Applying to Business Schools
As different rankings use different set of parameters and differ in the weightage assigned to each parameter, the rankings create a lot of confusion for a student who is trying to zero-in on a set of B.Schools to apply to. Here we are not trying to rank schools, nor to place a certain school on a list of “top” schools and relegate another school to the list of also-rans. Here we will examine some of the more important rankings and discuss the methodologies they employ to reach their conclusions.
There is another important, albeit highly unofficial ranking-that provided by word of mouth and received wisdom. Whereas some people would refer to the specific rankings of a school in one or another guide, others would take into account the “traditional” ranking of a school, which often amounts to a combination of the fame of the school’s parent university, the ranking of the business school in the past, and the fame of the school in the local area.
USING THE RANKINGS
Several bypasses are available to the ranking organizations. They can examine the opinions of those doing the hiring at major firms, taking the likely employers of MBAs as the ultimate arbiters of worth. To an extent this assumption is correct, of course, insofar as MBAs tend to view the value of their degree in large measure as a matter of what employment doors it opens. Another possible shortcut is to examine the earnings of the graduates of each school, relying again on the market as the arbiter of the value of MBAs from the various schools. Unfortunately, these shortcuts also suffer from limitations. Some drawbacks are due to the fact that an overall ranking for a school does not distinguish between how its finance graduates do in the market and how its human resources graduates fare. Nor does it take account of the fact that its graduates may do very well locally but not in another region or country. Thus, if a school is rated highly because its finance graduates make a lot of money, but you intend to go into human resource management, this school may not boost your salary more than another school would.
Pitfalls of Ranking B.Schools
Rankings are useful as a very rough-guide to the reputation and quality of different programs. Most people take them far too seriously, however, when considering where to apply. It is inappropriate to take the latest Financial Times or Business Week rankings and limit yourself to the top five schools on their list. The schools differ enough in their goals, programs, and atmospheres that a person who will be well served by one may be very poorly served by another. To take an obvious example, a person who is determined to be managing the “factory of the future” and is not particularly interested in general management should probably be looking at IIM-A rather than IRMA. Both are superb, but their missions are quite different.
We have listed several dozen criteria that are relevant to choosing the right program. There is no precision to these rankings; the same publication may reverse the rankings of these same schools next year! The imprecision and variability of the rankings is one reason for being cautious in using them; another reason for caution is that one school will be able to offer you a program geared to your needs whereas another will not. Yet another potential issue is that schools do not have the same reputation everywhere. A school that is highly regarded in the South India might be virtually unknown in North India.
These concerns give rise to some guidelines for using rankings:
- Look at as many rankings as possible and consider the consensus rather than any particular ranking.
- Consider even this consensus view as only an approximation of the appropriate tier for a school. Thus, a school that is ranked about tenth to fifteenth in various rankings should be regarded as a very fine school, but whether it really should be ranked in the top five or merely the top 25 is not determinable.
- Since you should be looking for the best program to meet your specific subject and other needs, with an atmosphere in which you will thrive, the rankings have only a modest part to play in helping you to find this program. They have little to say about which school will provide the courses that will be most useful, the connections that will matter most for the job and region in which you wish to be employed, the academic and social environment there, and other key’ factors.
- When rankings are suitably detailed, examine them to see what questions are raised in addition to what answers might be provided. For example, if a school’s graduates boost their salaries after the program (relative to their salaries before the program) less than a peer school’s graduates, you should investigate what underlies the disparity.
- Check whatever rankings are done (or even republished) by reputable business-oriented newspapers and journals in whatever country you intend to study or work.
6. Go well beyond consulting various rankings. Conduct in-depth research to evaluate specific programs.