Is it just me or do you ever get sick of the rankings? The schools to which I applied were chosen based on more than what some magazine, website or book said. I did attend an HBS information session and I wasn't impressed. At an MBA tour, I walked into a UCLA and USC chat, I left the UCLA chat halfway through. It wasn't for me. Duke was also on my radar, but in the end, didn't give me butterflies. There are a handful of programs I didn't even bother in investigate - Stern, Tepper, Notre Dame, Yale, Chicago etc... It doesn't make them bad programs, I just made a choice early on and decided they weren't for me. I don't believe that is good or bad, it just is.
What is the "best" school for one person may not be for the next. Yes, they talk about fit and as we write our thoughts into 500 word essays we chuckle to ourselves, what the heck is fit? But in the end, I believe there's more merit to the concept than many of us give credit. It's important to feel comfortable in all aspects of the school, so that you never look back with, I should have.
Because of the rankings, I do believe schools build reputations and I do believe doors are opened, however, I want to be able to open some of my own doors. Yes, an MBA from the top 5 will lift eyebrows from anyone in or out of the MBA business. That's nice, but I would hope that I'm also chosen for a position based on my own aptitude. It sounds a bit silly huh? It's like those girls obsessed with Gucci, Prada, Dolce and Gabbana etc... at the end of the day, it's just a brand. None of schools that sit in ranks 10-20 or even 20-30 think themselves as a second tier school and I'm sure none of the attendees think that way either.
I guess what I'm saying is sometimes I think we're too focused on the numbers - rankings, GMAT score, age, years of work experience etc. There are a handful of candidates that attend business school immediately after college and another handful that wait until they are 50. There are so many other factors that make more sense than who someone else thinks is the best.