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I am frequently asked by applicants to provide rankings within clusters, with the implicit hope that the applicant's favorite program will rise to the top of a given cluster. Applicants often cite various forms of evidence to convince me that some shock has changed the market, some massive shift has taken place, or that such a shift is imminent that will place their school at the top. Since I am fascinated by this subject, I am very happy to entertain most of these conversations. The sad part, at least from my perspective, is that most of this time and energy would be better spent on the improving the underlying quality of the student's application rather than trying to make increasingly narrow distinctions based on such imprecise data. Perhaps more to the point, instead of worrying about whether school A has a slightly better general reputation than school B, it would make more sense for students to concentrate on the strength of each school in the specific geographic and commerical space that interests them.
Annual rankings are based on the horse race idea- if we already know the outcome in advance there will be little need to read the rankings. Thus, we need to see movement- who will gain this year? Who will lose? This plays to one of the great fears of achievers- that all of their efforts will be squandered by tying their fortunes to the wrong brand name. To be sure, the reputations of schools do change, especially when new entrants enter the market. However, this is usually a decades long process. Further, and this is a crucial point overlooked by many commentators, often new schools are added to a given cluster rather than existing schools being relegated to lower cluster.
One of the least productive parts of the rankings dialogue is the discussion of "buzz" regarding a school. Someone hears from someone that School A is suddenly "hot" and everyone is talking about it. Conversely, School B is in the "not" category and should be shunned- "Did you hear that School B is barely Top 20 anymore?"
I've been a long time lurker on this board, and I must say that is quite an insightful and relevant post; given the current education climate. Kudos, Hjort! As always, your information and insights are greatly appreciated!
While rankings are often arbitrary and shouldn't be used to evaluate a school you want to go to, then why is it that even knowledgeable people (people who can see through the rankings BS) still tell people to "always go to a UE over an E school if you get into both"?
I mean, I understand the UE brand name is THAT much better, but if someone wants to focus on underwater basketweaving, and the E school is one of the top in that field, while the UE is just ok (banking on it's general reputation), wouldn't it be better for the candidate to go to the E school over the UE?
I've just heard too many people telling me to apply to HBS "just because" or if I get into HBS and an Elite school like Haas, to go to HBS without even thinking. I know many of these people are ranking "whores" (pardon the word), but there are some knowledgeable people who still say that, which really bothers me.
The school does not make the man successful, however it can help. I am looking for ROI, job placement and ranking in the area of finance. I think applicants should take more into account than just the overall ranking.
i know this probably has been asked somewhere, and I remember reading it but can't find it anymore. Is there a website (BW? USN?) that has the rankings of every aspect of B-schools? I know BW has a top 5 thing... but I was thinking of a top-10 schools in tech, top-10 in entrepreneurship...
kryzak, as usual, makes some very good points. I have encountered the same trouble finding good sets of rankings for individual fields like tech and general managment. BW and USN have them to some extent but they never struck me as all that rigorous.