UC Berkeley Haas and Columbia Business School, which fell from 8 to 13 and from 9 to 14, respectively. Meanwhile, the winners were Darden, which jumped from 11 to 10, and Cornell, which made an enormous leap from 13 to 7. Meanwhile, Dartmouth Tuck (12), NYU Stern (16) and the Yale SOM (21) all have to shake their heads. These excellent schools will spend two more years on the outside looking in.
All of that said, let us take a step back and think about rankings a little more carefully. What do rankings do, other than simplify your perspective on a very complex entity? If you are interested in retail marketing, should you shun NYU Stern, which has an excellent program, because it is ranked 16th overall? If you want to be part of a small and tight-knit community, do you write off Dartmouth Tuck because it is at 12 or UC Berkeley Haas because it is at 13? If you just do not see yourself performing well in a case method environment, should you apply to Harvard Business School because it is number 2?
Business schools are not numbers—they are complex communities, each with their own personalities, strengths and weaknesses. You are not choosing a ranking, but an education and an experience. In short, determine what you want in a school and evaluate each on its own merits. After all, your two years will stay with you throughout your life, but rankings will come and go.