Of course you know that Duke is now the BEST. BSCHOOL. ANYWHERE!![warning: long post ahead.]
At least, Duke is now #1 according to the gurus at BusinessWeek who last week released their “best of” list.
And at least, for the next two years. Or whenever BW changes its mind again. And at least, if you consider BusinessWeek the ultimate authority. The Economist released their own list about a month ago and Booth maintains top billing there; Duke is way down at #25 (!) on that list. For whatever reason, EssaySnark has always considered BusinessWeek the de facto “rankings” – maybe because it was the primary game in town when we were back in bschool – we remember the day that rankings came out and posters went up around the school celebrating our position, it was quite a big deal. While we check out the others when they’re released, we tend to study BW’s more.
The BW rankings come out bi-annually so Duke should get to enjoy this top spot for quite some time now – unless BW goes to releasing every year, which we may have heard some rumor about but can’t be bothered to interrupt the writing of this post to go check. Because one year, two years… the reality is that SCHOOLS CANNOT CHANGE THAT FAST.
Maybe a ten-year ranking would offer some value to the marketplace but please. The schools are academic institutions. They are behemoths. Changing stuff at a bschool is tantamount to moving the Titanic. It can happen but it just takes time.
Even when things do change, they never really change. We talked about that before, when we posted the BW Top 20 from 1988. It’s essentially the same schools there too, just in a different order than today. Duke was #10. Stanford was #9. Kellogg was #1.
We’ve already explained our attitude on rankings and why we feel that those who are overfocused on them (for the ‘prestige’ factor) are a little misguided.
And we’ve explained that the BusinessWeek data is unreliable.
Recently we heard someone who is very invested in the rankings industry state that anyone who claims that rankings are meaningless is an idiot. (He didn’t say it exactly like that but pretty close.) He was criticizing consultants (like us presumably) who tell their clients that rankings don’t matter. For the record, we’ve never said that. We understand the need to have some type of yardstick to at least begin the process of separating out the schools. There’s a HUGE difference in going to the College of Nowhere for your MBA versus going to H/S/W – or Duke, or Ross, or even Foster or Rochester or whichever other school we’re talking about.
What we take issue with is the obsession with trying to get into “the best” school.
“The best” school is totally individual and personal. What one person feels is “the best” could be completely opposite to what you feel. That’s where rankings fall short.
Anyone reading this blahg is targeting a top MBA program. To that extent, the schools we discuss here are near-interchangeable – at least, when you try to put a label like “the best” on them. Each school is actually quite unique but it takes some digging in to understand that. Our own criteria for labeling schools “the best” is based on our own interactions with them (and with the people they admit). That’s built off years of experience and us practically dedicating our whole life to this whole MBA admissions gig. The way for YOU to determine which school is best for YOU is, of course, to do your own version of digging in – interacting with the school, visiting campus if at all possible, rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty.
And we want to also address the rationale that many people hold up as justifying the importance of rankings: That school ranking is tied to post-MBA salary. The reasoning is, if you go to the best school, you’re going to make more money coming out.
That premise just does not wash.
In terms of averages yes, absolutely: The higher-ranked programs tend to feature higher average graduate salaries. BUT!! The stronger correlation to salary is industry, with financial services leading the pack and consulting close behind.
We can go along with the idea that the recruiters with the deepest pockets are going to be motivated to recruit at the “best” schools and those are the ones where students will be able to negotiate for more money coming out. Sure.
But that does not mean that YOU will be able to do so.
Remember, those are averages. If you have a rockstar background then you’re going to be in demand in the recruiting game whether you’re at Stanford or Harvard … or UC-Berkeley. Those averages are always skewed by an outlier or two. The outliers are NOT dependent on the SCHOOL; they are dependent on the person. The individual. The BSer’s own qualifications and strong profile.
Obviously the person with the strong profile is going to take her pick of which school she goes to. If she plays her cards right, then she’ll get multiple offers. Because she’s a rockstar. And she’ll likely choose the one that’s “the best” – which may or may not coincide with a particular rankings system. It will undoubtedly be in the Top 5 of whatever are deemed popular; she’ll likely choose one of the schools du jour. Or maybe she’ll choose a program that offers her more in scholarship funds – which is a cheap trick that we often see schools throw out. She’s not likely to choose a full ride at Rochester over a no-ride at Wharton, so it never totally tips the scales in a crazy way. But keep in mind that one way schools try to affect their rankings is to fight for the “best” candidates by throwing money at them, because the school knows that those “best” candidates will then be able to attract the “best” salaries in two years’ time – which affect the school’s ranking.
Can you see how the game is rigged?
This is about THE STUDENTS.
That seems to get lost in this whole discussion.
Instead of thinking of which SCHOOL is “the best”, you want to be going to a school that is attracting THE BEST STUDENTS. The ones who will challenge you, who will take you to another level in your thinking, who will help you up your game.
And hopefully the ones who you feel at home with, who feel like your tribe. The community matters so much.
You’re going to be spending two years with these people. The type of person a school attracts really does matter (or it should).
The reason why we focus on a limited set of schools here on the blahg is that those are the schools that are the most competitive to get into. It doesn’t mean you can’t get a very good education at a school like Rochester (we’re totally not trying to diss Rochester, it’s just not a tough place to get into). We have our own Top 19 MBA list which is actually ranked based on how selective they are and how “easy” (if there is such a thing) it might be for someone to break into them. When that was published (May of this year) we put Duke at #7, tied with Kellogg. That may or may not change as we move through the rest of this admissions cycle, based on our prediction that Duke Round 2 is going to be a very different situation this year than it typically is. We’ll have to revisit our Top 19 again next year – though the top 5 positions are unlikely to change.
Basically what we’re trying to say today is YES we agree that rankings are helpful since they give you a starting point to whittle the field of literally thousands of MBA programs down to a manageable starting set to evaluate for your own purposes and needs. But the rankings industry – yes it’s an industry – is very invested in this idea that the “top” schools change from year to year and that those changes are relevant to any individual person. That part is just baloney. A Top 20 school is a Top 20 school and we just can’t see how that will be any different in the next decade. Yes, the AVERAGE salary of a “better” school tends to be higher, but that does not mean that YOUR salary coming out of the “better” school will be higher.
The people part tends to get lost in the analysis.
This is about YOUR LIFE. It’s not a numbers game.
If anyone reading this blahg ends up at any of the Top 19 schools… you’re going to do just fine in life.
We suggest figuring out which of those Top 19 is the right fit for you – and not obsessing about whether some anonymous media publication has deemed it to be “better” or not than some other school – and focusing all of your energy on learning about this program and WHY it’s the right fit, and then working really super hard to express that in your essays.
If you do that, you may be surprised at which schools you CROSS OFF of your list before you’re done.
We’ll leave you with this tweet from a student at NYU Stern:
— Damian Bayona (@yourdamian) November 7, 2014