Ranking or Fit?

June 9, 2009

I can see why so many MBA aspirants are so fed up with rankings. Not only are there too many establishments bringing out their subjective views on the topic, but these views almost always yield very disparate results. On one hand, this disparity gives a lot of schools the chance to occupy the top slots of one ranking or the other, on the other hand, these rankings end up siphoning fuel into chat forums, resulting in regular tirades on which is number #1 and which is not. The discussions, needless to say, are usually inconclusive.

HBS occupies the top slot in this year’s USNews rankings; Wharton takes No. #1 on the FT list, IMD/Booth is top on The Economist, Tuck/ESADE gets the top slot in WSJ (2007), and Tuck gets top slot in Forbes (2007). So which one is really the best? If I could give a very personal response (which is the very purpose of this blog) it would be that I really don’t care. Surprising as my answer may appear, my rationale is built upon the notion that each school is fundamentally different from the other; each gives the admit a very unique experience and exposure and that cannot be ranked. It’s the same case as comparing apples and oranges — fruits they are, but not quite comparable. Instead I’d be looking at ‘fit’. I’d pick up a set of schools I’d want to go to based on curriculum, teaching methods, location, campus, recruitment figures, student profiles, classroom experience, section experience, and financial aid packages. Basically I’d look at the sum total of the possible experience that the school environment would be able to generate for me to determine the fit. If a school fits me, then by correlation, I’d fit the school.

I haven’t mentioned brand value because that is largely a subjective matter. Most discussions on forums on A vs. B eventually end up with the participants presenting their perceptions of the brand. “A has a slightly higher brand value than B” is nothing but an individual’s perception and the response to that, “No, A and B are equal” or “B has a better brand value among PE recruiters” exemplify the point.

After months of elimination, I have found only one school (Ahem!) that would fit me like a glove. The general advice appears to be to choose two reach schools, two competitive schools, and two safety schools. But with each application costing me US$ 250, it doesn’t make sense to me to turn it into a lottery. I will therefore apply to just the one school that I’ve come to conclude as the perfect fit.