This is an effective approach which will help you identify which MBA programmes best meet your aspirations and potential.
Start with listing your own criteria
You need a list of criteria in order to assess the relevance of MBA rankings. Here is an enjoyable way to do it. Why don't you just start taking notes of what your dream MBA should look like? Do not impose any limitations on your dreams. There are thousands of MBA programmes in the world and I bet your dream MBA exists. You just need to find it. Take a week or two to complete the description. Then, transform it into a list of measurable criteria, so that you can put a number or a yes/no reply. For example: How big is the alumni network? – 50,000 or Does this programme offer an international project in another country? – Yes/No.
Prioritise your criteria
Arrange your criteria by their level of importance to you. Decide which of them are essential and on which you can compromise. You may also wish to give weight to some of the most important criteria. This will be very helpful when you start applying your own criteria to analyse the data about business schools. For example, each match to a criterion will bring one point, but a match to the most important criteria will bring higher scores e.g. Programme is within my budget (10 points); School is in a city where I want to work after graduation (8 points), etc. This is how you will end up with an objective score for each MBA programme that you evaluate.
Rearrange schools in existing MBA rankings
There are several famous MBA rankings published by leading international media such as BusinessWeek, The Economist, The Financial Times, and Forbes. You will also find others, published by organisations and companies in the education or business education industries. Before looking at the lists of ranked schools, check how each of these rankings has been generated. The methodologies of the rankings will reveal how the initial pool of schools was selected, what criteria were used to rank the schools, what is the weight (importance) given each criterion, and when the data was collected. Find examples in the series of PrepAdviser’s articles Business Schools Rankings – What You Need to Know.
Compare your list of criteria to the criteria of each of the rankings. There will be just several matches. Then, disregard the list of ranked schools. See what the ranking will look like when you rearrange the schools by their score, only when applying the criteria that are important for you. Most MBA rankings are published electronically and you can easily get the data and analyse it yourself.
Make your own ranking
It is possible that the majority of your criteria are not reflected by the existing MBA rankings. So, just apply your dream MBA ranking. Preselect the initial pool of schools and collect the data needed for your ranking. Most of the data will be available on the websites, in the programmes brochures (also available online) or contact the admissions staff directly to get figures for the yes/no answers to your questions. Once you have all the data, calculate the score for each programme. In this way you will have the most precise MBA ranking that is best for you.
A final piece of advice
It is tempting to stick to the lists of business schools in the existing MBA rankings. However, you will obtain relevant results only from those with methodologies that apply the criteria that reflect your own preferences and goals. If there are no such rankings, then just make up your own. This will be the most informative ranking for you. Selecting the right MBA programmes for you ensures a worthwhile educational experience and post MBA success.
An excellent start of the school selection process is to have your profile evaluated by an expert. This will help you determine what types of programmes and what calibre of schools are a good match for you. Then, you can proceed with a more focused school research.