Popular MBA Rankings Calculator Gets A 2024 Refresh

Imagine an MBA ranking where future business school students have complete control over what they feel are the most important elements to them, plugging these metrics into the ranking to and giving the most weight to what they personally value. The good news is this user-friendly tool already exists — and has been available to students since 2016 on the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business website.

The last eight years have seen Foster’s MBA Rankings Calculator become a popular tool for MBA students who want to hone in on a list of schools with the best job placement rate, best return on investment, and other important metrics — any of which can be challenging to extract from traditional rankings. With a recent refresh to the calculator’s design and underlying data, Foster’s leadership hopes it will continue to grow in popularity as awareness grows, says Andrea Bowers, the Seattle B-school’s director of marketing analytics who was instrumental in developing the calculator. 

“This ranking can help students save time by allowing them to do a sort of a more customized ranking so that when applicants are looking at schools that perform well on the metrics that they care about, they can dig in deeper,” Bowers says. “This is just a way for them to hone in on their best fit school and to help them launch their search with really good, quality data.” 

Read Poets&Quants’ previous coverage of the Foster MBA Calculator here and here.


Of course, traditional MBA rankings like those published by outlets like U.S. News & World Report, the Financial Times and others have their place, and carry a great deal of weight and influence on how schools are perceived in the crowded business school marketplace. But the Foster MBA Rankings Calculator seeks to carve out a different niche for itself in the marketplace, more of a customized approach to the ranking process – and so far it has been succeeding, says Bowers.

Since it launched back in 2016, the calculator has had more than 66,000 users, 59,000 of whom are unique users, with traffic coming from Google searches, promotion by Foster, as well as business school news sites like Poets&Quants and other B-school forums, says Bowers, who helped develop the calculator along with administrators and  Foster’s in-house marketing and design team.   

Foster School of Business’ Andrea Bowers: “Our biggest finding really is that low debt and return on investment are really, really important to prospective students.”

She’s hoping the redesign of the ranking – the 2.0 version, so to speak, that includes fresh data and new, user-friendly features – will attract even more students to Foster’s website in search of a school that feels to them like the best personal fit. She says traditional rankings are often put together without factoring in cost, debt, or ROI — metrics that Bowers has found are important to Foster users and are included in the updated Foster ranking tool.

“While there is a certain amount of interest in student selectivity and GMAT scores, the big question is how do graduating students fare?” she says. “Our biggest finding really is that low debt and return on investment are really, really important to prospective students.” 

The calculator, which resides prominently on Foster’s main home page, has a clean design and intuitive interface, making it easy for users to experiment with the different metrics. It is optimized for mobile phone use, Bowers says. The Foster ranking system has a 100-point scale and draws from a variety of sources to obtain the data for its 10 ranking metrics, which are taken from Poets&Quants, The Financial Times, Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek and the U.S. Department of Education. Metrics included in the ranking include low average debt, student selectivity, networking and job placement rate, amongst others. 

“By working with MBA students, we are able to identify the metrics that were most important to them, and source them from actual rankings and publications so that they have a high level of legitimacy and credibility, as well as very strong accuracy,” Bowers says.


The redesign includes features like draggable sliders that users can autoscale, with no point limit. Prospective students choose what weight they want to give to each of the ten metrics, and then with a simple click, they can generate their own unique ranking of the top 30 business. Users can click on that list and they will get a pop-up box that includes more details on the school.

Most people use the calculator an average of three times, gradually honing in on the “formula” that best reflects their individual needs and goals for an MBA program, Bowers says.

If one adjust the sliders to the maximum allowance for each of the metrics, they can generate a list of schools that perform the best on all 10 of the categories. In this approach, using the most recent data on the calculator, Harvard Business School takes the number one spot, followed by the Stanford Graduate School of Business, University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. The Foster School makes it onto the top 20 in this list, landing in the 18th spot on this list — one spot worse than it does in P&Q‘s 2024 MBA ranking, but nine places better than it achieved in the most recent U.S. News list.


The ranking has, of course, helped Foster spread the word about its own MBA program and potentially attract more applicants. While the school a public business school may not have the name recognition of some of its more elite peers, it has more affordable tuition and a strong return on investment, Bowers says. The school uses the calculator at open house and outreach events for prospective students to show them that the school is invested in helping them find the school that is the right fit, Bowers says.

It’s a message that has resonated strongly with the school’s prospective students and given the school an edge in the competitive MBA market, she notes.

“Knowing that affordability and ROI are really important to students helps us understand that we can still be competitive, even though we might not have as many large scholarships,” Bowers says. “Our students are getting a really great return on their investment and have very affordable debt levels, compared to many of the schools that offer larger scholarships up front.”


UW Foster School of Business Dean Frank Hodge: “Students now have greater access to the information that matters the most to them.”

One of the metrics that the school used to use in its calculator, Dean and Director Opinion, has now been replaced with one that more students find relevant to their MBA and career journey, says Foster Dean Frank Hodge in an email.

With the addition of this new metric, Hodge says, “students now have greater access to the information that matters the most to them.” 

The calculator was developed in 2016 after then-Dean James Jiambalvo, now dean emeritus, read an article by Poets&Quants that detailed how a Columbia Business School dean would change the business schools rankings by focusing on different metrics and giving some more weight than others. That story inspired administrators at the time and Bowers to see if they could design their own ranking where potential applicants would have control over how the metrics were weighed based on what was most important to them. 

Now, eight years later, the tool –  “a personal rankings formula” –  has become an indisputable success story and one valued by both potential students and deans at other business schools, said Frank Hodge.

“While standard business school rankings provide valuable information about MBA programs, their methodologies don’t always align with students’ priorities,” Hodge says. “The calculator empowers students to weigh inputs according to their goals – they can use it to create a personalized ranking that is tailored to their priorities.”

DON’T MISS: How Business School Deans Would Change the MBA Rankings and Financial Times 2024 MBA Ranking: 10 Biggest Surprises

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.