How much should I care about MBA rankings? If I am accepted into more than one school, should I just pick the one that is ranked the highest?

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Jessica Burlingame, Senior Admissions Consultant, The MBA Exchange®

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My admissions colleagues have laid out the most important factors facing any candidate trying to make a decision among multiple offers from top-tier MBA programs -- and I join them in offering sincere congratulations to anyone who's made it to this point!

In addition to their points regarding each school's geography, class size, recruiter representation, and curricular emphases -- all critical variables for any admitted student to take into account -- I'd strongly emphasize the importance of doing a rigorous analysis of your own unique personal and professional goals, and how each school's unique combination of resources and attributes can best support those goals. The vast alumni pools and local resources of large urban business schools have a great deal to offer -- but graduates of smaller, more intimate programs outside of major urban centers often report valuing the closeness of their communities during and long after graduation.

Funding is another potential variable to consider; while grant aid tends to be minimal from most top schools, if you are offered a significant fellowship by one or more programs of comparable prestige, that financial factor is worth weighing with great care -- particularly if you intend to pursue entrepreneurship or another career path in which your postgrad income is likely to be unpredictable, or in which steep loan payments could pose a significant hardship.

Finally, I agree with my colleague Dan Bauer that enlisting some expert support as you navigate the MBA admissions process can make a huge difference in both your admissions success, and in your ability to use the b-school experience most effectively (and enjoyably!) over time.

Very best of luck to you!

Nedda Gilbert, MSW, Educational Consultant, and Author

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I agree with the above answers and especially with Stacy's point about geography. I want to add that Business School can in fact be used as a vehicle to put down roots in another part of the country, not just jumpstart an entirely new career. For example, if you go to Stanford University chances are you're staying in the San Francisco area. You'll leave with a job, life long friends, deep connections and familiarity with the area. That offers you a big boost to both your professional and personal life.

As for other aspects of your personal life to consider, most business school students are older and may be heading off to school with family in tow, or a significant other. If so, you'll want to do your research and find the program that is best for your partner.

Finally, take a look at the top hirers at each school, not just how many students leave with a job. This too may direct your choice.

Dan Bauer, CEO and Founder of The MBA Exchange, provider of admissions and career consulting services

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There’s a dizzying array of “rankings” for the world’s business schools: USNews, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, FT.com, Economist, Poets and Quants, just to name some. While specific, rank order differs somewhat by source, there is general consensus as to what is the “top tier.” Each of those schools delivers a high-quality education, prestigious brand, world-class faculty, robust alumni network, and large-scale recruitment of its graduates by leading employers. So, you can’t go too far wrong in attending any of those programs.

That said, nearly all applicants have specific, post-MBA geographic and/or industry preferences that should help them narrow their list of targeted schools before they even apply. Other important factors to consider include campus culture, teaching method, class size, alumni chapter locations, marquee faculty members, merit-based aid, etc. After researching and considering each of those aspects, you should find that relative ranking is a less significant factor in picking the “best” business school for you. And remember, there’s no decision for you to make until you’re offered admission. So, to find yourself facing the wonderful “dilemma” of having to choose between excellent MBA programs, your immediate focus should be on be building and presenting a candidacy that will compel those schools to want you as their student.

As a first step, I suggest getting a free, expert evaluation (http://www.mbaexchange.com/mba-evaluation) of your profile for the business schools that you believe could be a strong fit for your background and aspirations. By getting this assessment as early as possible, you can be sure that any schools that offer you admission will be a match for your priorities and potential.

Dan Bauer, MBA Harvard CEO and Founder The MBA Exchange Admissions and Career Advisory Services

Stacy Blackman, MBA Admissions Expert

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Rankings are important, but there are a lot of other important decisions when choosing a between top MBA programs. Your goals are vital: certain schools have stronger ties to certain industries, and you want to be sure you make the most of this aspect of the MBA experience. Also, location is important: top schools like Tuck and Ross are located in relatively out-of-the-way places, while other programs, such as Columbia and Booth, are in the middle of big cities. All of these factors, and many more, could play a role in your decision-making process.

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