For their part, the surveyors say they work diligently to take the
schools' concerns into account. They have streamlined survey
requirements, tightened criteria definition, and even added
categories to make the results more reliable. "We have to keep up
with the times," says U.S. News spokesman Richard Folkers,
"and when the schools have a question, we try our best to address
BUT DO THEY MATTER?
Throughout this entire discussion, the schools - and to a lesser
extent, the surveys - assume that prospective students hang on
every number. And some evidence indicates that's true. The number
of applicants at Wharton almost doubled between 1993 and 1999,
after four number-one rankings in the BusinessWeek survey.
At Tuck, inquiries increased by two-thirds in the year after its
Wall Street Journal first. And the BusinessWeek
b-school chat rooms - where applicants and students trade school
info - generate half the traffic on the magazine's Web site. Some
schools actually station admissions staff there to keep tabs on the
But talk to students and a different scenario emerges. The rankings
play a role, but may not be as crucial as the schools fear.
"I used them when I started looking for business schools, but they
were really just a starting point," says Jenni Winslow, who starts
her second year at Haas this fall. "I did want to go to a school in
the top 20, but I also had a lot of other criteria."
In fact, graduate business students account for a host of other
considerations. As a general rule, they're in their mid-to-late
20s, which means family and career influence their decisions.
Winslow, who lived in the Bay area, was accepted at Kellogg in
suburban Chicago, which ranks at or near the top almost across the
board. She chose Haas - which made the top 10 in only one of the
four major polls. Why? She didn't want to uproot her husband, who
would have had to transfer or find a new job in Chicago.