I try to avoid the rankings talk. Rankings debates usually disintegrate into pissing matches, with the resulting discussion exaggerating the differences that no one else but applicants and students would actually care about.
What I’ve posted below isn’t something I care too much about, but it seems like enough people are curious about my opinion as an admissions consultant. This is the first and last place I will post anything about rankings.
Here’s how the tiers more or less break down:
Top Three: HBS, Stanford, Wharton (some say Wharton is just a rung below HBS and Stanford but above Kellogg, MIT, Chicago, Columbia or Tuck, which I won’t dispute – opinions vary).
Elite Eight: Top 3 plus Kellogg, MIT, Chicago, Columbia and Tuck. Some say Tuck is just a rung below; again opinions vary.
Sweet Sixteen: Elite 8, plus Michigan, Duke, Darden, NYU, Berkeley, UCLA, Cornell, Yale (some will say that Cornell and Yale are just a rung below, but again opinions vary).
Rest of the Best: These are the top regional schools including (in no particular order) UT-Austin, Georgetown, USC, UNC, Emory, Babson, Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame, Maryland, Carnegie Mellon.
Big Two International: It’s basically INSEAD and London Business School (LBS), and then everyone else. The caliber of the student body and reputation of both these schools are comparable to the US Elite Eight.
There is no material difference in reputation between schools within the same tier. In other words, don’t ask whether Columbia has a better reputation than Chicago or Kellogg, because other than the alums and students, no one cares!