Making the Most of Business School Rankings

Choosing a B-school can be a gamble. MBA applicants shouldn’t rely on rankings alone, but the data they include are a valuable resource, admissions experts say Whenever business school rankings are released by any publication, readers flock to the Bloomberg Businessweek Business Schools Forum to analyze the lists.At the moment, forum participants are debating the order of business schools in U.S. News and World Report’s latest ranking. So far, 44 messages populate the discussion thread, and many suggest different ways to rank the programs, each participant bringing his own preferences to the discussion. Admissions directors at top schools and consultants who advise B-school applicants agree that many B-school hopefuls rely too much on the rankings and get caught up in the lists instead of the more valuable data that come with them. They warn that this can ruin a business school application, because admissions committees are unimpressed when applicants have chosen them simply because their school is No. 5 on a certain publication’s annual list. “Stop thinking of them as rankings of anything,” says Linda Abraham, president of Accepted.com, an admissions consulting firm in Los Angeles. “They are collections of data and surveys. They are opinions.” Still, rankings serve a purpose in the application process and can be valuable to MBA candidates who know how to use them properly while keeping the lists themselves in perspective, say admissions experts. Business school rankings are available free online, which can help people save money on admissions consultants, says Sara Neher, assistant dean for MBA admissions at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business (Darden Full-Time MBA Profile). “Use rankings to figure out where to apply,” she says. “Don’t use them to decide where to go.” What Each Ranking Measures Indeed,...

MBA Waitlist Purgatory

If you’re waitlisted, you’re still in the running, and your application has passed an important hurdle Today’s post goes out to those B-school hopefuls who may have recently received great news, upsetting news, or a mix of both – otherwise known as placement on the waitlist. I often remind applicants that landing on the waitlist of your dream school is actually terrific feedback, as it means that you are qualified to attend the program, and that the school was interested in your application and your profile. So, congratulate yourself! Far more people are denied admission than are placed on the waitlist. If you’re waitlisted, you’re still in the running, and your application has passed an important hurdle. The waitlist it is laden with uncertainty, even for the admissions committees. Until they know how many applicants will accept their invitations and until they start to understand the makeup of the class, they really don’t know how many people will be admitted from the waitlist. In most cases, the waitlist isn’t technically ranked. Again, the admissions committee is looking at the entire class composition and trying to make sure that it’s a well-rounded group. As their class begins to take shape, they can make more waitlist decisions. Fear not, for you can keep your sanity during this period of limbo, and perhaps even use the time to your advantage. Should I stay on the waitlist? The decision to stay on the waitlist depends on your interest level in that M.B.A. program. If it’s your top choice, you may be willing to remain on the list until school begins, especially if you’re willing to move quickly and give up a deposit on another school that has offered you firm admission. If the...

Need Start-Up Inspiration? Take a Peek at Harvard MBA Product Ideas...

Nine promising product ideas that recently received small funding awards from Harvard Business School These nine teams beat out 79 others to receive an average $5,000 from the Minimum Viable Product Fund, administered by the Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship. These are awarded to the most promising ideas that follow the lean start-up methodology. The winning entries were incredibly wide ranging in scope, from a product that helps users plan their deaths to a service that allows wine lovers to order wine and follow it through the production process. Here were the winners. 1. Adiply: An automated self-serve tool that executes online advertising direct deals. 2. AfterSteps: An online end-of-life planning platform with educational resources and tools to create a plan, store it, and transfer it to designated beneficiaries. 3. Children’s Stories for American Muslims: A children’s entertainment and education brand for the underserved North American Muslim population. The business will start as a subscription service delivering monthly stories and will later expand into toys, books, games, videos, and licensing. 4. MatchLend: A tool to improve loan underwriting accuracy by incorporating data often missed by traditional methods. 5. MyDayz: A web application that allows women to keep track of their health data, focusing on period and fertility monitoring…Read full...

Harvard MBA Index Flashes ‘Sell’ Warning...

Designed by a former banking analyst and Harvard Business School alumnus named Ray Soifer, the Harvard Business School Index looks at what portion of Harvard Business School graduates take “market-sensitive jobs” The best and the brightest young business minds in America are once again flocking to Wall Street”and tripping an offbeat alarm bell for the markets along the way. More Harvard M.B.A. graduates took jobs on Wall Street last year than the previous year, when the financial sector was still reeling from the crisis of 2008. Thirty-one percent the class of 2010 took jobs in “market sensitive” positions in the financial sector. This means that the threshold of the famous Harvard Business School Index has been tripped. Designed by a former banking analyst and Harvard Business School alumnus named Ray Soifer, the Harvard Business School Index looks at what portion of Harvard Business School graduates take “market-sensitive jobs” ” a subset of the financial services category that includes investment banking, investment management, private equity, venture capital and hedge funds. When the portion exceeds 30 percent, it’s a sell signal. If the number is below 10 percent, it is a long-term buy signal. A record 41 percent of the class of 2008 went into market sensitive positions ” foreshadowing the financial crisis. The 2009 class was less Wall Street focused, with only 28 percent taking market sensitive careers. That shifted the index from a “sell” to a “neutral.”…Read full...

How to Strengthen Your MBA Application

After putting so much time and dedication into completing their applications, the thought of trying again the next year can be overwhelming For the past few weeks, many M.B.A. applicants have been sleeping fitfully, biting their nails, and checking their email with trepidation. Why? Because it’s the time of year when b-schools are letting applicants know whether they are admitted, waitlisted, or denied a seat in next year’s class. With so many applicants and so few seats available at top b-schools, many aspiring M.B.A.s find themselves shut out during their first application season. After putting so much time and dedication into completing their applications, the thought of trying again the next year can be overwhelming. The good news, however, is that reapplying is often easier. You’ve already done the bulk of your school research, GMAT test prep, and essay writing. As a re-applicant, you simply need to refine your application. [Get more admissions advice from b-school officials.] The tricky part can be figuring out how, exactly, your application needs refining. B-schools generally don’t give explanations to rejected candidates, so you can’t call the admissions office to find out what was lacking. I would encourage you instead to distance yourself from those rejected b-school applications by putting them away for a few weeks. Then try to look at them as objectively as you can. This can be difficult, so it’s a good idea to have someone help you evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your applications, be it a professional consultant, current b-school student, or colleague who holds an M.B.A. degree. To get you started, here are a few strategies commonly used for strengthening b-school applications…Read full...

Meet the MBA road warriors

Would you travel over 14,000 miles every other weekend for an MBA? These hardy souls do it and don’t have too many qualms about the payback either. George Clooney, step aside. You’re a piker next to Harsh Gupta, the quintessential “Up in the Air” road warrior (referring to the 2009 movie starring Clooney, who plays a consultant that travels over 300 days a year on business). Every other weekend, Gupta flies 7,261 miles through 10 time zones from Dubai to Chicago simply to get an executive MBA degree from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Ill. All told, the roundtrip travel costs $4,800 a pop, consumes 30 hours in the air, and adds 14,522 miles to his frequent flyer account. “I meet people and they ask, ‘So, where do you come from?’ When I say, ‘Dubai,” I see their jaws drop to their chests,” says Gupta, the chief executive of his own consumer electronics company. “It’s an expression that’s impossible to describe, but it is worth seeing.” By the time he graduates with his executive MBA at year-end, Gupta will have spent 1,140 hours in the air — not including the inevitable flight delays and cancellations –traveling a total of over 20 million miles just to get the degree. And he will have spent more money on business class airplane tickets — $182,400 — than the $153,900 cost of tuition. “But if I capitalize the expense over my life span,” he says, like a true MBA, “I am sure the returns will be far greater.” An army of B-school globetrotters Believe it or not, Gupta is hardly alone. Almost all of the premier business schools boast about full-time executives willing to endure the proverbial commute from hell...

Maximum flexibility for unconventional MBA students...

An online business programme designed for working professionals Several years ago administrators at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School noticed a gaping hole in their MBA offerings. There were large numbers of talented candidates who would like to earn a graduate degree at the school but, for a variety of reasons, could not uproot their lives and come to Chapel Hill. “We wanted to meet the educational needs of a broad spectrum of people who are qualified to get an MBA, but for whatever reason are unable to matriculate,” says James Dean, dean of the school. The answer was an online business programme designed for working professionals, known as MBA@UNC. The programme, which will start in July, is targeted at students who require maximum flexibility. Perhaps they live out of state or even outside the US; perhaps their jobs require extensive travel or frequent transfers; perhaps they are members of the military, or are juggling young children or ageing parents…Read full...

Reinventing the MBA

B-schools are overhauling curriculum to turn out more innovative, socially responsible leaders. Lindsey Olier Barnes had just arrived in Bangalore, India for a monthlong internship at IT giant Infosys when she encountered one of the real-world problems she’d heard so much about back at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. The Infosys group to which she was assigned had been tasked with getting managers to focus on new products as well as the company’s traditional niche, providing cost-cutting solutions to clients. The move was out of the comfort zone for many managers, and a constant complaint of her colleagues in the group was, “They won’t listen.” Click here to find out more! So Barnes took a page from her Leadership Labs course. She made a point of hearing out the managers before launching into her own spiel, so she could “address the root causes of their concerns.” Suddenly they seemed more receptive and started asking questions about the new strategy. By letting them voice their worries about what the change could mean for them and their employees, Barnes says, she earned their trust. She had learned that “people don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.” [Get application advice from M.B.A. admissions officials.] Barnes’s communication coup is exactly the kind of outcome business educators have in mind as they rethink M.B.A. programs to de-emphasize traditional discipline-based courses like marketing and finance in favor of a focus on leadership skills, innovation, social responsibility, and a global perspective. A handful of elite institutions, including the Yale School of Management, Stanford, and, most recently, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, have led the charge with radical curriculum overhauls. But John Fernandes, president and CEO...

For MBA Applicants, Economy Doesn’t Matter...

The vast majority of prospective business school students said they plan to attend business school, regardless of economic conditions, according to a new survey from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) released today The survey looked at the career aspirations and backgrounds of about 40,000 potential MBA students worldwide who registered in 2009 and 2010 on mba.com , a website run by GMAC that provides people with information on the business school application process. About half of the respondents, or 51 percent, said the current economic climate did not affect their likelihood to get their MBA, while about one-third, or 36 percent, said that the economy spurred them to get the degree. About 13 percent of the respondents said the tough economy had dissuaded them from considering business school, and just one percent said the adverse economy made them decide not to go to business school at all, the survey showed. This is the first time that GMAC has asked this question of registrants, so historical comparison data is not available, a spokesman for GMAC said. Still, the results are “consistent with long-term findings” that GMAC has conducted since 2003, when the economy was coming out of the last recession, the survey noted. MBA applicants may be moving forward with their plans to attend business school, but financial worries remain a concern, especially when it comes to their careers and long-term prospects, the survey said. For example, about 50 percent of mba.com registrants in 2010 said they feared the degree would be too expensive, while another 48 percent worried about incurring financial debt and student loans. About 22 percent said they feared that their job outlook would be uncertain because of the shaky economy. Only 14 percent said they...