MBA School Ranking for Consulting reported the latest MBA specialization rankings by QS. The methodology used for each specialization ranking is compiled with three central criteria in mind: career placements, employer reputation, and research strength.

For career placement, the rankings consider the absolute number of graduates entering consulting. This is an absolute number and not a percentage of students. So, schools with large classes would tend to rank higher. Employer reputation takes into account the reputation of each school among the employers in each industry. Research strength focuses on academic research output on a discipline level. The report didn’t give us the number of students hired by consulting firms at each school, which would have been helpful. Listed are the top ten schools in the ranking and their class size.

1. INSEAD – 1,055 students per class
2. Columbia – 1,297 students per class
3. Harvard – 1,873 students per class
4. Penn (Wharton) – 1,742 students per class
5. London Business School – 485 students per class
6. Chicago (Booth) – 1,179 students per class
7. Northwestern (Kellogg) – 1,304 students per class
8. MIT (Sloan) – 813 students per class
9. Michigan (Ross) – 832 students per class
10. Yale – 723 students per class

Does this mean you have to go to one of these schools to get a job in consulting? Absolutely not. The top consulting firms hire lots of students from a variety of schools every year. If they don’t come to your school it isn’t because they don’t think you’re smart enough, it’s because it’s expensive to recruit at a large number of schools. To pull a number of consultants off a project, and fly them to the school takes a lot of money and resources.

If your dream consulting firm doesn’t come to your campus there are three things you can do.
1. Crash a company information meeting at another school. Know the schools around you, know who comes to recruit there, and find out when the firm will be hosting a company information meeting. Pick one friend, put on a suit and sneak in. The consulting firms would love to have you. They are looking for smart people. It’s the career services people of the hosting school who will keep you out. If you show up with only one friend the likelihood of gaining entry is pretty high. However, if you show up with a carload of classmates you won’t. If for some reason you show up and can’t get in, wait outside the room and catch the recruiters on their way out. Explain your situation along with your desire to work for their firm. Explain you weren’t allowed in, but waited the two hours just to meet them. It sends a strong message. Make sure you get their business card and follow up with them the next day by email, attach a cover letter and resume.

2. The strength of loose ties. I know someone who knows someone whose brother dates a woman at McKinsey. You can probably get the consultant on the phone, she knows why you’re calling and will try to be helpful. But she is not going to walk your resume down the hall without putting you to the test. Why consulting? Why my firm? Okay, let’s do a case. She’s not going to risk her reputation if you don’t measure up. Make sure that you are case interview-ready before you make that call.

3. Case competitions. Besides being the “sport of MBAs,” case competitions are a great way to get in front of senior consultants from top firms who act as judges. In a case competition the playing field is level. The judges have no idea what school you’re from, (which is why the top five MBA schools don’t enter – they have nothing to gain) so you are tested on three things: your solution to the problem, your presentation of the problem, analysis, and solution, and the way you handle the judge’s questions (i.e. grilling) at the end. If you think you want to be a consultant, there is no better way to get a feel for the lifestyle and type of work.

Be sure to read CASE IN POINT: Case Competition. Creating Winning Strategy Presentations for the Case Competition and Job Offer

There is nothing out there like it.

Marc Cosentino

Marc, the world’s foremost authority on case interviewing has twenty seven years of experience with case questions. He has written well over a hundred cases, while coaching, preparing and training more than a hundred and fifty thousand students and alumni. He has written three books involving cases and consulting. Cosentino has given workshops to students at colleges and MBA programs for the last twenty seven years and has held training sessions for career services professionals on how to give cases and how to analyze a student’s performance.