A School Debuts A ‘DIY’ MBA Ranking

University of Washington Foster School of Management

University of Washington Foster School of Management

All business schools have a love-and-hate relationship with rankings. When their schools climb upward on a list, they trumpet the news on social media and their own websites. And when their schools fall, they tend to keep quiet.

So why in the world would a business school want to encourage the use of rankings? And even more, why would a business school go to great lengths to essentially create for users a do-it-yourself way to crank out a custom ranking?

Those are good questions to put to the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, which has put together what it is calling an “MBA Rankings Calculator” that allows would-be applicants and others to decide what metrics matter most and create their own ranking. Users can put greater emphasis on a range of common stats, ranging from average GMAT scores to starting salaries and bonuses, and up pops a new ranking of the top 30 business schools adjusted to whatever criteria the user sets.

Dan Poston

Dan Poston

Even more, students can easily adjust their preferences, offering a unique benefit to users. “What I love about this tool is that they get to see how [rankings] actually work,” explains Dan Poston, Foster’s assistant dean for MBA programs. “If you shift the weights of [certain criteria], it shifts rankings around.”


The calculator is the passion project of Poston and Andrea Bowers, a marketing strategist at the school. And the inspiration came from a very unlikely source: Poets&Quants. Last April, P&Q published “How A Dean Would Rank Business Schools,” featuring a methodology devised by Columbia Dean Glenn Hubbard. Emphasizing areas like applications per seat, yield, average salaries, and placement rates, the alternative ranking inspired Foster Dean James Jiambalvo.

“I think the Dean liked the idea [of using] a different set of metrics,” shares Poston. “This can be done, he was thinking. There are other options and other ways.”

Poston himself had been pressing organizations like GMAC and the AACSB for over a decade to create a system where students could create a personalized ranking based on their preferences. With the dean onboard, Poston decided to take the initiative in-house. Although the tool could potentially steer candidates away from Foster, Poston views it as an extension of the Foster philosophy, which prizes fit in building its full-time classes, which number roughly 130 students.

In other words, the calculator is a means to cast a wider net, with the hope that greater traffic yields students who fit with Foster’s values and mission. “I will not let our people do the hard sell on our school,” Poston adds knowing his program boasts a highly selective 26% acceptance rate. “We feel that getting people who really want to be here, we can really serve our objective well. You put that message out there and you get the kind of people who are going to be happy here. That’s a driver behind our admissions process.”


Metrics 1

The MBA Rankings Calculator is both eye-catching and easy-to-use tool. It is also unbiased, with Foster excluding itself from the proceedings. The system is based on a 100 point scale that covers 10 ranking metrics, which are taken from several sources: U.S. News & World Report, the Financial Times, Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, and M7 Financial. To create a personalized ranking, students use a sliding scale to assign a point total to each metric:

  • Average Salary and Bonus
  • Job Placement
  • Return on Investment
  • Low Average Debt
  • Alumni Advancement
  • Faculty Research
  • Student Selectivity
  • Average GMAT
  • Dean and Director Opinion
  • Employer Opinion

For example, say a site visitor assigns 25 points each to average salary and bonus, job placement, return on investment, and employer opinion (The scale operates in increments of five). After clicking the “Calculate” button above the ranking metrics, the system would display the schools that score best using this combination. In this case, Booth, Wharton, and Sloan rank the highest (in that order).

Students can also modify the criteria weight to see its impact on overall rankings. Taking the previous example, a user could remove the 25 points from employer opinion and tack it onto to average salary and bonus. As a result, Wharton would replace Booth in the top spot, with Tuck climbing into third over Sloan.

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