There are plenty of criteria you should be considering when making the decision on where to apply for b-school, but it is always fascinating to hear what clients prioritize in this process. While in many cases, it becomes like splitting hairs to differentiate amongst schools in the areas of course offerings or job availability at graduation, there are other areas where schools actually begin to look quite different. One question we rarely hear from prospective applicants is “How good is my target school’s faculty?” Not asking this could be the biggest mistake you make when choosing where you do your MBA.
One area where applicants place far too much weight in their school selection process is geographic location--and not for the reasons that should matter, such as post MBA network penetration or proximity to their targeted full time job. No, what is more common to hear are things such as “it’s too cold in Ithaca for me to seriously consider Cornell,” or “I like the idea of going to school near the beach or mountains.” While I’m all for someone enjoying their two year b-school experience, know that there will be plenty of time to enjoy the beach or mountains once you land a great job---and the bonus is, you will actually have vacation time you can take off to enjoy it, vs. being buried in the business school library day and night while you study with your cohort teams. In short, the weather and view during b-school will hardly be a real factor in your experience, since you will have very little time to leverage it. So you may as well go ahead and put it on the bottom of your wish list.
One reason it always troubles me to hear how little consideration applicants give to faculty, is because faculty can actually make all the difference in how well you master the core concepts of business strategy and decision making, which ultimately affects the rest of your career.
Top business schools spend considerable time and money recruiting superstars from around the world to their teaching and research ranks, and for good reason. It’s the research that drives the curricula, and the curricula are what shapes each school’s future business leaders. Plus, you will be spending way more time with your MBA faculty than you did with your undergraduate faculty, so it’s quite critical that you choose a faculty where you feel you will thrive symbiotically in the academic environment. Further, these faculty will be good professional resources for you throughout your career post MBA. B-school is not the pump-and-dump memorization games you played with your undergraduate material. You’re building lasting relationships here. Are you starting to see how some investigative work into who you might like to lead your classroom experience is important?
The good news is, faculty research drives the classroom experience and faculty research is generally available to the general populous if you do some digging.
The ranking of faculty research is also an area of wide interest and publication. The Economist generally ranks b-school faculty each year on a scale of five, based upon student feedback and research scores. Below is a chart of their rankings from the past couple of years so you can see if a particular school has risen or fallen.
School 2016 Faculty 2015 Faculty Difference
University of Chicago (Booth) 4.86 4.78 0.08
Universiy of Virginia (Darden) 4.81 4.83 -0.02
Harvard Business School 4.80 4.72 0.08
New York University (Stern) 4.79 4.67 0.12
Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) 4.79 4.59 0.20
Duke (Fuqua) 4.78 4.82 -0.04
INSEAD 4.78 4.70 0.08
Northwestern (Kellogg) 4.76 4.66 0.10
California-Berkeley (Haas) 4.75 4.74 0.01
Dartmouth (Tuck) 4.73 4.66 0.07
North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler) 4.72 4.78 -0.06
MIT (Sloan) 4.72 4.72 0.00
Cornell (Johnson) 4.71 4.70 0.01
Stanford 4.71 4.57 0.14
IESE 4.70 4.67 0.03
University of Michigan (Ross) 4.70 4.60 0.10
Yale SOM 4.68 4.62 0.06
UCLA (Anderson) 4.65 4.77 -0.12
Indiana (Kelley) 4.65 4.66 -0.01
Columbia 4.61 4.58 0.03
IE Business School 4.57 4.67 -0.10
Emory (Goizueta) 4.55 4.47 0.08
Wharton 4.55 4.45 0.10
University of Texas (McCombs) 4.48 4.41 0.07
HEC Paris 4.40 4.38 0.02
London Business School 4.36 4.27 0.09
One thing you can do is to actually read some of the research that is out there from the faculty where you are interested in applying.
See if it captures your attention and holds your interest. Of course the most important thing to do is to visit each of your target schools in person and sit in on classes, where you can sample firsthand the faculty’s impact and decide whether or not you can see yourself partnering with a particular school for two years and beyond.