An AIRS e-mail newsletter I received today included a link to CareerJournal's listings of "top business schools". When people talk, or blog, about the "top" this or that, I always question the authority (aww, come on, questioning authority is good, right? Especially the self imposed authority afforded by blogs). This is how it sounds in my head: "according to whom?", "according to you? Anyone else?" and sometimes (if I disagree) "sez you!" and occasionally "mmm, okay, whatever!"
Often, folks in the recruiting industry tout the "best" at this or that, without qualifying that it's really just the best they have seen, and according to their own opinion and standards. And they may or may not have done an exhaustive search for the "best". Frankly, I think "top", "best" and "evil" (don't even get me started on that one) are just eye attracting blog fluff. People use them but you can't take it seriously. At best, what they describe are "acclaimed" or "preferred" and at worst they mean "my personal favorite" or "the one I have a vested interest in". Sometimes it's accidental grammatical malfeasance, sometimes there's some ego involved ("I say it's the best so you should think so too because I'm me and you love me").
Oops, getting off topic...about b-schools now. Careerbuilder's list (and AIRS' description in their newsletter) takes into account what qualified as school as a "top" b-school, according to their descriptions, which demystify the terminology a bit. For me, the "best" b-school might not be the #1 rated academically. It might be the #3 rated academically where they have the most diverse talent. Or the #7 rated academically, where we have seen trends of their grads hired into Microsoft performing exceptionally well. Anyway, I like the fact that careerbuilder provides more detail than just throwing out "top" and leaving it at that. So kudos to them.
Aside from pointing to the listings for your own use, guess I am just recommending that you take anything called "top" with a little hunk of fleur de sel.