Columbia Business School vs. Dartmouth’s Tuck

by John A. Byrne on

Columbia University

If you’re comparing Dartmouth College’s Tuck School with Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business your application strategy is simply to get into the school with the biggest brandname. The reason: These programs are as different from each other as night and day. The differences cover everything from geography and facilities to culture and curriculum. This is big versus small, city versus rural life, a single crammed outdated facility versus a world-class MBA complex, a highly competitive versus a cooperative culture, and a broad, expansive curriculum that can be tailored to numerous industries or disciplines versus a general management approach.

Columbia is all about New York and the awesome resources it routinely leverages from the capital of the world. Unlike Tuck, it also enters two MBA classes a year, in January for students who don’t need or want a summer internship, and in September for a more conventional full-time MBA schedule.

The diversity of Columbia’s exceptional students is mind-boggling: In the Class of 2011, for example, are students who have interned at the White House, managed hedge funds, published books, produced TV shows and launched companies in the U.S. and abroad. The class includes an army ranger and recipient of the Bronze Star, the founder of the largest organic vegetable processing factory in northwestern China, a finalist on American Idol (we’re not kidding), and a three-time Grammy award-winning music producer.

Top Ten Reasons to Go to Dartmouth?

  1. It’s one of the five best MBA programs in the world.
  2. The MBA alumni network is arguably the best and most supportive of any business school.
  3. You want a premium MBA experience at a school that is completely focused on the full-time, two-year MBA and not a host of other programs that detract from it.
  4. You thrive in smaller, intimate settings.
  5. You prefer a highly collaborative and supportive student culture.
  6. You want to create important and enduring relationships with fellow students.
  7. You want to create important and lasting relationships with faculty.
  8. You want a general management perspective.
  9. You like small towns and tend to dislike big cities.
  10. You adore the outdoors.

Top Ten Reasons to Go to Columbia?

  1. It’s one of the six best MBA programs in the world.
  2. It’s all about location, location, location. That is, New York location.
  3. You want a deep and thorough education, not merely in finance but a subset of it, such as investment management, private equity, value investing or something even more obscure.
  4. You expect to work in New York and want to be part of an extremely strong alumni base in the city where every major company is populated with at least some key players who got their MBA ticket punched where you did.
  5. You are highly competitive and want to go through a tough, competitive MBA program.
  6. You thrive in a larger environment and enjoy being a smaller fish in a bigger pond.
  7. You want to be part of an extremely diverse class, with lots of international exposure.
  8. You don’t mind traffic, people congestion, overpriced housing, and putting up with the hassles of big city life.
  9. You love big city life, or at least badly want to try it out, and you tend to dislike small towns in isolated places.
  10. You root for the New York Yankees, love museums and Carnegie Hall.

The more detailed differences between Columbia and Dartmouth?

Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business. Photo by John A. Byrne

Geography: Columbia Business School is the quintessential big city university. Its location in New York, the business, financial and media center of the world, brings the school massive benefits: a living laboratory of markets and businesses, an endless supply of well-qualified adjunct teachers, and more visiting executives who gravitate to its classrooms to speak and lecture. The school estimates that it gets more than 500 guest speakers a year on campus. That is a networking opportunity that is unique. “We have a big advantage being in New York City because there are so many opportunities for students to visit local alumni in their work offices and for alums to come back and coach students on campus,” says Ethan Hanabury, a senior associate dean at Columbia. He estimates that as many as 3,000 alums come back to the school each year for conferences, classes, recruiting sessions, and mentoring programs. There are few cities in the world that are as alive, exciting and dynamic than New York. The drawback to Columbia’s location is also obvious: As one student put it, “It’s easier to get a little lost in New York, to feel a little less rooted if you’re from outside the area, and to be a little more anonymous.” The social dynamic is completely different as well. Because Columbia MBAs rarely live together but are spread throughout the city, they’re far more likely to be more competitive with each other. It’s easier to stab someone in the back when you rarely see them outside of class. Dartmouth’s Tuck is on the other extreme: Hanover is the quintessential New England college town. It’s quaint, picture perfect after a fresh snowfall, and fairly isolated. You fly here into a tiny airport in West Lebanon, six miles south of Hanover. When the weather turns bad, you face a white-knuckle flight onto the short landing strip that’s carved into a mountainside. Sleepy Hanover rolls up the sidewalks pretty early, with little variety in restaurants and bars.  The Canoe Club, on Main St. in Hanover is pretty much it. Boston is a two-hour drive from the Tuck School.

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  • Patroklos

    Having successfully been through both schools’ admission processes, I ended up with a bad taste in my mouth with the attention Columbia gives its admitted, and in my case enrolled, individuals.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Patroklos, can you explain what you mean?

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Have you signed up for gravatar? If so, your picture automatically attaches to wherever you leave a comment on the web. We have nothing to do with that.

  • Jtbb

    Patroklos, what played into your rationale to choose Columbia over Tuck?

  • Paul

    I just graduated from Tuck. For what it’s worth, I find this to be the most accurate portrayal of the Tuck experience that I’ve read.

  • Ravishankar S

    Hi John, Thank you for such an in-depth and detailed analysis. I am always a fan of Tuck and your research made me a lot more inclined towards Tuck now. Looking forward to comparison of Tuck with other B schools (Wharton, Haas etc…)

  • Kshitij

    Hi John, While I am finding all these comparisons quite useful and they have really impacted my selected B-Schools list heavily, I am a bit confused about one parameter here.

    Tuck’s intake is mentioned as 250 students while the enrollment is 510 how can these two figures differ while you mentioned there is no program other than Full time MBA offered at Tuck???

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/money9111/ Richard Battle-Baxter

    @Kshitij – If I’m not mistaken I think what’s stated is that the full time enrollment for 1st and 2nd years is 510, but each class is around 250, give or take a couple spots.

    What’s curious to me about this write up is that the starting salary & bonus for a Tuck graduate is higher than those for a Columbia graduate and yet the mean lifetime earnings is $200k more for the Columbia graduate. I wonder when the change occurs. Maybe it’s because so many Columbia graduates go into finance?

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Richard,

    Let me suggest another reason for the difference. It’s very possible that the discrepancy is due to the higher percentage of Columbia grads going into finance which can provide some outsized compensation, particularly if you stay on Wall Street and climb the ladder. On the other hand, those lifetime numbers are from a survey by a firm which is sampling the population. Because it is a sample, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of error due to the size of the sample.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Thanks Paul.

  • LoboMBA

    NYU vs. Columbia? I would think this is more of an appropriate comparison, is it not?

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    LoboMBA,
    We think so, too. But there is a surprising amount of overlap largely because applicants apply to business schools more on brand, reputation and geography than culture or expertise in a discipline. So you have two closely ranked prestige schools here on the Northeast Coast.

  • Srikar

    A common feature to both B-Schools is that they don’t act as as Co-signor for International Applicants. It’s really SAD. Wonder what’s stopping them?

  • B-Schooler

    This is pretty out-of-date. Columbia is ahead of Tuck in nearly every ranking today, and compositely ranks 5 nationally, while Tuck is somewhere between 7 and 9. 

  • NewEnglander

    Well only for this year. Dartmouth has the oldest graduate business school and the New England prestige dies hard.

  • guest

    All of these smackdowns are going to be a little out-of-date rankings-wise since they were published in 2010 when the P&Q site launched.  The articles are still useful since things like culture, facilities, class size, recruiting ties, etc, don’t change all that much from year to year.

  • BSchoolGuy

    This article needs to be archived and dated. The material is very out of date. 

  • CBSalum

    I am a CBS alum and I can 100% attest that the vibe and culture of the school is not competitive/cut-throat.  It’s a very collegial, fun and hardworking bunch.  Admittedly, the facilities are pretty bad for a top school.

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