Most people applying to bschool are focused on the “best” schools — some people get downright starstruck by the rankings and they lose sight of the whole point of the MBA, which is to get an education. And the fact that they’ll devote a full two years of their life to the place (potentially more if it’s a part-time program or they’re doing a joint degree). And they’ll be associated with the school and its people forevermore. They often don’t bother to explore THE SCHOOL; they just go off what some faceless publication says about the school being good and they go with that.
EssaySnark agrees, rankings are important, sure. Rankings attempt to be a proxy for “quality” — if that can be objectively measured, given all the factors that go into a business school and the education it provides (facilities, faculty, focus, curricular approach, placement statistics, etc.). Certainly future employers use the school (and its ranking) as a way to evaluate the graduate. If someone was even accepted at Harvard Business School, it does say something about that person, just because of the grueling application and highly competitive admissions process. And Harvard outputs a quality product; generally, it’s graduates are smart people who become smarter (and more disciplined) after going through the rigors of the HBS program. So the ranking helps a company tell whether a potential candidate is worth spending time/money recruiting. But does the ranking really tell the potential STUDENT all that much about the actual school experience?
The other big problem with rankings is that they are so different. One school can end up near the top on one established list, and way down yonder on another. Take Duke. Fuqua ranked #6 on the most recent BusinessWeek list — but #14 on the US News & World Report list. Quite the discrepancy. What’s up with that? Part of it is due to the different criteria and methodology different rankings use (a discussion of which being way beyond the scope of this post). Part of it that, well, rankings are still just opinions. They’re just official-sounding opinions.
EssaySnark encourages our clients to move beyond the rankings in determining which schools to apply to. First of all, there are some excellent schools outside of the Top 10 — or even WITHIN the Top 10 — that often go overlooked. How do we know? Because they traditionally get a lot fewer applications than the Big Three of Harvard/Stanford/Wharton.* Getting fewer applications doesn’t mean it’s a lesser school. It might just mean that not everyone is hung up on the cachet of the brand name.
From time to time, in an effort to expand your thinking and broaden your horizons, EssaySnark will be offering a profile of an outlier school — a school that may not be top of mind. This will be our take on other schools that are most definitely worthy of consideration, but which are oftentimes shunned, often for no good reason that we can justify. We’ve mentioned some of these before in our other ad hoc series on adcoms that we trust. We’ll go into more detail on them in these occasional posts. These schools aren’t right for everyone, but they should not be discounted just because they don’t always get lauded as “the best.”
Schools we have in mind for this survey? (In no particular order)
Michigan Ross — we just did a shout-out to their adcom people as being fair/friendly here.
ISB in India
IMD in Switzerland
“The best” business school is the one that’s BEST FOR YOU. Keep an open mind as you explore your choices. There are some hidden gems out there in the MBA world and you may find the perfect fit in an unexpected place — and it may make all the difference.
* These three schools will likely be considered “the best” for an MBA for generations to come — regardless of how any individual rankings system rates them. Wharton stumbled a bit in the early part of the 2000s yet it’s still coveted as an top-notch school and they still get a gazillion applications every year. Chicago has hit as #1 on some lists now and they’re also a very good school but in terms of “the best”? EssaySnark would be hard pressed to go along with that. Rankings are trendy and the best schools tend to bounce around a lot. Don’t get hung up on a particular school hitting the top spot in a particular year; chances are, that school isn’t in the top spot on every list, and even more likely, they won’t be in the top spot on that same list the next season.