Wharton knocked out Harvard Business School in U.S. News & World Report‘s last MBA ranking but it didn’t impact the importance of that ranking to Harvard MBA students. A survey by the school found that the controversial annual list is the most read of all the MBA rankings and the most influential.
Some 74% of the responding HBS students said they consulted the ranking while applying to business school, while 46% said the publication’s rankings influenced their school choices. The survey was conducted by the school’s marketing and communications staff to determine how impactful MBA rankings are in applicant decisions.
The findings confirm earlier surveys that have shown that at least in the United States, the U.S. News ranking is the most read. A 2017 survey of MBA applicants and students by the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) found U.S. News to be the most trusted ranking among Americans. The magazine’s lists were cited by nearly 80% of respondents as an influence on where they applied. Poets&Quants’ rankings drew over 60% of respondents as well. Overseas, nearly 70% of applicants listed the Financial Times as an influence, with U.S. & World Report and The Economist both named by slightly more than 40% of applicants.
‘RANKINGS ARE BEING USED TO INFORM RATHER THAN TO DRIVE DECISIONS’
The AIGAC survey also found that business school rankings were a key factor in choosing specific schools. Rankings finished second only to school reputation, though just by a 55%-to-54% margin (with respondents able to choose up to five options). Another intangible — school culture — ranked third at 41%, where it was tied by a more palpable consideration: city and geographic location. From there, more practical details, such as career impact, alumni network, academic focus, and career placement, held court. Despite the pricey tags attached to most top MBA programs, tuition and scholarship availability were cited by just 15% and 14% of respondents respectively.
Harvard declined to reveal the other findings of its survey. “We’re not sharing the full results,” said Mark Cautela, an HBS spokesman. “Rest assured P&Q was included and did well!”
The survey was done after Harvard lost its number one ranking in U.S. News last March. The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School captured top honors in the 2019 ranking of the best full-time MBA programs in the U.S. Wharton knocked out both Harvard and Chicago Booth which shared first place a year earlier. HBS and Booth slipped two places each into a three-way tie for third place with MIT Sloan, while Stanford’s Graduate School of Business gained two places to rank right behind Wharton in second place. Harvard also slipped out of first place in Poets&Quants’ 2019-2020 MBA ranking, nudged aside by Stanford Graduate School of Business.
“Aside from identifying which rankings are most popular among students, the survey affirms that the rankings are being used to inform rather than to drive decisions,” Chief Marketing & Communications Offier Brian Kenny told The Harbus, the MBA student newspaper. “In most cases the rankings are one of many data points students consider when narrowing their selection set for where to apply.”