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Financial Times Global Rankings — What they Mean to You

The Financial Times‘ Global Rankings came out last Monday, and everyone is a winner.  That’s what I always say about rankings, because there are always ways to slice and dice the data so that a school can claim they are highly ranked according to someone.

I, for one, am glad that there are a number of rankings (USNews, BloombergBusinessWeek,FT, Economist, WSJ, Forbes, and an aggregated version by Poets & Quants) – although the FT and the Economist really do dominate the global rankings – and I am glad that they all emphasize something different. That’s because the business school experience is different for everyone, and it’s very hard for a rank to represent just how good a school is for you.

HBS Wins Overall – Sort Of
But like Oscars, rankings are a part of life in the admissions industry, and there are definitely some quirks.  For example, although Harvard Business School ranks #1 in the survey overall, it is only #17 for “aims achieved.”  It’s also ranked #77 for “value” and #43 for “international mobility.”  This tells me that I probably need to dig a lot deeper to understand the methodology, something most of my clients will never do. All they know is that Harvard Business School is on top of the charts, and that’s a good thing.

Good News for Columbia
Columbia Business School administrators should be cheering by the fifth-place overall ranking especially after applications for last year’s entering class declined 19%.

The ranking also puts CBS as fourth in the United States, just behind HBS, Stanford GSB, and Penn.  One of the boosts in Columbia’s methodology seems to be its 92% employment figure, that is, percentage of students who have accepted a job offer within three months of graduation. Of the US business schools, this ranks higher than Harvard and Stanford’s 89%, but lower than Emory’s 96%, or UC Berkeley’s and Tuck’s 93%.  Given the high exposure of Columbia students to the financial industry, that’s not bad.   In the mystifying category of “aims achieved,”  the score came in #24, vs.  #4 for Yale and #13 for Carnegie Mellon Tepper.  Tepper, by the way also had a 90% employment-after-three-months figure.

International Mobility
Here’s an interesting ranking for those who want to go to business school to “see the world.”  If you want to do so, don’t stay in the US, because the highest ranked US school in the list is Wharton, coming in at #40 for “international mobility.”  I know that’s one that begs for methodology, but other name schools in the US that followed Penn were Harvard, Berkeley Haas, our friend Columbia and MIT Sloan.

Ranking By Alumni
The FT also lets alumni have their say on their schools in certain categories.  For example, the top US schools for economics in this survey are Booth, MIT, Yale, and Tepper (again!)

For general management UVA Darden bests HBS, followed by Tuck, Stanford, Ross and Kellogg.  Here’s good marketing for you, alumni of Indiana University’s Kelley School ranked their alma mater #2 for marketing, after Kellogg, (of course) and before Duke. And here’s a fun one, showing you that Wharton is not just a finance school, alumni ranked Penn below the following schools for “Top for Finance” : Chicago Booth, NYU Stern, and Univeristy of Rochester’s Simon School.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read
I admit, I have cherry picked some of the points to make in this blog post. Mostly because it is fun, but rankings are really hard to figure, and they really don’t matter as much as what is the right school for you.  Rankings only tell a small part of the story .

Also, rankings can be misleading. Because I came from finance, I used to get a lot of questions about the best school for finance – and maintain that you need to do a whole lot of your own research and networking to figure out your right path.   So visit schools, talk to students and professors, and see what’s happening beyond just what pundits like me write on the internet. Spring is around the corner –the best time for campus visits — so take advantage of the time you have now to see if those rankings really tell the whole story.

Are you a Non-Traditional MBA Candidate? Then Read This.

Just about everyone, that is, other than McKinsey consultants and Goldman analysts, call themselves non-traditional candidates for business school. Why? Because they think that everyone who will populate the next MBA class comes

Defraying the cost of business school

from management consulting or finance.

We all of know a few consultants, investment banking types, and more than a few engineers at business school. And indeed, if you look at the profiles of many business schools (here’s a link to the Wharton MBA site, where you will see a combination of 42% for those in investment banking, private equity, or other finance). But thousands of others from backgrounds in the arts, social enterprise, hard science, start-ups, and the military will make their way to MBA program of their choice in the next intake class. Really.

It’s a Master of Business Administration

Here’s something that most people don’t understand: business school is about business. More and more students come from non-profits, and more and more will go into social enterprise (otherwise, why else would Stanford Graduate School of Business’s motto be “Change Lives. Change Organizations. Change the World?” Of course schools are looking for leadership. But they also want students to appreciate what makes a business enterprise work. Dee Leopold, the heralded director of admissions at Harvard Business School, calls this business acumen “bizability.”

The term bizability reminds students that they are (nearly always) applying to a school of business. The degree is called a Master of Business Administration. The Yale School of Management had tried for two decades to sell its Master of Public and Private Management (MPPM) degree, but the school officially changed the name to the MBA in 2000. Business is about commerce, about enterprise, and even in the case of non-profits, it’s about the bottom line. Dee Leopold described it as being “grounded in the language of business.”

Bizability means that students have to, at some level, grasp business. You can still be part of the 99%, that’s fine (many of us are). I once met a student who wanted a joint degree in education and business to fund a school, but she hated the concept of business. She didn’t see the value in finance; she just thought it was all evil. That is not a great admissions strategy. You have to like business well enough to have been exposed to what makes a company tick and want to learn more.

So what if you have worked in a government or non-profit organization. You don’t have to think too hard about where you have used “business skills” to succeed:

1. Have you run – or do you work with — the budget for your department?
2. Have you allocated resources (e.g., people, systems, programs?)
2. Have you raised money, either from investors or organizations giving grants?
4. Have you ever had your own business, like a lemonade stand, a neighborhood newspaper, or an Etsy store?
5. Do you follow business news, the financial press or the stock market? Do you know how your IRA works?
You don’t have to answer “yes” to all of these questions, but they probably shouldn’t scare you if you are thinking about an MBA.

So think about what business school is about and what having a career with a business degree means. Think about words like management, enterprise, company, operations, market, trade, and finance. Do you have an affinity for any of these ideas? If so, you are on your way, and are perhaps not so scarily non-traditional after all.

What is the Best Business School for a Career in Finance?

Because I worked for Goldman Sachs right out of business school, later worked in investment management, and now consult with companies like BlackRock, lots of people ask what MBA program they should attend if they want a career in finance.  And they also wonder if they should go to graduate school at all. For the purpose of this article, let’s assume you want to pursue an MBA.

Riches can be yours!

Here’s what it does not depend on: rankings.  Rankings have something to do with what business school or finance degree you might want to research, but they won’t tell you whether it’s the right program for you.   And rankings are all over the place.  A few months ago, I wrote a blog post on this subject with lots of quotes from the Assistant Dean at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. Tuck has been ranked overall #1, #6, #7, #14, #18, depending on who you talk to, and encourages students to look beyond the actual listing.

Figuring out the Right Path

So which of the top schools might be better in corporate finance, or M&A, or hedge funds, or private equity? Is Wharton better in finance than Harvard, or is Stanford the best way to get a job in venture capital?  There are a lot of opinions all over the internet – and many of them are simply wrong.  So what should you believe?  You’ve got several ways to figure this out.

1.  See who is recruiting at your target school.  Not everyone gets a job on campus, but take a look at the recruiting list for any school. You can usually find it through their employment report. Here is Columbia Business School’s  employment report, for example. The list of recruiters starts on page 10. Or here’s UC Berkeley Haas’ list of companies that have come on campus.  Examine it carefully. You might not find some of the big New York PE shops, but you’ll find Cambridge Associates, which for you, might be an even more likely stepping stone into venture capital, private equity, or hedge funds.

2.  Visit the schools and/or talk to students about their experiences. With LinkedIn and Facebook, you must know someone who knows someone.  Many schools put student contact information right on their website, for example, see this list of student ambassadors from Michigan Ross or NYU Stern. Others, like Harvard Business School, present interviews of students—who are all easy enough to find if you look hard enough.

3.  Investigate clubs at your target business school. Columbia’s Private Equity and Venture Capital Club has its own website, and don’t be fooled by the log-in.  Just jump to club officers, and you’ll have plenty to work with.  More interested in Chicago? Booth doesn’t just have a finance club, it has a  corporate finance club, an investment banking club, a PE club, and and even a distressed investing and restructuring club.

4. Talk to actual people in your target industry and find out what paths they took. While the big guys in the PE industry look like a straight shot from Morgan Stanley M&A, venture capital, hedge funds, and other investment firms might have a more circuitous route. Hey, Mitt Romney came to the private equity business by way of management consulting, so why can’t you?

5. Network.  This is essentially the same as item #4, but it’s so important that I am mentioning it again.  Because you want to hit the ground running once you get to business school, it makes sense to start building your contacts now. Brian DeChesare, an expert on breaking into Wall Street, encourages prospective financiers to “network like a ninja” because, “even if you’re at Harvard you can’t rely on on-campus recruiting.”  And even if you get an interview through on-campus recruiting, you want to have friends who can help you actually land the job and do well there.

And in the meantime, have fun with the process. You’ll learn a lot and meet lots of people. And it’s definitely more enjoyable than signing up on e-Harmony.

–Betsy Massar

Don’t forget to check out our new book Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting Into a Top MBA Program

Thank You Women of Washington DC







The 85 Broads DC Chapter is outstanding! Last Tuesday, I was able to talk to about 30 wonderful chapter members about Leadership & the MBA. With the help of Jhaymee Wilson, and Wharton EMBA graduate, Joy Quinn, we covered a lot of ground.

We talked about a number of resources for potential students of graduate business or joint programs.  I of course shilled my own blog, posted on 85 Broads and on the Master Admissions website. There you can find useful tips on getting your quant skills MBA ready , standardized testing skillsrecommendation wrangling, and storytelling at the interview .

We also talked about other resources, and for great material and zero cost, I cannot recommend MBA Podcaster enough.  This site is filled with balanced audio and video resources – it’s sophisticated and easy to navigate.  I’ve learned a lot from this site, and am a big fan of the founder, Leila Pirnia, an MIT entrepreneur.

But Wait, There’s More!

Very briefly, here are a few more resources we discussed:

Fellow 85 Broad member Alison Levine – her website is here at

Daniel Goleman, the author who popularized “Emotional Intelligence” discusses this subject in the original Harvard Business Review article on “What Makes a Leader?”  A discussion of how this all applies to business school and essay writing can be found here.

List of business schools that take GRE as well as the GMAT

TED talk on the brain’s plasticity by Jill Bolte Taylor

Finally, in our discussion of the brain and learning, one member mentioned books by Steven Pinker,

If I am forgetting anything, please let me know! It was a wonderful evening, and I look forward to hearing more from the wonderful, exciting, emerging leaders of Washington.  You ladies rock!

Business Schools that Accept the GRE or GMAT

More and more business schools are accepting the GRE in lieu of the GMAT these days. In response to a query I received from the academic adviser to students at one of the world’s top undergraduate schools, I thought I would put together a handy table for you to identify which schools accept either the GRE or GMAT. Below you can see that many do, but not all.




Columbia YES Columbia Business School
Darden YES UVA Darden
Fuqua YES Duke Fuqua
HBS YES Harvard Business School
Mich Ross YES University of Michigan Ross School
Tuck YES Dartmouth Tuck
Stanford YES Stanford GSB
Wharton YES Wharton MBA
Yale YES Yale School of Management
Chicago NO Chicago Booth
Cornell NO Cornell Johnson
Haas NO UC Berkeley Haas
Kellogg NO Kellogg

If you have any questions about updates to this information, please email me at

A few notes: Cornell does not indicate it accepts the GRE, but they haven’t said they *don’t* accept it, as Haas and Chicago Booth have. UCLA Anderson’s MBA program doesn’t accept it, but their Executive Program does.

Further, things do change! so please check the links and make sure the information you have is current.

Meanwhile, if you need any advice on studying for standardized tests, please see last week’s blog post on test anxiety and your brain.