Harvard | Mr. Milk Before Cereals
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3 (16/20 Portuguese scale)
Harvard | Mr. Sales To Consulting
GMAT 760, GPA 3.49
Stanford GSB | Mr. Navy Officer
GMAT 770, GPA 4.0
Darden | Mr. Leading Petty Officer
GRE (MCAT) 501, GPA 4.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Rocket Scientist Lawyer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.65 Cumulative
INSEAD | Mr. Consulting Fin
GMAT 730, GPA 4.0
Tuck | Mr. Consulting To Tech
GMAT 750, GPA 3.2
Darden | Mr. Federal Consultant
GMAT 780, GPA 3.26
Columbia | Mr. NYC Native
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Tepper | Mr. Leadership Developement
GMAT 740, GPA 3.77
Harvard | Ms. Athlete Entrepreneur
GMAT 750, GPA 3.3
Chicago Booth | Mr. Guy From Taiwan
GRE 326, GPA 3.3
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Enlisted Undergrad
GRE 315, GPA 3.75
Darden | Mr. Stock Up
GMAT 700, GPA 3.3
Darden | Mr. Education Consulting
GRE 326, GPA 3.58
Harvard | Ms. Ambitious Hippie
GRE 329, GPA 3.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Classic Candidate
GMAT 760, GPA 3.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Unrealistic Ambitions
GMAT 710, GPA 2.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Equal Opportunity
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0
Tuck | Mr. Over-Experienced
GRE 330, GPA 3.0
HEC Paris | Mr. Indian Entrepreneur
GMAT 690, GPA 2.1
Chicago Booth | Mr. Community Uplift
GMAT 780, GPA 2.6
UCLA Anderson | Mr. Worldwide
GMAT 730, GPA 3.1
Wharton | Mr. LatAm Indian Trader
GMAT 720, GPA 3.5
Wharton | Mr. MBB to PE
GMAT 740, GPA 3.98
Harvard | Mr. Soldier Boy
GMAT 720, GPA 3.72
Harvard | Mr. MBB Aspirant
GMAT 780, GPA 3.7

Which Business School Rankings Really Matter?


When it comes to ranking business school MBA programs, whose ranking matters most?

The answer to that question largely has to do with where you are. The research tends to show that international applicants take The Financial Times most seriously, probably because the British newspaper has an integrated ranking that features both U.S. and non-U.S. MBA programs on one list. For U.S. applicants, however, U.S. News & World Report appears to beat out Bloomberg Businessweek, which was the first publication to rank full-time MBA programs back in 1988.

The latest research on this question comes from a 2014 survey of MBA applicants by the Association of International of Graduate Admissions Consultants. The results are from an open online survey that anyone could fill out, not a controlled sample. So this is not a statistically valid sample with a legitimate response rate. AIGAC even failed to disclose how many applicants completed its Internet questionnaire.


Nonetheless, the findings are interesting and also show Forbes, which ranks schools on the sole basis of return-on-investment, gaining ground. It also shows Poets&Quants’ composite ranking–only three years old when the survey was taken–being consulted by more applicants than The Economist, Forbes, or The Wall Street Journal.

This is not the first time that AIGAC asked applicants to name the rankings that are most consulted. The latest results reflect some changes. Bloomberg Businessweek lost its commanding lead this past year as the most consulted list by applicants, narrowly getting edged out by U.S. News & World Report. That was likely due to the fact that the biennial Businessweek list was last published in 2012. This year, the survey found that 57.1% of its respondents consulted Businessweek, down from 69% in 2012. U.S. News gained ground, moving to 57.2%, up from 54% a year ago, to end up in a dead heat with its rival. The Financial Times suffered the same fate as Businessweek dropping to 52% from 61%.

One thing is for sure: Rankings are critical to a school’s success. The AIGAC survey showed that applicants get the most information from school/program websites but school rankings are the second most important source of information, more so than communication with school alumni/current students, school visits, and MBA resource websites. When choosing a program, men placed more importance on rankings than did women, according to AIGAC research.

U.S. News & Businessweek Are The Most Consulted Rankings Overall….


Source: 2014 AIGAC survey of MBA applicants

Source: 2014 AIGAC survey of MBA applicants


….But International Applicants Most Consult The Financial Times Ranking


Source: 2014 AIGAC survey of MBA applicants

Source: 2014 AIGAC survey of MBA applicants


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.