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Rank and School Selection

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Concentration: Entrepreneurship, General Management
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Rank and School Selection [#permalink] New post 15 Mar 2013, 13:04
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US News released their annual MBA rankings this week, and I've been thinking about how that publication influences how people choose (a) which schools to apply to and (b) which school to attend. Today, I was reading this post by Jon Frank of Admissionado, where he states “Ignore money, go to the best school you can get into.” Now, I’ve read a lot of the material that Jon puts out and I have a lot of respect for the guy, but I don’t agree with this particular piece of advice. In my opinion, money should be a factor in a lot of cases. I’m writing this post to get my thoughts down and to hear what others (including Jon) have to say about how rankings should influence applicant behavior.

Why Rank Matters
- Higher ranked programs attract more of the best and brightest students (and thus alumni), and professors than lower ranked programs. This network is extremely valuable, especially when searching for jobs (both right away and mid-career).

- Some jobs require not just any old MBA, but rather an MBA from an elite institution. Common examples include MBB consulting, high finance jobs, etc.

- Higher ranked programs have a stronger global and national reach. HBS, Stanford, Wharton, etc. all have much better brand recognition and stronger alumni networks across the world than say Keenan-Flagler

Instances When Rank Does Not Matter
- The quality of educational content is largely the same across schools. All MBA programs teach the same basic principles and methods independent of their rank.

- Your career progression after you land your first job is based almost exclusively on performance at work, and definitely not where you went to school. This is a critical point that I think is often overlooked. I get the sense that a lot of applicants believe ‘oh, if I can just get into H/S/W, then “I’m in” and I’ll be set for life--my golden ticket.’ That’s really not the case. If some random, unambitious person with 500 GMAT, 2.5 GPA and average work experience tricked H/S/W into accepting them, they would definitely not have this grand successful career as a McK consultant, I-banker, etc. because they got in… I think Alex Chu had the best analogy: you can put a terrible driver in a Benz, but they’re still going to be a terrible driver.

How To Select Schools
- For me, the first question is – what career do you want to have? For a lot of folks the honest answer is “I’m not sure, but I want to make a lot of money.” And that’s okay. In this case, I agree with Jon – you should probably go to the highest ranked school you can get into. Higher ranked schools will maximize your exposure to a wide variety of lucrative opportunities. For others, they have a very specific answer. E.g., sassafrass wants to go pursue a non-profit career. Yale sends 5.4% of their grads into the non-profit sector, while Kellogg sends <1%. Sure, Kellogg is ranked higher, but Yale seems like a better fit given his goals.

- My next questions have to do with location – where do you want to be after graduation in the short-term? Long-term? During school? Many applicants either aren’t sure or would consider living in a wide-variety of cities/countries (ST, LT, and during school). Certainly nothing wrong with that! In this case, you’ll want to consider going to the highest ranked school you can get into as it will likely have the broadest reach. There are others who know exactly where they want to be ST, LT, and during school. E.g., I personally want to remain in New England in the ST, LT and during school, so it doesn’t make sense for me to apply to USC Marshall (8% placement in the Northeast) even though it’s ranked much higher than BU, BC, Babson, etc.

- My final question - where do you fit? There are some cultural differences between the programs, and it’s definitely something to consider. Although, this is not as relevant as the other two factors (in my opinion).

In essence, if you know what career you want to have, where you want to be and/or where you’ll fit best, I don’t think choosing schools to apply to or attend exclusively based on ranking makes any sense. If you’re in this bucket, then money should definitely be a major factor. If you’re still trying to figure these three things out (and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that; many people are), then I wholeheartedly agree with Jon – “Ignore money, go to the best school you can get into.”

Looking forward to some spirited discussion!

- OA
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Re: Rank and School Selection [#permalink] New post 15 Mar 2013, 14:10
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You certainly make some great points. I can think of some examples where it might make sense to take the money and run.

1) You want to go into a very niche industry.
You gave a great example (Yale and the non-profit industry). Here's another example: Anderson and the film industry. I, for one, would take a full ride at Anderson over no money at Kellogg or Haas!

2) You want to do entrepreneurship or work at a start-up.
Maybe it's just my risk-averse nature, but loan debt is a very real deterrent to pursuing entrepreneurship or the start-up scene. Again, I'd probably take a full ride at Booth over HBS if I was dead-set on starting my own company after school.

3) You target firms treat schools in the top X (e.g., M7, top 25) as equivalent.
This may be hearsay, but I've heard general management positions and LDPs are very attainable from almost any top school. Here, it might make sense to take a full-ride scholarship from Darden over no money at Booth.

That said, there are many, many reasons why it makes complete sense to matriculate at the business school (and to some degree, the broader institution) that is more well-regarded. From where I sit, you did a great job articulating why someone would/should choose a higher ranked school: they are unsure (or ambivalent) about what they want to do, they want to go into a field where "prestige" is very important (PE/MBB/IB), or they are simply willing to pay a premium to hedge against future indecision or economic downturns.
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Re: Rank and School Selection [#permalink] New post 15 Mar 2013, 14:39
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OptimisticApplicant wrote:

Instances When Rank Does Not Matter
- The quality of educational content is largely the same across schools. All MBA programs teach the same basic principles and methods independent of their rank.



I agree that the content is the same, but above you mentioned higher ranked schools attract better professors and students. I think those two groups of people greatly influence the quality of the education, which makes ranking matter.

Yes, accounting is accounting, finance is finance, but the learning that happens from peers with accomplished careers is what sets the top schools apart from the pack, especially when discussing cases.
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Re: Rank and School Selection [#permalink] New post 16 Mar 2013, 20:18
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When all else is equal then take the money and run. However, in my opinion there are gaps between some schools that money cannot bridge. In those cases go to the best school you can get into.

I got into 3 schools that I held equal to one another then let money play a role in the decision. Don't regret it for a second.
_________________

The Brain Dump - From Low GPA to Top MBA (Updated September 1, 2013) - A Few of My Favorite Things--> http://cheetarah1980.blogspot.com
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Joined: 18 Jun 2012
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Concentration: Entrepreneurship, General Management
Schools: Babson '14 (M)
GMAT 1: 680 Q49 V34
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WE: Marketing (Computer Software)
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Kudos [?]: 39 [0], given: 11

Re: Rank and School Selection [#permalink] New post 18 Mar 2013, 04:55
kingfalcon wrote:
You certainly make some great points. I can think of some examples where it might make sense to take the money and run.

1) You want to go into a very niche industry.
You gave a great example (Yale and the non-profit industry). Here's another example: Anderson and the film industry. I, for one, would take a full ride at Anderson over no money at Kellogg or Haas!

2) You want to do entrepreneurship or work at a start-up.
Maybe it's just my risk-averse nature, but loan debt is a very real deterrent to pursuing entrepreneurship or the start-up scene. Again, I'd probably take a full ride at Booth over HBS if I was dead-set on starting my own company after school.

3) You target firms treat schools in the top X (e.g., M7, top 25) as equivalent.
This may be hearsay, but I've heard general management positions and LDPs are very attainable from almost any top school. Here, it might make sense to take a full-ride scholarship from Darden over no money at Booth.

That said, there are many, many reasons why it makes complete sense to matriculate at the business school (and to some degree, the broader institution) that is more well-regarded. From where I sit, you did a great job articulating why someone would/should choose a higher ranked school: they are unsure (or ambivalent) about what they want to do, they want to go into a field where "prestige" is very important (PE/MBB/IB), or they are simply willing to pay a premium to hedge against future indecision or economic downturns.



Yes, these are all great additions to the lists!
Current Student
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Joined: 18 Jun 2012
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Concentration: Entrepreneurship, General Management
Schools: Babson '14 (M)
GMAT 1: 680 Q49 V34
GMAT 2: 730 Q48 V42
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WE: Marketing (Computer Software)
Followers: 1

Kudos [?]: 39 [0], given: 11

Re: Rank and School Selection [#permalink] New post 18 Mar 2013, 05:01
CobraKai wrote:
OptimisticApplicant wrote:

Instances When Rank Does Not Matter
- The quality of educational content is largely the same across schools. All MBA programs teach the same basic principles and methods independent of their rank.



I agree that the content is the same, but above you mentioned higher ranked schools attract better professors and students. I think those two groups of people greatly influence the quality of the education, which makes ranking matter.

Yes, accounting is accounting, finance is finance, but the learning that happens from peers with accomplished careers is what sets the top schools apart from the pack, especially when discussing cases.


Glad you pointed this out! The reason you list above is exactly why I worded that point so carefully, using "educational content" as opposed to simply "education." Completely agree that best in class professors and peers will broaden the context.
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Re: Rank and School Selection [#permalink] New post 18 Mar 2013, 05:27
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cheetarah1980 wrote:
When all else is equal then take the money and run. However, in my opinion there are gaps between some schools that money cannot bridge. In those cases go to the best school you can get into.

I got into 3 schools that I held equal to one another then let money play a role in the decision. Don't regret it for a second.


I think that most people would agree with this concept. However, I also believe that the "gaps between some schools that money cannot bridge" are too narrow for a lot of people. E.g., I have a feeling that some folks in your situation would have chosen Wharton over Booth + more scholarship money. Here's a more dramatic example: ross-no-money-vs-kelley-for-marketing-149126.html

This person wants to go into brand management. In my opinion, the difference in value between Kelley and Ross for this person is NOT worth ~$80-100K in today's dollars...not even close...

One final point, I think the "gap" significantly widens as you move down the rankings. E.g., the gap between HBS and NYU Stern (10 ranking spots) is worth a lot more than the gap between Washington U. Olin and Rice U. Jones (also 10 spots)
Re: Rank and School Selection   [#permalink] 18 Mar 2013, 05:27
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