We published our very own BusinessWeek-like MBA rankings here on the blahg and wow, it’s 3 years old now?!?? A BSer asked us to update it, so here goes.
First, a disclaimer and an explanation:
The disclaimer is that this is just our view of the admissions landscape, based on our own experience watching lots and lots of BSers try for lots and lots of schools.
The explanation is that we’re saying this is ranked by how “easy” a school is, but there is no such thing as “easy” in this world. None of these schools are a cakewalk. You have to be massively qualified to even attempt an app at any of them if you have any real hope of succeeding. However, when we see multiple people try for multiple schools, and we have seen the actual essays that they wrote and we know the stats in the profiles, and then we see how those schools respond, that gives us a pretty good gauge by which to judge. This is not about acceptance rates, which are helpful but only to a point. This is about how the same candidate might fare with a similar approach to all of these schools. That is the origin of the list you have before you.
This is also totally different than other publications’ rankings, which are scientific and use all these factors to weight the schools. You can see a concise explanation of what goes into the BusinessWeek, US News, etc rankings here on mba.com .
The main way it’s different is we’re not going to create a numbered list of them.
You know how the airlines use tiers for their frequent flier programs? We’re going to do it that way, and put the schools in groups.
- Stratospheric Tier: Diamond
- Top Tier: Rose Gold
- Other Top Tier: Yellow Gold
- Middle Tier: Silver
As you can see, there are no “lower tier” schools listed here. Hopefully it’s apparent that a “silver” MBA program is still really valuable. Our chosen categorizations also allude to how expensive the MBA degree is at these places!
The other important point to make at this juncture: It is still really effing difficult to get into ANY of the schools on this list. But “difficult” is relative. It’s not quite as difficult to pull off an admit to what we’re calling a Gold program, and marginally easier for Silver.
Anyway, here’s our groupings. You’re not likely to be terribly surprised by where each school has been placed.
Top MBA programs grouped by selectivity
Links are to the respective school resource pages here on EssaySnark. We don’t mean to be so US-centric as to have those only for American schools, but they are the most competitive and it’s where we’ve devoted our limited resources.
|Chicago Booth||NYU||Duke||Berkeley Haas||LBS||INSEAD|
|Darden||Michigan Ross||UCLA Anderson||Cornell||ISB*|
So why do we have two Gold tiers?
Because how hard it is to get into those is somewhat dependent on you and your candidate pool, and there’s a lot of overlap. Should Haas be in Rose Gold or Yellow Gold? Is it just as easy/hard to get into NYU as it is MIT? No. We didn’t want to dump all those schools into one big lump of a category since that’s less than helpful, and also not very precise. Is it harder to get into Yale than LBS? Yeah… sometimes… for some people. But we’ll have BSers who are reapplicants this year who will look at those groups of schools and say, “Dang, I was rejected from all of them! How can it be ‘easier’ to get into the ones that I was rejected from?” In coaching them for the coming season, we might tell them to skip schools in the Rose Gold category but to go ahead with reapplying to some in the Yellow Gold category. Or vice versa. It really depends on who you are and what you’re pitching.
We don’t mean to be hedging, but this is the whole reason why rankings suck in the first place. It would be even worse if we had a numbered list with a school like Columbia at one end and a school like Duke down below. That implies that Columbia is that much harder to get into than Duke, which is really inaccurate.
It’s also our own view of the bschool world. This is not based on any methodology at all except for EssaySnark’s personal experience in seeing the throughput of this process for years on end, and most specifically with last year’s outcomes. The 2016-2017 admissions cycle was unlike any we’ve ever experienced. Harvard got SIX PERCENT more applications. In five years’ time, Harvard has seen a 1,000-app increase in volumes. There were 9,315 apps to the Class of 2015. The Class of 2019 got 10,351. That is just incredible, given that this is Harvard. They already get more apps than anyone. Six percent more last year alone? Such a significant boost in one year is freakyscarywow.
Not all schools are seeing more applications. We don’t know the data, but we assume that Duke and NYU both have been struggling to keep their numbers up. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to break into those schools, but easi-er? Yeah, comparatively speaking.
You may wonder about Booth. When we published this before, that’s what everyone always questioned us on. Booth remains the top program that’s easiest to get into. That may change, as they have a dynamic new dean who’s just taken over. We actually think that Madhav Rajan may be changing things around at Booth, but it’s going to take some time. For the Class of 2020, we predict that Booth will still be one of the “easier” schools to get into, all things considered.
As long as you’re not an Indian applicant. For you unfortunate souls who just want to go to a good school, Booth may still prove elusive. There are simply craploads of you applying. We assume that’s where HBS’s increases have come from (India, and other Asian countries). Maybe with the changes in the U.S. political environment, things will ease up this year. It is truly hard to imagine that it’s going to be another increasing-apps situation at these schools for a sixth consecutive season. However, even if apps go down somewhat, we are highly skeptical that they’ll actually moderate to the levels that EssaySnark remembers so fondly, way back like ten years plus ago, when all you needed was a decent 710-ish GMAT and a moderate 3.4-ish GPA (and some good essays) and you were home free at a Gold level school.
It’s 2017. Things are different now. We shall see where the world takes us from here.
*The ISB used to be ridiculously difficult to get into as an Indian applying from India, but since they opened up their second campus a couple years ago, that’s changed. It’s not quite so crazy as it once was, though it’s still very competitive. If you’re an NRI, it can be significantly easier. If you’re any other nationality then it’s truly a walk in the park – like, the easiest school, ever. Of all schools looking for diversity, they have the toughest time building it out among their student body. The ISB has a great value prop but only for the right type of BSer. We’re including them in this list because we know a lot of Indians read this blahg and we recognize that ISB is an important player in the space. There’s lots of other GREAT schools that we could also have included – IE, IESE, ESADE, IMD, and many more acronym-based institutions… We really like having a list of 19 though. Sorry for any who feel slighted.