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Four Reasons Why Online MBA Program Rankings Matter

11 Aug
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As you look to choose an online MBA program, you’re likely interested in attaining respected credentials, brilliant business acumen, and excellent leadership skills. The reputations of top-tier institutions will surely influence your decision-making. Although many people don't know offhand which school is #1 in the online MBA program rankings, most people recognize that certain universities have stronger reputations than others.

Reputations are persuasive because they represent an executive summary of several significant criteria. By understanding those criteria, you gain a more complete view of the specific benefits offered by various programs.

Read on to learn why online MBA program rankings are crucial in helping you choose the program that’s the best fit for you.

The Origins of MBA Program Rankings

Introduced in the late 1980s, MBA program rankings were initially offered by prominent business magazines and newspapers such as Businessweek, US News & World Report, Financial Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Recognizing the consequences, business schools responded to the new rankings by hiring public relations professionals, communication directors, and advertising agencies. Hoping to ensure their placement on these lists, schools began managing public perceptions by widely promoting their MBA programs to prospective students, employers, and the general media.1

Today, countless publications offer annual MBA program rankings. A recent survey by the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AICAC) lists the seven most influential annual rankings among MBA applicants and students. Starting with the most influential, according to U.S. participants, these include US News & World Report, Poets & Quants, Businessweek, The Economist, Forbes, Financial Times, and The Wall Street Journal.2

Each of the major publications uses different ranking methodologies and criteria, which explains why schools rank so differently from one publication to another. For example:

  • The US News & World Report criteria include applicant SAT/ACT score averages, acceptance rates, student/faculty ratios, average test scores by students, student graduation rates, and school financial resources3
  • Forbes' MBA program rankings are based upon a cost/benefit analysis to calculate graduates' return on investment (ROI), helping to clarify whether program costs are worth students' time and money
  • Businessweek focuses heavily on student and employer perceptions of MBA programs
  • The Economist gives significant weight to MBA students' personal development1

Poets & Quants ranks the rankings of the top five publications (US News, Forbes, Financial Times, Businessweek, and The Economist) based on the credibility of each list and the soundness of each methodology used.4

How Online MBA Program Rankings Can Guide You

Because the various methodologies differ so widely, online MBA program rankings help define multiple aspects of the various programs. Viewing an MBA program or school from several different perspectives helps personalize your decision based on results from diverse criteria.5

Ultimately, prospective students, graduates, and employers with whom they hope to build careers rely heavily on rankings to qualify and confirm program and school reputations.3 Rankings aren't foolproof, however, so consider your specific needs and goals when choosing your online MBA program.6

You’ll find it helpful to consider the following program characteristics, among others. Take your time with this important decision and remember to consult a counselor or admissions advisor if you're feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Instructional quality is a key trait to examine when evaluating online MBA programs and the schools offering them.3 Consider what opportunities students and instructors have to interact with one another, which can significantly improve student engagement and group participation. Bear in mind that accessible, responsive instructors who create rewarding student experiences can inspire and motivate you to complete your degree on time.7

You may be able to gain more perspective on a program by reviewing its performance in the annual rankings of a particular publication in the last several years. Watching for consistent performance in the rankings may help you feel more assured about your choice. A school/program’s jumps or fluctuations in the rankings may also affect your decision. Look into changes that seem random, to learn if they resulted from changes to a publication's methodology or to the program you’re reviewing.5

Rankings can help guide you to a program with potentially higher employment value. Several of the top online MBA program rankings include metrics compiled from responses to questionnaires and surveys sent to reputable recruiters. It's important to recognize that recruiters respond not only with personal opinions, but also pass along feedback from the prestigious employers they recruit for. In short, recruiter and employer perceptions drive potential employment, so this factor may be extremely helpful when you review the rankings.5

The process of evaluating and comparing business schools and MBA programs requires a great deal of time and effort. The sheer volume of schools, programs, and available information can be intimidating.1 Many candidates start by curating a short list of outstanding programs already evaluated and ranked by publications with several decades of expertise.5 In this way, online MBA program rankings provide a compelling, convenient shortcut by helping you identify a short list of programs that align with your major goals.1 From there, you can narrow your choices by matching shortlisted programs with your more specific personal needs and interests.3

Choose Credentials, Acumen, and Excellence.

If you aim to become a prominent business leader but don't want to stop working to attain that goal, the University of Kansas should be first on your list. Our online MBA from the AACSB-accredited KU School of Business is ranked as the #20 Best Online MBA program in the country by US News & World Report.8

KU’s rigorous but flexible curriculum hones your skills, strengthens your business acumen, and gives you the leading-edge expertise to become a prominent business leader and exceed your highest aspirations. Reach out to an admissions advisor for answers to your questions today.