Duke Fuqua | Mr. Military MedTech
GRE 310, GPA 3.48
Stanford GSB | Mr. Latino Healthcare
GRE 310, GPA 3.4
Tuck | Mr. Product Marketer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.1
Wharton | Mr. Aspiring Leader
GMAT 750, GPA 3.38
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Advisory Consultant
GRE 330, GPA 2.25
Kellogg | Mr. Equity To IB
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
INSEAD | Mr. Marketing Master
GRE 316, GPA 3.8
Darden | Ms. Marketing Analyst
GMAT 710, GPA 3.75
Darden | Mr. Corporate Dev
GMAT Waived, GPA 3.8
Cornell Johnson | Mr. SAP SD Analyst
GMAT 660, GPA 3.60
Kellogg | Ms. Public School Teacher
GRE 325, GPA 3.93
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Army Officer
GRE 325, GPA 3.9
INSEAD | Mr. Future In FANG
GMAT 650, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. Hedge Fund
GMAT 740, GPA 3.8
Stanford GSB | Mr. Deferred MBA
GMAT 760, GPA 3.82
Stanford GSB | Mr. Robotics
GMAT 730, GPA 2.9
Stanford GSB | Ms. Artistic Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 9.49/10
Yale | Mr. Army Pilot
GMAT 650, GPA 2.90
Kellogg | Mr. Double Whammy
GMAT 730, GPA 7.1/10
INSEAD | Mr. Tesla Manager
GMAT 720, GPA 3.7
Darden | Mr. Tech To MBB
GMAT 710, GPA 2.4
INSEAD | Ms. Investment Officer
GMAT Not taken, GPA 16/20 (French scale)
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Startup Of You
GMAT 770, GPA 2.4
Kellogg | Mr. Hopeful Admit
GMAT Waived, GPA 4.0
UCLA Anderson | Mr. International PM
GMAT 730, GPA 2.3
Harvard | Mr. Policy Development
GMAT 740, GPA Top 30%
Ross | Mr. Brazilian Sales Guy
GRE 326, GPA 77/100 (USA Avg. 3.0)

Do MBA Rankings Really Matter?

How much weight should you give business school rankings in deciding where to go for your MBA?

Like most things in life, there is no simple answer. Surveys show that the number one factor in choosing a business school is reputation and image. There is no single more influential measurement of reputation and image than a ranking.

Still, it’s important to remember that there are no perfect measurement systems to determine the best schools. The methodology behind every ranking—whether BusinessWeek, U.S. News & World Report, The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, or The Economist–has inherent flaws built into them. So you need to know what a ranking is actually measuring and whether those measured attributes even matter to you. (See our detailed examination of the strengths and weaknesses of the key MBA rankings.)

You also should know that many of the media brands that rank business schools have tweaked their methodologies over the years, making year-to-year comparisons even on the same ranking tricky business.

Under no circumstances should you choose a school solely on the basis of its ranking in any of these surveys. It is merely one factor among many to weigh. Far more important than a school’s rank is its culture and how that environment matches up with your personality, your study habits, and your ultimate professional goals.

If you’re interested in a smaller, more intimate setting to study for your MBA but still have the advantage of a supportive alumni network, you would choose Dartmouth’s Tuck School or Stanford over Harvard or Wharton. If you’re keenly interested in going to Wall Street, you might favor Columbia or Wharton, arguably the best business schools in finance. If you want a school based on the first-year compensation it will likely get you, then Harvard or Stanford is where you want to go.

Of course, very few people can get into these elite schools. And that’s where rankings become far more valuable because their primary benefit applies to schools that are not universally among the top 10 or 20 institutions. Why? Because that’s where there generally is less information available to make the best decision. Long before there were rankings, for example, there were at least 50 schools that contended they were among the top 25, and 100 schools that claimed they were in the top 50. Rankings, however imperfect, have helped to put more accountability into what business schools claim.

Even so, rankings perpetuate elitist thinking. The prestige and value of an MBA experience shouldn’t only go to the brand name schools that end up on these lists. There are hundreds of other business schools that can offer you a first-rate education and an invaluable experience. A business school, whether it’s in the top 50 schools or not, is a marketplace of ideas. It is filled with smart people who want more out of their lives and are willing to invest their time, their intellect and their money to get it.

So while an MBA from a brand name school high in the rankings does have more cache, will open more doors and impress far more people, the actual educational experience may only be slightly better than what you could get from a program that fails to make a list of the top 50. As Lee Shulman, the former president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, told us recently, “Just because it’s Kleenex doesn’t mean it’s the best place to blow your nose.” Just because it’s Harvard doesn’t mean it’s the best place to get your MBA.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.