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Sep 19, 2017

Choosing the Best Business School for Consulting

best business school consulting

If you are a prospective MBA applicant looking to business school as a way to enter or accelerate your career in the consulting industry, you are certainly not alone. According to the 2017 Prospective Student Survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), consulting is once again the most sought-after postgraduate industry, with 33 percent of applicants surveyed citing consulting firms as their destination of choice. The consulting function, too, is a top draw. One in four indicated it as their chosen job function, after just marketing/sales (30 percent) and finance/accounting (28 percent).

With so many MBA graduates vying for roles in the consulting field, one of the best ways to distinguish yourself is by going to one of the business schools best known for training top-notch consultants. Of course, this requires thorough research and a deep knowledge of individual school programs. Lucky for you, Clear Admit has done some of the legwork.

Consulting Continues to Be a Top Draw for MBAs

Finance—and investment banking in particular—took a hit following the financial crash of 2008. And the tech sector has been gaining ground as a top destination for MBA grads. But along the way, the consulting industry has held its own, with MBAs clamoring to work for both towering giants in the field as well as at an increasing number of boutique firms now in the marketplace.

What’s the allure? Part of it is the diverse work. Consultants get to think creatively and solve problems, analyze both the big picture and the details, and work on teams juggling multiple assignments. Top salaries don’t hurt either. Recent MBA graduates taking jobs at firms like McKinsey & CompanyBoston Consulting Group (BCG), and Bain & Company—known as ‘the MBB firms’ in industry parlance—reported base salaries in 2017 of between $147,000 to $152,500, with additional signing bonuses of $25,000, according to managementconsulted.com, an online resource for the consulting industry.

Choosing the Best Business School for Consulting

Determining which leading business school will best prepare you for a career in consulting requires looking at a range of factors. A logical place to start is by examining career outcomes at individual schools, both in terms of summer internships and full-time jobs. If possible with the available data, you also want to get a sense of how well a school has done placing career-switchers, namely those without prior consulting experience, in coveted consulting roles, since barriers for entry for these grads are understandably higher than for their counterparts who have already worked in the field.

It can also be instructive to see which of the powerhouse consulting firms donate to which leading business schools. Finally, it helps to understand how a given school goes about teaching its students to be consultants, what role experiential learning plays, whether you can hope to learn directly from superstar professors in the field, and what extracurricular resources are in place to help you land your dream consulting gig.

Consulting at UVA Darden

The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business sent more of its MBA graduates into consulting than any other U.S. school, with 38 percent of the Class of 2016 pursuing work in the consulting industry and 38 percent choosing a consulting function. By comparison, Harvard Business School (HBS) sent 25 percent of its 2016 graduates into consulting, and Stanford Graduate School of Business sent just 16 percent.

As for the top recruiting companies at Darden, Boston Consulting Group snapped up 18 members of the Class of 2016, followed by McKinsey & Company (14), PwC (13), and Accenture (10).

In terms of pay, the average base salary for a Darden MBA heading into consulting was $135,771 with a signing bonus of $26,927. While this isn’t the highest salary in the industry—it falls a few thousand dollars short of offers reported by students at schools like Kellogg School of Management—it is the highest average salary for all Darden MBAs.

Darden’s Classroom, Curriculum, and Professors

As for how Darden trains its MBAs to enter a career in consulting, the school offers a career track concentration in strategy consulting. This concentration is designed to immerse MBA students into the consulting process by helping them identify and deepen their consulting skill sets.

Darden is also known for its case study method of teaching and learning. This method confronts Darden MBA students with challenging, real-life business situations and teaches them how to analyze each situation to come up with a solution—just as they will be called upon to do in a consulting career. Over the course of MBA students’ two years at Darden, they’ll complete in more than 500 case studies on a variety of topics, industries, and diverse environments.

As for Darden’s faculty, many of the school’s professors have an in-depth knowledge of consulting with a breadth of research dedicated to all facets of the field. For example, Samuel E. Bodily, a professor of business administration, teaches “Decision Analysis” to first-year students and “Management Decision Models” to second-year students while also consulting with many corporations, utilities, and government agencies. And Scott. C. Beardsley, Darden dean since 2015, spent 26 years at McKinsey & Company before joining the school.

Outside the Classroom

Darden is home to the Consulting Club, a student organization designed to support students interested in the consulting industry. The club regularly holds events such as consulting industry panels, networking 101, consulting conferences, case competitions, mock interview sessions, internship preparation workshops, and more. And many large consulting companies are club sponsors, including Deloitte, AT Kearney, Bain & Company, EY, and Accenture.

In addition, there are also a variety of consulting projects for MBAs to participate in. These projects help MBAs learn how to develop business plans, create financial forecasts, and perform marketing analysis. For each project, teams of three to six students will work with corporations, global businesses, or non-profit organizations to provide strategy evaluation and planning services.

INSEAD For Consulting

In terms of sheer numbers, no school sends more students into consulting jobs than INSEAD. According to the school’s latest 2016 MBA employment report, 46 percent of INSEAD MBAs took a job in the consulting sector and 48 percent assumed a consulting function. That’s a whopping 479 students accepting a position as a consultant—almost half of the 999 students who filled out the employment report.

INSEAD’s MBA graduates took jobs with such companies as McKinsey (which hired 125 INSEAD grads in 2016), BCG (67), Bain (48), Strategy& (24), and Accenture (16). And it’s no wonder the major players like INSEAD. Many alumni hold prominent positions such as chairmen, CEO, or senior leader at these same top consulting firms.

As for where these consulting grads work, they’re spread out around the world. More than 100 consulting graduates took jobs in Western Europe, 41 of those in the United Kingdom. Another 83 graduates headed off to consulting offices in Asia Pacific, including 23 each in Singapore and Australia. But the single most attractive country for INSEAD consulting grads was the United Arab Emirates, which drew 42.

INSEAD also features an alliance with the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, allowing INSEAD students to spend one of their five periods studying at the U.S. school. INSEAD has a similar campus exchange with Kellogg as well. These exchanges afford INSEAD students access to those schools’ career management centers as well, which can be especially valuable in terms of making connections to U.S. recruiters for students who are interested in working in consulting in the United States after graduation.

In terms of what its consulting grads command in salary, INSEAD also shows strong numbers, albeit lower than Kellogg and Darden. For 2016, the overall mean salary in consulting was $107,300 USD, the overall median salary was $109,500 USD, and the overall annual median sign-on bonus was $25,000, with 76 percent of salaries coming with a sign-on bonus and 83 percent with a performance bonus around $24,500.

Proud of its success in helping career switchers enter new industries, INSEAD shares data about how many of its graduates heading into consulting started out there and how many used business school to make a pivot. Of those graduates taking jobs in consulting after INSEAD, 67 percent held pre-MBA roles in consulting. But 34 percent of those who were financial services professionals also successfully switched to consulting, as did 56 percent of former technology, media, and telecommunications professionals and 38 percent of former corporate sector professionals.

How Consulting Is Taught at INSEAD

INSEAD’s accelerated 10-month MBA is composed of five, eight-week periods built around core courses and electives and concluding with an exam, essay, and/or project. There is no preferred teaching method at INSEAD; instead, individual professors choose the method they feel is best. However, no matter the teaching style or technique, each class is sure to have lively exchange opportunities and diverse study groups.

In terms of core courses, students will start out their first eight weeks with an “Introduction to Strategy” course and will continue their learning into the next period with “Process & Operations Management.” As for electives, over a dozen courses are offered under the Strategy heading including the “Strategy Lab,” which provides MBA students with a practitioner’s view of how consultants tackle projects.

Who Trains Consultants at INSEAD

There are more than 25 resident strategy professors across INSEAD’s three campuses, as well as around a dozen visiting faculty members. Of these, several are former consultants, bringing experience straight from the trenches at McKinsey, Monitor Group, and Accenture, among other leading firms.

Two INSEAD professors, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, authored a best-selling book called Blue Ocean Strategy, which spawned the 2007 launch of the INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute. The institute offers several programs and electives that support the development of aspiring con­sultants, including a mini-elective, “Blue Ocean Strategy Simulation,” that lets students apply the trademark Blue Ocean Strategy toward managing a fictional company.

Beyond the Classroom at INSEAD

INSEAD’s accelerated 10-month program can make it hard for some student groups to gel, but despite this obstacle, the INSEAD Consulting Club seems to have an active campus presence. Much like at Darden, the Consulting Club at INSEAD provides resources to help INSEAD students prepare for consulting interviews and careers, including workshops, networking, and recruiting events with consulting firms. It also publishes the INSEAD Consulting Club Handbook, free to Consulting Club members, which offers an overview of the industry, profiles of individual firms, and sample cover letters, résumés, interview tips, and practice case questions.

INSEAD also features regular consulting case competitions, including the A.T. Kearney Global Prize Competition. As many as 15 teams from INSEAD compete against each other, with winners advancing to represent INSEAD in a regional competition against seven other European business schools. The winning European school then battles the winning North American school for the Global Prize.

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Sep 12, 2017

Vault’s Top Investment Banks for MBAs to Work for in 2018

Vault top investment banks 2018

While a career in investment banking may not be as highly sought after anymore among MBAs, it’s still a fairly popular option. And according to a U.S. News interview with Jeff McNish, Assistant Dean of the Career Development Center at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, investment banks and consulting firms are raising their compensation offers to draw in more students. These companies are willing to pay a premium to draw MBA talent. The question is, which are the best investment banks to work for?

Vault Banking 50 recently released its annual ranking of the best investment banks in North America. The list was compiled through a survey of 2,400 banking professionals and used a weighted formula to review such issues as quality of life—including culture, satisfaction, work/life balance, training, and compensation—and overall prestige.

This year, Goldman Sachs took the #1 spot—with a score of 8.380—maintaining its title of “best investment bank to work for.” Coming in at a close second was Evercore (8.311), followed by Centerview Partners (8.308), and Morgan Stanley (8.114).

The top 10:

  1. Goldman Sachs
  2. Evercore
  3. Centerview Partners
  4. Morgan Stanley
  5. Moelis & Company
  6. Greenhill & Co.
  7. Lazard
  8. Perella Weinberg Partners
  9. Bank of America
  10. PJT Partners

Goldman Sachs Still #1

This was the second year in a row that Goldman Sachs took the top spot, with survey responders saying such things as: “The firm is extremely focused on improving work/life balance. In the time that I’ve been here, I’ve seen a tremendous difference, not only as a result of formal policies but also in the culture and mindset of those who work here.”

Respondents also said that Goldman Sachs provided workers with various benefits including “exposure to talented, thoughtful, respectful colleagues” and “challenging, intellectually stimulating assignments.” Even respondents at Goldman Sachs’ competitors had mostly nice things to say. They called the firm “a finance machine” and “the gold standard.”

Other elements that set Goldman Sachs apart include its protected-weekend-day policies for junior bankers, no-working-past-midnight policies for interns, and fast-track promotions. It was also one of the first banks to provide a modern performance review system as well as to implement video interviews during on-campus recruiting.

Other Investment Banks Making Waves

As for Evercore, it rose two places in 2018 from #4 to #2. Much of its rise in placement was due to its increase in prestige as well as the company’s focus on a better working environment for its employees. In fact, Evercore came in first place in two areas: formal training and informal training.

As for what some of the survey respondents had to say about Evercore: “We have an outstanding, very teamwork-oriented, and collaborative culture. The firm is filled with very intelligent people treating each other with respect and working together to give clients the best advice possible. The atmosphere is very positive—lots of high fives on wins and no dressing-down calls if you miss a piece of business.”

In third place, Centerview Partners is a small boutique investment banking firm. Insiders stated that the firm is filled with “extremely talented, smart, and thoughtful senior bankers” and that “deal opportunities are unparalleled.”

Another boutique investment bank to make it to the top of the list was Moelis, which ranked fifth. The firm rose four places this year thanks to its “great culture” and “smart dedicated people.”

Investment Banks Focused on Diversity 

The Vault Banking 50 also measured firms’ focus on diversity. Loop Capital Markets led the way for the second year in a row, coming in first for overall diversity, minority diversity, female diversity, and LGBT diversity. However, following close behind were Evercore (which placed #2 in overall diversity, female diversity, and minority diversity) and Goldman Sachs (which placed #3 for overall diversity, minority diversity, and LGBT diversity).

To see the full report, visit the Vault.com.

This article has been edited and republished with permissions from Clear Admit.

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Sep 1, 2017

A Recommendation Revolution Is Underway in MBA Admissions: What You Need to Know

MBA Recommendation Revolution

I’m busy, you’re busy, your boss is most definitely busy. Indeed, publications ranging from Men’s Health to the Atlantic, the Washington Post to Forbes are all reporting that “busyness“ has become the new status symbol for our times. Which is part of what makes asking someone to write you a letter of recommendation for business school so daunting. Now, try telling that person that you actually need five different letters for five different schools. Oy vey.

As uncomfortable a spot as it puts applicants in—it’s no better for recommenders. Even your most vociferous supporter is going to wonder what in the world she’s gotten herself into when she realizes that helping you in your pursuit of acceptance to business school means taking time away from work or play or family or whatever else to labor over leadership assessment grids, each a little different from the one before, and write 10 slightly different answers to 10 slightly different questions. Here’s hoping that your top-choice school doesn’t happen to be the last one she gets around to…

Good news. The graduate management education industry recognizes the strain that letters of recommendation put on applicants and recommenders alike and has been wrestling with ways to make the process easier for everyone involved. To this end, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) established a committee made up of admissions representatives from dozens of leading business schools to brainstorm about ways to lessen the burden while still collecting the third-party assessments of candidates that are so critical to the MBA application process.

GMAC Pilots Common MBA Letter of Recommendation

As an outgrowth of that committee’s work, GMAC last year piloted a common MBA letter of recommendation (LOR) that schools can choose to incorporate into their applications to reduce the burden placed on applicants and recommenders alike.

“The Common Letter of Recommendation (LOR) effort is intended to save you and recommenders valuable time by providing a single set of recommendation questions for each participating school,” reads the GMAC website. “This allows your recommenders to use the same answers for multiple letter submissions, alleviating the workload of having to answer different questions for each school multiple times. You benefit because it makes the ask for several different letters to be written on your behalf much easier.”

Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of ManagementNYU Stern School of Business, and Michigan’s Ross School of Business were among the first schools to pilot the Common LOR last year. In addition to a single set of open-ended essay questions, the pilot Common LOR also included a leadership assessment grid inviting recommenders to rate applicants on 16 “competencies and character traits” grouped into four main categories of achievement, influence, personal qualities and academic ability.

“At Johnson, we saw the Common LoR as a clear opportunity to improve the admissions process for candidates and their recommenders in a way that would also add value to our own assessment of applicants,” Judi Byers, Johnson executive director of admissions & financial aid, told Clear Admit. “A thorough and consistent review is important to us and the grid provides a straightforward base of insights that can be assessed and compared reliably while the accompanying letter adds meaningful detail and context,” she added.

Soojin Kwon, managing director of full-time MBA admissions and program at Ross, sees applicants and recommenders as the main beneficiaries of the Common LOR and is pleased that more schools are coming on board. “As more schools adopt it, applicants won’t have to feel like they’re burdening their recommender with completing multiple rec letters with different questions and ratings grids,” she told Clear Admit. “This year, more than a dozen of the top 20 schools are using it.”

Ross was also among the schools to first pilot the Common LOR last year, and Kwon served as part of the GMAC committee that helped craft it.

Common Questions Easy to Agree on, Common Leadership Grid Not
“What we found in using the Common LOR this year past year was that the questions gave us helpful insights into applicants, particularly on the important area of constructive feedback. The questions, however, were fairly similar to what we and other schools were using before, so it was easy for the AdCom to use it,” she notes.

Those questions are as follow:

  • Please provide a brief description of your interaction with the applicant and, if applicable, the applicant’s role in your organization. (50 words)
  • How does the performance of the applicant compare to that of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? (E.g. what are the applicant’s principal strengths?) (500 words)
  • Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (500 words)
  • Is there anything else we should know? (Optional)

“The rating grid was quite different from what we’d used in the past,” Kwon continued. “It was also the most difficult part for the GMAC advisory group to develop and get agreement upon. The group worked this past year to revise and simplify the grid so that AdComs could get more meaningful insights from it.”

This year, the 16 competencies and character traits from the original grid have been distilled to 12, with specific questions about analytical thinking and information seeking omitted. Johnson and Ross have both incorporated the revised leadership grid into the LOR distributed to applicants as part of their applications, as have most other schools that have this year decided to incorporate both the grid and open-ended essay question portions of the form. UT’s McCombs School of Business and Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, notably, still seem to feature the earlier version of the leadership grid in their application, the one that calls on recommenders to assesses applicants on 16 competencies and traits.

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Aug 8, 2017

Admissions Tip: Deadlines

Deadlines

Anyone who’s familiar with the MBA application process knows that August moves forward at an accelerated pace, and come September, entire weeks seem to disappear. To help this year’s Round One applicants avoid the classic time crunch, today’s blog post offers some basic advice on how to approach the Round One MBA deadlines at a reasonable pace.

Let’s start by taking a quick look at a handful of the earliest deadlines for the top MBA programs:

September 6: Harvard Business School
September 8: Cambridge / Judge
September 12: Duke / Fuqua
September 13: Yale SOM
September 15: London Business School
September 19: Stanford GSBPenn / WhartonNotre Dame / Mendoza (Early Deadline)
September 20Northwestern / KelloggINSEAD
September 21: Chicago / BoothBerkeley / Haas
September 25: MIT Sloan
September 29: Oxford / Saïd

For a full list of deadlines, check out Clear Admit’s post here.

Though some schools have yet to announce their deadlines (such as UMD Smith and UCI Merage, one can still get a sense of the lineup of R1 deadlines. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when creating your personal timeline.

Plan to be busy in August.  

Yes, it can be tempting to work on one’s tan instead of one’s essays. However, many MBA applicants squander the month of August only to wake up in September and realize that they cannot make their target deadlines. If you are not bogged down by professional obligations in August, this makes for a great opportunity to devote time to working on your MBA applications in the evenings. The last weeks of summer can easily be split between résumé drafting, essay writing, recommendation coaching, GMAT prep, school research, and more.

Think carefully about the timing of the R1 MBA deadlines.

Looking at the deadlines above, it becomes clear that some deadlines may be easier to make than others. A candidate applying to Haas and London Business School could have a leisurely October when compared to someone targeting Haas, London Business School and NYU Stern (Oct. 15, 2017 Round 1 Deadline). Assuming about three weeks of research and writing for each school’s application, take a look at the deadlines and count backwards to determine a start date for each. It is entirely possible to meet back-to-back deadlines, such as Tepper and Darden, but doing so requires a well-planned schedule and consistent progress.

Consider taking some time off from work.

We realize that many MBA applicants work 70 hours per week and haven’t had a day off in months. For such applicants, a day or two out of the office can really do wonders for focus and organization.  Applying to business school is a serious undertaking, and in the long term you won’t regret having given yourself enough time to prepare strong applications. Many successful candidates take a week off in early September to make the final push. It’s not a glamorous way to spend your vacation time, but an offer to attend a leading MBA program can make the sacrifice well worth it.

Get your recommenders on board early.

While some of the schools have not yet made their online applications and recommendation forms available, it’s a good idea to engage your recommenders early and inform them about the process and your timeline. Sit down with each recommender, perhaps over lunch or coffee. Present them with an outline of the deadlines and the process. It’s then a wise idea to meet again once the forms are available, and by that time many applicants are in a position to share their background materials (a résumé, career goals essays, etc.) to help their recommenders understand—and support—their message.

Happy planning!

This article has been edited and republished with permissions from Clear Admit.

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Apr 7, 2017

Applying for an MBA During Undergrad: Schools Step Up

Undergrad

Deciding to attend business school isn’t a spur of the moment decision. For most applicants, it’s a choice made after months, if not years, of research and consideration following their undergrad degree. And, according to the 2016 MBA.com Prospective Students Survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), these considerations can begin quite early for some prospective MBA students.

The survey found that on average, millennials apply to graduate management programs within 14 months of considering such degrees – a significantly shorter timeline than members of Generation X (21 months). Further, the 2016 Application Trends Survey Report found that 46 percent of full-time MBA programs target undergrad students in their outreach efforts. With more applicants applying to business school relatively early in their careers, a number of leading business schools are offering pre-business programs for college students considering an MBA. 

Pre-MBA Business Programs

The Tech Summer Institute at the Anderson School of Management is a six-week program for UCLA undergraduate students who are interested in business careers. With a combined focus on the tech industry and management, the program aims to help students more clearly envision what their future careers could look like.

Students in the program have the opportunity to learn from instructors with backgrounds as directors, consultants and CEOs, strengthen their teamwork and presentation skills through group programs and company visits, and learn from HBS case studies detailing solutions to real-word business problems. Participants are also able to learn about the graduate experience from a panel of Anderson MBA students.

During the program, students live on campus in summer housing. Students have a choice between two tracks:

  • Track 1—Communication and Persuasion for Future Leaders in Technology: for students most interested in developing their communication skills across oral and written platforms.
  • Track 2—Data Management and Analytics, Big and Small Data: for students interested in learning how to interpret and analyze data to make sound business decisions.

“Overall, I really enjoyed this program and found it extremely rewarding,” said Grace Nguyen, a Psychology major. “Not only was I introduced to a variety of business concepts, but I was able to fully understand how business and technology interact. This program has provided me with tools, which I will carry with me into my career.”

UCLA Anderson isn’t the only school with a business prep program for undergraduate students. Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business offers a similar opportunity with their Stanford MBA Future Leaders Program. This three-day program aims to introduce college students from a diverse set of backgrounds and schools to the benefits of an MBA education and post-MBA career opportunities. Students in the program live on campus, participate in a case study, visit top companies in the Bay Area, and attend an MBA Bootcamp. The reasoning behind the program is simple: exposure.

“I certainly believe that many people only aspire to what they have been exposed to,” Simone Hill, a Stanford MBA admissions officer and the program’s staff director told Clear Admit. “It is hard for someone to be a computer software engineer if they don’t know what a computer software engineer is. We believe the exact same thing in terms of people thinking about an MBA and, specifically, a Stanford MBA.”

Finally, the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College has a unique Business Bridge Program. While more than half of 2016 participants were rising juniors and seniors, this program is also open to recent graduates and other professionals.

The program is offered three times a year — twice over the summer and once during the winter — and is three to four weeks long, depending on the session. It’s meant to give students with humanities, STEM, and social science backgrounds an opportunity to gain a competitive edge by learning fundamental business skills.

Tuck Bridge participants live on campus for an immersive experience similar to the Tuck MBA. After the Bridge Program, attendees go onto careers in business, and some return to Tuck to earn their MBAs.

“Bridge helped me realize that an MBA program would be an important part of my career development, and that Tuck was where I wanted to make that happen,” said Daniel Torres, Bridge ’07 & Tuck ’11, Senior Financial Analyst at Wizards of the Coast. “Everything that impressed me about the school during Bridge has held true in the full-time MBA program.”

Deferred Admissions Programs

Deferred admissions programs are another option for undergraduate students thinking about applying for an MBA. These programs offer a safety net of sorts by allowing undergraduates to apply for an MBA program while still in college, but then to defer their actual enrollment until they’ve completed a year or two of work.

Two such programs are Harvard Business School’s 2+2 Program and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business Future Year Admissions Program.

The Harvard 2+2 Program is a deferred admissions process for current undergraduate students or students enrolled in a full-time masters program. Upon graduation, students admitted into the 2+2 Program spend a minimum of two years working in a professional position, and then begin the two-year HBS MBA program after they’ve gained the required real-world experience.

“Having the flexibility to try out a career path, knowing you have already been admitted to business school, is a fortunate place to be,” Stephanie Kaplan, a 2+2 participant told U.S. News. “It gives you the freedom to take risks, without much risk at all, since the worst thing that happens is that your current venture flops and then you enroll in Harvard Business School.”

The Future Year Admissions Program at the Darden School is similar to 2+2 at HBS. Students are accepted into the Darden MBA program either during the final year of their undergrad or Master’s. Then, they go on to complete two, three, or four years of professional work experience before enrolling. It’s a more flexibly timed program where students only have to plan to embark on their MBA in “a future year.”

Many Paths to an MBA

Each of these programs aims to support students in acquiring the skills and information they need to make the most of the MBA experience. Between summer primer courses for undergraduates and deferred admissions programs, business schools are responding to college student interest in graduate management education.

If you’re a college student or recent grad thinking about an MBA, check out our blog post for some advice: “Admissions Tip: Applying to Business School as a Younger Applicant.”

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Mar 14, 2017

7 Takeaways from the 2018 U.S. News Business School Ranking

2018 U.S. News Business School Ranking

The schools making up the top 10 in this year’s U.S. News & World Report ranking of the nation’s best MBA programs—released today—were exactly the same as last year. That said, there are a smattering of surprises in terms of how top schools rose and fell relative to one another—and in movement among schools outside of the top 15.

At quick glance, here are this year’s top 10, in order of their 2018 rank (2017 rank in parentheses):

1 Harvard Business School (1)

1 University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School (4)

3 University of Chicago Booth School of Business (2, tie)

4 Stanford Graduate School of Business (2, tie)

4 MIT Sloan School of Management (5, tie)

4 Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management (4, tie)

7 UC Berkeley Haas School of Business (7)

8 Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business (8, tie)

9 Yale School of Management (8, tie)

9 Columbia Business School (10)

With today’s release, students, alumni and administrators at Harvard Business School (HBS) can toast their school’s third consecutive showing at the top of the list. But the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School has even more cause for celebration, having tied HBS for first this year. It’s only the second time in 28 years it has claimed the No. 1 spot. It’s also an important rebound for the Philadelphia school, which fell to fourth last year as it was surpassed for the first time ever by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Chicago Booth isn’t letting up, though. It took third place this year after tying Stanford for No. 2 last year. After never having cracked the top three before, Booth’s now done it two years in a row.

Perhaps the biggest news among the top 10—and the farthest fall from grace—was Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB)’s slide into a three-way tie for fourth place with MIT Sloan School of Management and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business. Stanford has never before not clocked in at least third or above in the U.S. News ranking.

Rounding out the top 10 were Haas, Tuck, Yale and Columbia—very similar to last year except that Yale slipped slightly, from a tie at eighth with Tuck to a tie this year at ninth with Columbia. It’s a slight gain for CBS, meanwhile, which last year was 10th, behind Tuck and Yale in a tie for eighth.

7 Key Takeaways from the 2018 U.S. News MBA Ranking

We’ve sifted through the data and compiled a summary of things worth taking notice of this year:

1) Wharton Is the Year’s Big Winner

Wharton has traditionally been considered part of the “holy trinity” of schools, behind only HBS and Stanford in many people’s eyes. That made last year’s fourth-place finish behind Chicago Booth a real blow.

This year, the school fought back—seizing a shared claim to first place for only its second time ever. Strong employment and pay figures—85.6 percent of graduates employed at graduation and the highest reported average salary of all schools, $155,058—helped significantly.

“This is excellent news for Wharton—especially after last year’s showing in the U.S. News ranking and, more broadly speaking, in light of the constant (and not always positive) media attention the school has garnered due to controversial alum, President Trump,” says Graham Richmond, Clear Admit’s co-founder. “While many will quip about employment figures and how they favor the likes of HBS and Wharton vs. Stanford, the key—from Wharton’s perspective—is being squarely back in the ‘trinity,’” adds Richmond.

Booth School of Business

2) Booth Stakes Its Claim in the Top Three

Last year, Chicago Booth tied Stanford for second place—its first time ever outranking Wharton and also the first time the Chicago school had secured a top-three spot in the history of the U.S. News rankings.

Making it into the top three for a second year in a row helps dispel any notions of last year being a fluke. A climbing GMAT average (726) and high employment numbers (84.9 percent employed at graduation) have played a part in its rise.

3) Methodology Disadvantages Stanford

Because U.S. News’ methodology relies on “grades” from corporate recruiters and other employment stats that favor larger firms over startups or entrepreneurial pursuits, schools with large numbers of students going into tech startups or entrepreneurship—such as Stanford—are essentially penalized. Stanford may be further hurt—at least in terms of the U.S. News list—by the fact that its graduates are confident enough that they’ll land a plum job that they can be a little choosier about which offers they accept. Indeed, only 62.8 percent of its MBAs were employed by graduation—as compared to 85.8 percent at Wharton, 84.9 percent at Chicago Booth and 79.3 percent at HBS.

Of course, Stanford came out ahead in terms of average GMAT/GRE scores (737), average undergraduate GPA (3.73) and overall student selectivity. With an acceptance rate of just 6 percent, it was by far the most selective school of all those ranked, with HBS accepting 10.6 percent, Wharton, 19.6 percent, and Chicago Booth, 23.6 percent. But these factors are given less weight than peer assessments and corporate recruiter survey scores as U.S. News crunches its data.

4) Yale SOM Defends Its Position in the Top 10

This year marks the third time since 2013 that Yale School of Management (SOM) has ranked in the top 10, giving the school an increasingly legitimate claim to membership in this elite club. In this most recent ranking, the New Haven school tied for No. 9 with CBS. Last year it tied at eighth with Tuck—a five-spot jump over the previous year.

Yale has been making improvements on several fronts. In 2011, the school hired Dean Edward Snyder—the very same dean who sat at the helm of Chicago Booth during its meteoric rankings rise in the early 2000s. Yale has also been poaching high-profile faculty from other schools over the last decade, including Andrew Metrick, professor of finance, and Anjani Jain, current assistant dean, both formerly Wharton faculty.

Add to that the opening of glittery new facilities in 2014 and the school’s traditional strength and reputation as a leader in the non-profit and corporate responsibility areas—currently in vogue with millennials—and the school’s continued top-10 showing makes sense.

5) Columbia Regains a Spot, Sort of

CBS is battling to maintain its top-10 claim, and its tie this year with Yale for ninth is theoretically an improvement over its 10th place finish last year. But it’s still down from the No. 8 spot it successfully defended from 2012 through 2016. Contributing factors could include the rising cost of living in New York and declining interest among applicants in the financial sector—but that’s just conjecture.

As we noted last year, CBS is one of only a few schools in the top 10 that haven’t recently unveiled a new building or substantially expanded their facilities, which could be a liability. Construction is underway for an impressive new Manhattanville campus, but its projected completion date has been pushed off from the original 2018.

Yale’s moving into—and remaining in—the top 10 has also exerted downward pressure on CBS.

6) NYU Stern Gets Its Scores in on Time, Bounces Back from 20 to 12

Last year’s biggest shock was NYU Stern’s plummet from No. 11 to No. 20. But as U.S. News noted at the time, the reason for Stern’s sharp decline was the fact that it didn’t get its GMAT/GRE scores in on time. When it did get the scores in, U.S. News refused to recalculate the rankings.

NYU Stern

The drop of nine spots on the list did seem harsh—and pretty implausible. Indeed, this year’s No. 12 showing seems much more legit for the traditionally top-15 school—suggesting it got its scores in on time this year.

Again, Clear Admit’s Graham Richmond weighs in: “Last year’s NYU Stern/U.S. News rankings fiasco did not paint U.S. News in the best of lights. It felt like a petty slap on the wrist aimed at Stern and served to raise questions about the validity of the rankings, which were arguably no longer accurate where a key school was concerned. While it is nice to see things seemingly back to ‘normal’ this year, the issue highlighted the perils of a straight ordinal ranking that some suspect can be tweaked to sell magazines, rather than a tiered ranking that represents the true matriculation behavior we see among applicants seeking an MBA.”

7) Movers and Shakers Elsewhere in the Ranking

Of course, there are many business schools beyond the top 10. U.S. News ranked 131 schools in total. Further down in the rankings you see some more precipitous gains and losses. On the plus side, Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business and USC’s Marshall School of Business both cracked the top 25. Carey jumped 10 places to 25th, from 35th last year. Marshall moved up seven spots to come in just ahead of Carey at 24th.

The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business slipped three spots to 14th, it’s second consecutive year of decline. Vanderbilt’s Owen School of Management also took a hit, dropping from 22nd to tie with Carey at 25th. Falling out of the top 25 altogether was Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, which dropped to No. 29. This, despite its 11-spot leap to eighth place in Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s November 2016 ranking.

This article has been edited and republished with permissions from Clear Admit.

Posted in: Featured Home, MBA Rankings | 0 comments

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