The Truth About Business School Rankings–and What It Means for You

Uncover business school rankings and their impact on your career, in order to make informed decisions about your MBA journey and ensure you choose the right program to match your goals. Learn more now!

Lauren W.

By Lauren W.

Posted February 12, 2024

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Once you’ve decided to apply to business school, the next obvious step is deciding which programs you may want to attend. Here’s the 411 on education in the US: it’s expensive. Remembering that it’s an investment in your future is the only way to justify it. With that being said, you want to make sure the investments are worthwhile.

MBA rankings can be a valuable resource for prospective students researching business schools and deciding where to place that investment as they provide a snapshot of the relative standing of different programs. While these rankings can help you identify top schools and narrow down your options, it's essential to remember that they should not be the only factor in your decision-making process. They’re typically based on a combination of factors, such as average GMAT scores, post-graduation employment rates, faculty credentials, and student satisfaction. However, these metrics may not always capture the unique strengths and culture of a particular program and can also be influenced by changes in methodology or data collection.

With that being said, to get the best bang for your buck, most people will want to shoot for a top-25 school. If you have a particularly strong application, aim for an M7: Stanford GSB, Harvard Business School, UPenn Wharton, Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg, MIT Sloan, and Columbia Business School. At this level, it gets extremely competitive, with acceptance rates under 15-20%, but the investment goes a lot further. You’ll have access to incredible companies, professors, job opportunities, people, events, and more.

Generally speaking, though, the top 25 schools all have great programs with strong networks and many career growth opportunities. As with many things, the right choice comes to fit and what you make of the opportunity. For this reason, it’s incredibly important to conduct proper research on each of these programs. Identify which schools are safer bets, target, and more of a reach and within that, do your research.

While a higher-ranked school may offer prestige and a strong network, personal fit should be a primary consideration when choosing an MBA program. Factors such as location, program format, class size, and culture are crucial elements that can significantly impact your experience and long-term success. Try to attend networking and prospective student events, take a campus tour, and talk to alumni. I can’t stress enough the importance of fit when it comes to applying for an MBA program.

If you don’t feel like you can reach an M7 or top-25 program, it’s okay! Although it may feel like a riskier investment, there are still great programs in the 25-50 range. While they may not have the prestige, they will still help you build your network and grow your career. As mentioned, it’s all about what you do with the opportunities provided.

This is especially true if you have an idea of your target industry. For some specific areas, the best business schools are ranked lower overall but very high in that field. For example, the BYU Marriot School of Business is ranked #36 in the nation overall. However, for Accounting, it’s #4! So, depending on what you’re looking for, BYU may actually be a better fit than the others. Though every school will have opportunities, fit dictates the kind of opportunities.

Ultimately, your success in an MBA program and beyond will be heavily influenced by your initiative, resourcefulness, and drive. A higher-ranked program may provide more opportunities on paper, but your ability to leverage those resources and make the most of your experience will determine your long-term success. Remember that students from technically lower-ranked schools can still achieve exceptional career outcomes through hard work and determination.

For more info and guidance on choosing the right MBA program and determining your “fit”, head to my Leland profile and book a free intro call. We can discuss your background, goals, and how we can get you there.

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