mbaMission hosts a weekly blog series, Admissions Myths Destroyed, for our friends at Beat the GMAT. Check out the BTG site for fresh material and ours for reprints. The following piece was penned by mbaMission Founder, Jeremy Shinewald: 

Human nature dictates that amid a competitive application process - exaggerated by the pervasiveness of rankings and the chatter surrounding them - some will perceive that they are ahead of others with an acceptance at a top-school and others will perceive that they are behind their peers with an acceptance from a lower ranked school. What is often lost amid all of the worrying is that you, not your business school, are the independent variable. You, not your school, will determine your success.

Many regard Harvard Business School or the Stanford Graduate School of Business as a holy grail of sorts. Their reasoning is something like, All you have to do is get in and you are set for life! This is undoubtedly wrong. While there are tremendous opportunities for those who graduate from Harvard or Stanford, no graduate is just given a free pass. When MBA students/graduates find summer/full time positions at prestigious firms, they are still competing with others from many schools once they enter their workplaces and (surprise!) their individual performance, not their pedigree, then determines their successes. A staff member at mbaMission recalls her MBA summer internship at JP Morgan, wherein the firm recruited students from seventeen top MBA programs. At the end of the summer students from UPenn-Wharton, Michigan-Ross, UVA-Darden, Texas-McCombs and NYU-Stern, were asked back for full time positions- while many other schools were shutout. This is a very small sampling from one firm and one summer, but this simple anecdote can be an eye-opener for an MBA applicant who assumes that a top 5 or top 10 school is the ticket.

Further, there are a myriad of studies that suggest that lower ranked schools offer a greater ROI than top-schools. In one study sponsored by GMAC, the collective of MBA programs that administers the GMAT, data suggests that lower ranked schools offer lower costs and higher returns over a ten year period (185% vs. 118%). We are not suggesting that you start applying to lower and lower ranked schools or that you shun Stanford or Harvard, both have excellent programs. Our point is simply that some applicants can too closely identify with their target schools and neglect to recognize that their internal motors have gotten them to a place in which they can compete for acceptances. These internal motors will not be shutoff during or after business school, but will continue to drive them going forward.