The other day, the President of Princeton University wrote an op-ed against college rankings .
‘The president of where?”
Princeton. You’ve heard of them, right?
Oh yeah, of course you have. They’re the #1 ranked university for the past 11 years.
We’ve blahgged plenty o’ times about why we don’t like rankings, and agree completely with many of the points offered about by Mr. Eisgruber how the “obsession [with rankings] does harm” to applicants.
The most important though pertains to this:
This competition [between the schools to rank highly] produces damaging incentives. For example, some colleges avoid doing difficult but valuable things — such as admitting talented lower-income students who can thrive at college if given appropriate support — in favor of easier strategies more likely to add points in the U.S. News formula.
Basically what he’s doing is saying out loud what actually happens in the real world, behind the closed doors of those admissions committee meetings. This happens in the college and university admissions and it most certainly happens in the MBA admissions arena too.
This is why a high GMAT score can be such an advantage at certain schools.
It’s an obvious thing when you look at it in the light of day, but it’s easy to forget when you’re in the middle of trying to get in that that’s really what’s going on.
Over a certain level, a GMAT or GRE score does not say anything more about the intellectual capacity of the applicant. Once you’re at like a 710 or a 150/150 or so, then the candidate has proven themself, that they will be able to manage the rigors of your program. Heck, those numbers we just cited are probably even higher than needed to prove competence in the material. A test score that’s too low can give the admissions team pause, since it may mean that the candidate is still rusty on those key verbal and quant skills that are definitely needed for success in graduate school. The schools still obviously admit applicants with lower scores — but why is it that they so significantly favor applicants with higher scores?
If it was really a “holistic review” like they claim, then the high GMAT or GRE would not matter at all. The test score would only be showing competence, it wouldn’t be a competitive factor in the way it’s become.
And why does test score turn into such an edge for some applicants? Because those high average GMATs in the class profile factor in so much to the school’s rankings.
It’s a messed up system with unfair advantages to those who have resources and privilege, which incentivizes behaviors that further promote inequality on a systems basis, that most schools cannot break themselves out of due to fear of the penalty in the marketplace of applicants wanting to go there. It’s a natural outcome of the system of meritocracy that is the infrastructure upon which America is built.
Does it really matter if you go to Wharton or Columbia or Kellogg — or Ross or Darden, or UT-Austin, or McDonough, or Foster?
In the grand scheme of things, is it going to change your capacity for happiness if you’re at one versus the other in that sample list?
Sitting here right now, with your heart set on “the best” schools, yes you’ve got a particular view of the world, and yes, you want this so bad you can taste it. We get it. It feels like everything is riding on which school lets you in.
But we just have to step back and offer the idea that, perhaps you’ve been brainwashed? Perhaps it’s all an illusion? Perhaps you’ve been hoodwinked into thinking that this label of prestige and rubber stamp of success that you’re fixated on is not actually going to do that much for your ability to find lasting satisfaction at the core of your soul.
We’re not saying you’re chasing an unworthy dream. We’re just inviting consideration of the system you’re in, the roller coaster you’re on, and where you believe it is literally going to take you in the end.
There are many, many great schools out there, and even many other great programs besides the MBA. Maybe an MBA from Stanford is in the cards for you — wouldn’t it be awesome if that’s where you land??? But if that’s not how things go… There are so many ways to discover yourself in the end.
Tell us what you think.