You’ll find loads of articles online enumerating the ways in which you can use the MBA rankings to your benefit. Most of these articles are found on the ranking websites. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t trust what you read on BusinessWeek, The Financial Times, or U.S. News – after all, the rankings do offer data comparing top MBA programs – but I do believe these sites are not offering you a complete picture.
So now I’d like to present you with the other side of the story – the rankings’ limitations. Blinding yourself to the rankings’ flaws could lead to an expensive, time-consuming mistake: choosing the wrong MBA program for you.
• They don’t measure your priorities.
• General rankings hide strengths (and weaknesses) in specific areas. There are numerous “gem” programs that thrive outside the top ten or top twenty. Many MBA students have a great chance of gaining acceptance PLUS receiving financial aid at these gem schools.
• Averages are exactly that. Average. They aren’t a cut-off and don’t reflect extenuating circumstances or the interplay between myriad factors in an admissions decision. At every school there will always be applicants who are accepted with below-average stats and who are rejected with above-average stats.
• Surveys, especially surveys of students and alumni, can be gamed. Students and alumni know that higher rankings increase the value of their degrees and have an incentive to think kindly of their schools.
In short, don’t give the rankings too much importance. Don’t replace school research and self-reflection with rankings to determine where you should apply or attend.
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