How vital are Business School rankings?

Gauri Khatri

Gauri Khatri

Founder, Pegasus Global Consultants

Ever since the system of ranking business schools and MBA programs emerged, there has been an argument about whether or not they actually matter. As MBA candidates, we’re sure you face several challenges when it comes to picking a program. GRE or GMAT scores, average salaries for graduates, and placement metrics are some of the foremost factors you base your decision on.


But if picking a program was that easy, why do top organisations like Financial Times or the Economist come up with different top-MBA-programs lists? Do these metrics really matter? Do those sets of numbers sufficiently reflect a B-school’s prestige and market power? How do I pick the best business school? In the present article, we intend to give a definite conclusion to this polarised debate. Read ahead!


A simple answer would be- Yes! It seems obvious that employers would value graduates from a higher-ranked business school over others. And as a prospective applicant, it would be tempting and hassle-free to apply to a B-school once you have a look at the best-ranked ones.


But here’s the red flag. Is the best-ranked school the best for you? Not necessarily. So, basically, this “Yes!” comes with a caveat.


Rank-lists are a great way to digest truckloads of data. But before you begin to use them, you must understand how they were created. Different ranking organisations and magazines rank programs on different bases. You need to realise the methodology that underlines the numbers and choose which methodology values the same factors as you do. Is it student satisfaction? Is it market power? Or is it post-graduation placement opportunities? That could be a deciding factor.


Plus, you might not want to rely entirely on one of those ranking lists. Before you make your final pick, you must perform thorough research. The truly best programs tend to remain stable in their rankings years over years. Check if one B-school program ranks one on a list, where does it rank on another list? How many times does it fall under the top-5 of all lists? Once you know the best of the many on multiple lists, you’ll have an easier time deciding where you want to apply.


And most importantly, you must never entirely affirm your decision on those rank-lists. There are more factors too. What does your budget amount to and which programs fit safely within the boundary? Does the location of the picked B-school suit you? What are your after-MBA plans? How do you plan to use your degree?


Don’t let an MBA-ranking list overshadow all of these factors. Talk to recruiters and research well. Consider your personal goals and the resources you can employ to achieve those goals. MBA-ranking lists function well only to summarise (not FORECAST) the data on the prestige of programs in the marketplace.


Let top-ranking lists be your starting point; once you begin researching, add branches of factors to the tree of a list, and we’re sure you’ll land upon nothing second to the best for you!


So do rankings matter? Yes. To what degree? Well, that is unique to each of you- and we hope we’ve helped you figure out how to. Good luck!

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