Columbia Business School vs. Dartmouth’s Tuck

Program Focus: The Tuck program has a general management focus. While you can dive deeper into finance, marketing, or entrepreneurship, among other areas, the dive isn’t nearly as deep as it would be at Columbia which also has more places to dive. This is especially true in finance and economics, the largest division of Columbia Business School, which offers nearly half the school’s courses. There’s also a private equity focus and a “value investing” focus, the latter with a curriculum of eight courses alone, from “Legends in Value Investing” to “Distressed Value Investing.” A “media” focus boasts 26 courses at Columbia’s schools of business, film, law, journalism, international and public affairs, and arts and sciences. You can even do deep dives on such specialized areas as “social enterprise” or “healthare and pharmaceutical management.” With a full-time faculty of 150 plus 50 more adjunct professors versus Tuck’s 47 professors and instructors, Columbia offers an unusual breadth and diversity of courses. The school has more than 130 electives, though there are more than 4,000 graduate-level classes from the university’s other graduate and professional schools. Dartmouth has 81 courses in its business catalog. If you want to focus on a more narrow specialty, you’re more likely to be disappointed at Dartmouth. So the sacrifice you pay at Tuck for the intimacy and bonding is that there are far fewer options among electives and less opportunity to specialize in a specific area of study.

On-Campus Recruiting: If you want to work on Wall Street, an investment management shop, or a global financial services firm, a Columbia MBA is a near peerless ticket for entry. Citicorp, Goldman Sachs, Chase-Morgan Stanley overflow with Columbia grads. So was Lehman Brothers before it went down. All the major MBA employers recruit at the school so there are no shortages of opportunity on the job front. Obviously, Tuck attracts as many prestige MBA hiring organizations as Columbia, but not the overall number of recruiters. On the other hand, your access to on-campus recruiters at Tuck can sometimes be better because you won’t have to compete with hundreds of students for conversations during recruiting events or for slots on an interview schedule.

Alumni Network: Columbia alumni are fully entrenched in the financial, media, and business world of New York which essentially means that alums are a powerful and influential bunch. Of the 38,000 living alums, a figure that includes EMBAs, you can find a Columbia connection anywhere in the world. How helpful and supportive they’ll be is another question. That’s less of a reflection on the graduates than it is on the all-across-town MBA experience that Columbia offers. It’s more of a hit-or-miss proposition than it would be if you have a Tuck degree. Over the years, BusinessWeek surveys of MBA graduates show that Harvard, Stanford and Dartmouth boast the strongest alumni networks of any business schools in the world. Dartmouth’s 8,600 living MBA alums may be a fraction of Columbia’s but you would be surprised at the deep commitment and cohesiveness of the Tuck alumni body.  For our money, this is the best MBA alumni network in the world. How can we make such a claim? We’ll quote that old cliche about how money speaks and talk is cheap. The proof is in the percentage of alums who routinely donate money to the school. Tuck leads all business schools by a huge margin, with an alumni participation rate of 66.7% in its most recent fund-raising campaign–and Tuck has had 60%-plus percent participation for the past 25 years. No other top business school comes close to 50%, while the average of Tuck’s peer schools come in at less than 25%. Put another way, the Tuck participation rate is three times the average of the top 20 business schools. It demonstrates the alumni’s remarkable loyalty to and relationship with the school and its students. “If someone wants to go to San Diego and looks in our database and finds 20 alums there, he or she can get return emails from 19 of them in one day,” says Paul Danos, dean of the Tuck School. “There’s a comfort to have that network for the rest of your life.” The second largest number of Dartmouth alums, about 1,000, reside in New York.


Dartmouth beats Columbia in three of the five major rankings, in the Forbes, U.S. News, and The Economist surveys, doing considerably better than the best business school in New York. In 2010, Dartmouth surprised everyone by getting ranked number two by The Economist. Columbia wins over Tuck in the BusinessWeek and Financial Times surveys. Dartmouth’s surprisingly poor showing in the BusinessWeek ranking is in part due to the small size of the program which hurts the school in BusinessWeek’s recruiter poll. The P&Q rank–which factors into consideration all the major rankings weighted by their individual authority–gives Dartmouth the edge at number five with Columbia right behind it at number six. It’s important to note, however, that Chicago and Wharton, both schools with stellar programs in finance, rank better than Columbia. These are the up-to-date rankings from each ranking organization.

MBA Rankings Dartmouth Columbia
Poets&Quants 5 6
BusinessWeek 14 9
Forbes 2 6
U.S. News & World Report 7 9
Financial Times 14 6
The Economist 2 12


  • 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.

  • BSchoolGuy

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

  • 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.

  • NewEnglander

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

  • 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. 

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • LoboMBA

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

  • Thanks Paul.

  • 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.

  • @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?

  • 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???

  • 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…)

  • 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.

  • Jtbb

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

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  • Patroklos, can you explain what you mean?

  • 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.