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Understanding MBA Rankings and choosing a Business School

Posted by The Lisbon MBA on 19-Aug-2017 19:00:00


Rankings are an indispensable tool in the process of choosing your MBA. They are just one of the resources you should use in your decision-making process, as we wrote about in previous blogposts. Look at rankings as means to obtain information about the schools you’re considering and compare them.

Most popular rankings

MBA rankings place varying weights on one or two variable in detriment of others. Knowing the main characteristics of the most widely-used MBA rankings will help you make the most of them.

  • Forbes: 100% based on pay and return on investment.

  • The Financial Times: 40% of pay-related data and another 40% to faculty quality and the international nature of the programs.

  • U.S. News: recruiters’ and academics’ opinions (40%), plus GMAT scores, placement rates and salaries.

  • The Economist: a somewhat confusing and extensive amount of variables, with over a third of the final result dependent on how well career services, networking, and career progress score.

  • Bloomberg Businessweek: 60% devoted to qualitative data collected from recruiters, students, and alumni.


Rankings flaws

If you’ve read the list above carefully, you’ve noticed that while U.S. News listens to school deans and MBA directors, The Financial Times dismisses information about students such as GMAT scores and undergraduate academic results. Student experience is exaggerated in the Bloomberg ranking and completely absent from Forbes bi-annual list.

Apart from different methodologies, rankings are fatally flawed because they rely on information provided in loco or by post by people who have a vested interest in how well their institution ranks. Business schools know what they have to do to climb up the rankings’ ladder, but often that doesn’t translate into better programs. This is just one of the reasons why you should always, once you’ve defined the MBA program you wish to attend, schedule a visit to the school and meet current students, staff and Faculty and discuss what you’ve read in brochures and online with them.


Using rankings to choose a business school

So how can you use rankings to help you choose a business school? The answer is quite simple: build your own ranking. In the end, there is no such thing as the perfect institution. What you should investigate is which school is the right school for you. Adopt a step-by-step approach to your decision-making process to ensure you never lose sight of your priorities; reduce research stress levels; and come to a conclusion that answers your ambitions and respects your resources (time and money, essentially).

  1. Resist the urge to start looking at rankings before you’ve set clear study goals and post-graduation expectations; talked to your employer and discussed your options with him or her; and discussed your plans with those closest to you that may be affected by decisions such as using family savings or relocating.

  2. Narrow your rankings’ analysis to the most popular ones. There are hundreds of rankings and trying to go through them all will just confuse you. If a ranking is well-known (even if it’s as fluid as The Economist’s), it’s because it provides information that is relevant for the market.

  3. Pay a special attention to inputs and outputs, that is, to data regarding students and graduates. Facts like average GMAT scores can give you an idea of the kind of students a particular school attracts, and employability rates or post-graduation salary increases tell you how well that MBA is perceived by employers.

  4. Finally, combine the information from your rankings’ set and attribute percentages to the several factors at play in accordance with your goals and preferences.

A customized ranking is the smartest means to use the staggering amount of information available about business schools. It is hard work but, after all, you might as well do your best to obtain the optimal ROI on your MBA!

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Topics: MBA Rankings

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