Look at Rankings
Business school rankings are a popular way to assess a school, but they are widely disputed.
School rankings might give you a quick snapshot of a program, but as they vary in methodology and quality, they are not the best way to evaluate a school. Many school rankings do not take into account the unique attributes of programs or how those attributes meet the individual needs of students. You could learn which schools are “best," but not necessarily which ones are the "best fit."
Rankings Aren't as Influential as You Might Think
According to the Graduate Management Admission Council® (GMAC®) 2013 mba.com Prospective Students Survey, school websites and friends and family had the greatest impact on decision-making and were consulted by 86% and 59% of students, respectively. Three of the top 5 sources that students consulted were direct school resources: school websites, school admissions staff, and school brochures and publications. Overall, word of mouth sources (e.g., friends/family, current students/alumni, coworkers, professors) represent 40 percent of the top 10 most influential sources, followed by school resources (30%), including school websites, admissions staff, etc.
Instead of Looking at Averages, Look at Ranges
An average tells you what may be possible, while ranges note highs and lows that individuals experienced. When looking at rankings, keep the following in mind:
- Most schools do not change as dramatically as the rankings might have you believe. Publications of school rankings would not sell if everything stayed the same year to year.
- Rankings do not examine all MBA programs. Some schools, because they are smaller, newer, or have fewer alumni, are not ranked.
- Statistics can be misinterpreted when taken out of context. Be sure to read explanations of how data are gathered and reported.
- Examine the stats. Look at student/faculty ratios, placement percentages, and average financial aid awards with a critical eye.
- Some published school facts are inaccurate. Keep in mind that the most accurate information comes directly from the school.
- Rankings are derived from averages. It's unlikely that any one MBA graduate mirrors a ranking’s averages.
The most up-to-date and accurate material about a school will come directly from that school. If you ever have any questions, turn to the school’s admissions office for guidance.