NYU’s Stern School vs. Columbia Business School

NYU’s Stern School of Business

As Frank Sinatra famously sang it, “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. It’s up to you, New York, New York.”

These two business schools have an almost unnatural advantage in being located in arguably the greatest city in the world. Both New York University’s Stern School of Business and Columbia Business School are all about the New York experience and the awesome resources these schools routinely leverage from what is the capital of the world. Columbia 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 exceptional students in both schools is mind-boggling: In Columbia’s 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 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.

Top Ten Reasons to Go to New York University?

  1. You prefer Greenwich Village to Morningside Heights (we’re not kidding!)
  2. You want to specialize in one of NYU’s 20 different specialties, especially an area that Columbia doesn’t touch, such as luxury marketing.
  3. You’d like a certain amount of your coursework to be taken at night. NYU’s massive undergraduate MBA program allows you to take those evening courses, too.
  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 really want to study New York: the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Mets, even Steinway Piano. NYU has classes and case studies that integrate the city in ways that even Columbia doesn’t.
  6. You are highly competitive and want to go through a tough, competitive MBA program.
  7. You want to be in a top ten MBA program and NYU just makes the cut on our ranking.
  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 NYU?


Columbia University

Geography: Columbia Business School and New York University are quintessential big city universities. Their location in New York, the business, financial and media center of the world, brings each 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. “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, who heads up the school’s EMBA programs. Columbia alone estimates that it gets more than 500 guest speakers a year on campus as well as 3,000 returning alums who come to recruit, to speak, and to attend conferences. That is a networking opportunity that is unique. There are few cities in the world that are as alive, exciting and dynamic than New York. The drawback to the location is also obvious: As one Columbia 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 and Stern 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. While both schools call New York home, there’s a vastly different neighborhood vibe to these institutions. Columbia is uptown, on the edge of Harlem, while NYU is in the heart of Greenwich Village. Both neighborhoods have funky attributes.

Size: Total full-time MBA enrollment at Columbia is 1,293, about a third larger population than NYU’s 826 students. In its September-entry class alone, Columbia brings in about 554 full-time MBAs as well as another 121 Executive MBAs. Columbia divides up its new students into clusters of 60 to 65 people who take most of the first-year core classes together. Meantime, NYU enters a class of 390 to 400 students and breaks that down to exactly the same size as Columbia: blocks of 60 to 65 students. Students within a block will often take many courses together, but the core curriculum at NYU consists to only two required courses: accounting and statistics. Then, you choose five out of seven other fundamental courses on a set menu. Most NYU students take three or four blocked courses in the fall and one or two in the spring.

Culture: NYU and Columbia are big-city schools with all the advantages and disadvantages that come with that. Typically, schools in large urban settings tend to have more intense and competitive cultures. It’s easier to escape school in a big city than it is in a college town or rural setting. While cut-throat competition may be exaggerated at Columbia (it has been said that MBA students once hid books from classmates), it’s true that the Columbia environment is fairly competitive. A year ago, a graduating Columbia student penned an essay for the campus newspaper in which he  he bemoaned the lack of a supportive and encouraging culture. “There is no community at Columbia,” he wrote. “There is no sense of solidarity. There is no creative energy. Too many people out for themselves.” There’s more than some hyperbole in those comments, but they are directionally correct. The school’s reputation for having a sharp-elbowed culture was reinforced in 2010 when an email from the student Investment Banking Club leaked out. Addressed to first-year students, the email made it clear that some people were not playing nicely with each other: “Some of you have already managed to become notorious for their willingness to elbow their peers out of the circle around senior bankers and virtually attack the bankers with questions, thus preventing other students from networking and participating in the conversation…such behavior shows that you are aggressive and non-collegial, and therefore not a pleasant person to work 100-hour weeks with.”

The upshot: NYU may have a slight advantage in being in the village and having superior facilities over Columbia.

NYU’s Vice Dean for MBA Programs Kim Corfman has both a Columbia MBA and a Columbia PhD. Yet if she had to do it over again (yes, of course she’s biased as an NYU employee), Corfman contends she would go to NYU. “I would not go to Columbia if I were an MBA student,” she says flatly. “Columbia does not embrace location. NYU completely embraces its location. We love being in New York. We bring the city into our classrooms and we go into the city. They (Columbia) would probably be as happy on the Palisades instead of Manhattan.”

Ouch. It’s true that NYU integrates the city into its classrooms through a group called New York Initiatives which develops live cases on quintessentially New York institutions from the Metropolitan Opera Co. and Steinway Piano to Mets baseball. The latter is a case in marketing and micro-economics in which students explore ticket pricing issues and how to bring more families to the ballpark. But it strikes us as a little unfair to say Columbia doesn’t take advantage of its New York location. For one thing, some 3,000 Columbia alums return to its campus every year for different events, including class lectures and conference keynotes. Thanks to its New York location, Columbia is able to get 300 alums to come back each year for its mentoring program for MBA students.

Facilities: Unfortunately, Columbia Business School has the absolute worst facility of any prestige b-school. That’s no fault of the school’s leadership. For years, several deans have been trying to get a new world-class building to replace the 1960s-built Uris Hall, but politics and highly limited space on campus have made this a long, and difficult quest. Meantime, all of Columbia’s peers have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into new world-class complexes so the contrast between what Columbia has and everyone else is vast. Uris is an unattractive concrete slab of a building, over-crowded and sub-standard in every way. Truth is, even when the building opened in the early 1960s, it was considered so unattractive that architecture students picketed the structure’s dedication. No wonder the school’s elaborate website contains only a single photograph of the outside of Uris among numerous slideshows of the overall university campus and New York. It has been renovated, but has limited places to study and few classrooms. There is no business school residence hall. Instead, some b-school grads get to fight it out for the limited graduate housing with Columbia’s other schools. Half of the MBA classes, including the core, gets taught two blocks away from Uris at Warren Hall, a building on 115th St. shared with the university’s law school. Though the school has two other buildings, they are used for the Executive MBA and executive education programs. So all the action in the MBA program occurs in Uris and Warren on Columbia’s Morningside campus which runs from West 114th St. to West 120th St. between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave. This will change, perhaps by 2012, when the b-school is supposed to move to the university’s expanded campus, a 17-acre tract of land in West Harlem from Broadway to 12th St. between 125th and 133rd St. This new university campus won’t be fully built until 2030.

Even though NYU has a more modern and attractive facility downtown, the single biggest complaint there is still about space. “It’s probably a complaint that everyone has in New York in general,” says Anika Davis Pratt, NYU’s director of admissions. “Space is something people feel we never have enough of.”

Teaching Methods: Both schools offer up a variety of teaching methods, from case study to lectures and team projects. There’s really no major difference in the classroom approaches at NYU and Columbia with the exception of team projects. Columbia says that case studies and lectures each account for 40% of the classwork, while team projects make up 15%. NYU says team projects account for 30% of the workload, twice as much as Columbia, and that case studies make up 25%, while lectures account for 20% of the teaching.

Program Focus: Like New York itself, these two universities pretty much offer a dazzling array of courses and programs. While it’s certainly true that NYU and Columbia are two of the best places in the world to study finance, it’s also true that the most common misperception about NYU and Columbia is that they are finance schools. These schools are more like department stores with widely diverse offerings than they are finance boutiques. “Our single biggest challenge,” says Kim Corfman, vice dean of MBA programs at NYU, “is letting potential applicants know that we have areas that are just as strong as finance. We have a reputation in finance that we don’t want to discount, but we also have great strength in other areas, especially strategy and marketing.”

Or consider that Columbia Business School offers more than 130 electives, an amazing array of choices. There’s 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 “healthcare and pharmaceutical management.” With a full-time faculty of 150 plus 50 more adjunct professors, Columbia offers extraordinary flexibility. The same is true of NYU with a full-time faculty approaching 200 professors and another 100 adjuncts.

NYU offers 20 different specializations for MBA students, from luxury marketing to supply chain management and global sourcing. Finance alone has a half dozen specializations: Corporate Finance; Finance; Financial Instruments and Markets; Financial Systems and Analytics; International Finance, and Quantitative Finance. There’s also specialities in media and entertainment as well as social innovation and impact. Almost all of NYU’s MBAs graduate with one specialization, though you can take as many as three. Some 49% of students opt for the finance specialization, by far the most popular, while 22% pick strategy, 19% go with corporate finance, 18% take marketing, 15% select entrepreneurship and innovation, and 8% go with social innovation and impact. “Regardless of how you count, we have more elective courses than any other school,” claims Kim Corfman, NYU’s vice dean of MBA programs. “Schools that have only full time programs can’t offer as many courses. Our full-timers will have part-timers in electives at night. But you also can take the program and take courses only during the day and never see a part-timer in the class.” There are an incredible 291 electives on the books at NYU: 72 in finance, 45 in marketing, 38 in economics, 33 in management and organizations, 27 in information systems, and 25 in accounting. The evening courses meet just once a week, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Not surprisingly, NYU’s largest number of electives are in finance, followed by management, marketing, and economics due to the school’s long-time emphasis on economics history.

With about 650 executive MBA students, Columbia is now forging closer connections between its full-time MBA program and the EMBA curriculum–in the same way that NYU has with its part-time program. “At most schools, MBAs and EMBA students never meet because EMBAs attend class on the weekends and MBAs do their study during the week,” says Columbia’s Hanabury. “we are now offering electives for both programs and bringing classes together. Because our EMBA population is so huge we are able to offer one of the best selections of elective courses in the world. For our MBA students, the executives have interesting positions in companies they might be interested in. For EMBA students, they want exposure to full-time MBA talent and ideas.”

According to U.S. News & World Report’s latest survey of B-school deans and MBA directors, the Stern School edges out Columbia for finance, coming in third to Columbia’s fourth place ranking. (That poll shows that number one in finance is Wharton, followed by number two Chicago.) In international business, Columbia and NYU are in a three-way tie in sixth place with Duke’s Fuqua School. In marketing, Columbia is sixth, while NYU is 11th. In management, Columbia places tenth, while NYU is 17th, below such schools as Cornell, UNC, and UCLA. In entrepreneurship, Columbia (14th) also edges out NYU (21st); in production/operations, Columbia rates a eighth place finish, with NYU at 15th, and in non-profit management, Columbia places ninth to NYU’s tenth place finish.

On-Campus Recruiting: If you want to work on Wall Street, an investment management shop, or a global financial services firm, getting your MBA punched at either Columbia or NYU is as close to a guaranteed ticket to entry as you could ever get. Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan-Chase, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse are filled with Columbia and NYU grads. All the major MBA employers recruit at both schools so there are no shortages of opportunity on the job front. We give Columbia a slight edge in recruiting, given the school’s highly consistent superior showing in BusinessWeek’s recruiter polls. Obviously, the Class of 2009 had a tough time in a difficult environment. At Columbia, 62 sponsored-students chose to return to their pre-MBA employers. Many others accepted jobs at small and mid-sized firms.

Alumni Network: Columbia alumni are fully entrenched in the financial, media, and business worlds 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 tight are these networks? Columbia says that as many as 3,000 of its alums come to campus every year to recruit, to speak in class, and attend conferences. The school is trying to more closely connect that strong alumni base with current students who have groused that there isn’t enough contact between them and Columbia’s grads. NYU alums, of course, can be found in just about every company in the New York metro area that hires MBAs, and due to the oversized part-time program with nearly 2,000 students, you may even run into more of them. NYU claims more than 80,000 alums working in more than 100 countries worldwide, but that number includes a lot of undergrads.


Columbia Business School does better than NYU in just about every ranking. The Economist rates NYU 13th in the world versus a 20th ranking for Columbia. Both schools compete to a dead tie in the latest U.S. News & World Report ranking. Otherwise, Columbia bests NYU, according to BusinessWeek, Forbes, and The Financial Times. The P&Q rank–which factors into consideration all the major rankings weighted by their individual authority–places NYU tenth and Columbia at sixth. These are the up-to-date rankings from each ranking organization.

MBA RankingsNew YorkColumbia
U.S. News & World Report99
Financial Times136
The Economist1412



Historical Rankings by BusinessWeek:

NYU’s Stern School has never been ranked in the top ten by BusinessWeek. Indeed, its highest ranking ever by BW is its current 13th place finish in 2008. So Columbia has fared much better in the BusinessWeek surveys than NYU. Columbia’s highest rank, meantime, has been a sixth place finish in 1996 and 1998. As schools in one of the busiest and most congested cities of the world, Columbia and NYU may be at a slight disadvantage in the BusinessWeek lists, which largely measure customer satisfaction by surveying recent graduates and corporate recruiters. It’s hard to keep students and recruiters happy in an overcrowded city filled with distractions.



Historical Rankings by The Financial Times: Unlike BusinessWeek’s rankings, The Financial Times includes business schools from all over the world. So the FT is ranking both New York University and Columbia against such places as London Business School, which ranked number one in this survey in 2010 and 2009, and INSEAD, which ranked fifth these last two years. NYU has never come out on top of Columbia in any of The Financial Times’ surveys. Columbia is almost always in the top five (with the exception of 2010 when the FT ranked it sixth), while NYU has generally hovered in the next group of five in the top ten. However, for two of the last three years, NYU has ranked 13th–its lowest FT ranking since 2000 when it also placed 13th.  Columbia has done quite well in the FT rankings over the years, ranging from its current rank of sixth to second in 2007. The Financial Times has ranked Columbia third on five occasions, in four consecutive years from 2002 to 2005, and in 2008.




These are two of the most highly selective business in the world. NYU accepts just 14.5% of its applicants, while Columbia says yes to only 14.9% of those who apply.

There are only four other full-time MBA programs in the world that are more selective than these two New York City universities: Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard, and MIT.

This is a world of difference from where Columbia was in the early 1990s when it was accepting 47% of its applicants in 1992. NYU’s average GMAT score for the Class of 2011 is slightly higher than Columbia’s by a mere four points, 717 to 713. It’s worth noting that the hurdle to get into NYU’s part-time program with nearly 2,000 active students is much lower. Stern accepts about 55% of its part-time applicants, versus the much more selective rate above.  * 10th to 90th percentage range. **Estimate.

Admission StatsNew York Columbia
Average GMAT717713
GMAT Range680-760*680-760*
Average GPA3.453.50



Columbia is one of the largest two-year, full-time MBA programs in the world, with a total enrollment of nearly 1,300 students–not including more than 600 additional Executive MBAs. NYU, in contrast, is significantly smaller at 826 full-timers, but has a massive undergraduate business school population as well as one of the largest part-time MBA programs in the world. NYU has more women in its full-time MBA program than Columbia by a full six percentage points, but far fewer international students (some 32% of Columbia MBAs are international vs. 23% at NYU. Stern also does better with minority students by a full ten percentage points.

Enrollment StatsNew YorkColumbia
Total MBA Enrollment8261,293



The big difference in undergraduate backgrounds at these schools seems to occur among the heavy quants. Columbia gets a smaller percentage, just 13%, versus NYU which takes in just about a quarter of its class in engineering and math majors. On the other key undergraduate experiences, the schools are pretty even.

Undergrad DegreesNYUColumbia
Humanities/Social Science23%20%



Jobs and Pay:

The financial meltdown of 2009 led to a disaster of an MBA recruiting season at Columbia’s Business School and NYU’s Stern School. Nearly four of every ten graduating students in Columbia’s Class of 2009 was without a job at commencement. Columbia was more severely impacted than any other top ten school because it traditionally feeds Wall Street and the big banks which were largely on life support at the time. In fact, for the first time in recent history, three consulting firms–McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain–were at the top of the list of employers hiring Columbia MBAs rather than the financial services firms which tend to dominate. Though NYU also is heavily dependent on finance for jobs, it seemed to do a much better job of getting its graduates placed. The number of Stern MBAs employed at graduation were 11 percentage points higher than those at Columbia. Stern’s uptown rival closed the gap three months later, but still trailed NYU by more than three percentage points.

Another surprise in these numbers: the average salary and bonus at NYU was slightly higher than Columbia by nearly one thousand bucks.

The estimates of median pay 10 years after graduation and over a full career come from a study by PayScale done for BusinessWeek and do not include stock options or equity stakes by entrepreneurs. Columbia grads did better after ten years and over a lifetime than NYU grads. In fact, Columbia MBAs were third in career pay behind only Harvard and Wharton.


Job & Pay DataNew YorkColumbia
Starting salary & bonus$124,112$123,150
MBAs employed at commencement72.1%61.1%
MBAs employed 3 months after commencement80.4%77.3%
Estimated median pay ten years after commencement$135,000$165,000
Estimated median pay & bonus over a full career$2,918,748$3,349,669


Who Hires Who:

When it comes to looking at detailed numbers on which companies hire most from NYU’s Stern School, it’s somewhat difficult because Stern isn’t nearly as transparent as most of the other top business schools. Instead of listing the major employers by the number of graduates each hires, Stern simply publishes “a small sample of Stern employers” and puts an asterisk next to each company that hired three or more graduates. Why? We’re not sure but we’re immediately skeptical of such secrecy because it’s very possible that NYU wouldn’t look very good in head-to-head comparisons on such a list. Columbia is more open and what its numbers show is that consulting firms helped to offset the near total collapse of finance for the Class of 2009. Even so, about 48% of Columbia’s Class of 2009 still went into financial services, vs. 43% at Wharton. NA does not necessarily mean that a company didn’t hire any graduates from the school, but rather that the number of grads it did hire did not qualify it for breakout treatment by the school. The cutoff number at Columbia was three hires. The asterisk in the NYU column indicates that an employer listed hire three or more grads.

Hiring CompanyNumber of Hiresat NYU*Number of Hiresat Columbia
McKinsey & Co.346
Boston Consulting Group321
Bain & Co.320
Morgan Stanley35
JP Morgan Chase315
Deloitte Consulting312
Deutsche Bank311
Goldman Sachs38
Credit Suisse311
Booz & Co.320
BofA/Merrill Lynch39
Barclays Capital310
Johnson & Johnson3NA
American Express36
American ContinentalNA4
Fidelity Investments-34
General Electric-34
Blackstone GroupNA3
  • guest

    NYU. easy

  • Zack

    Not having seen the email in question, this could have been a singular student with an issue. The author of the email may not have wanted to publicly shame the individual for fear of alienating a member of their organization. Additionally putting out the reprimand this way may prevent the overly competitive trend from taking hold in other students.

  • Gene Wu

    ? First you say there are and now you say there aren’t Someone has a bone to pick with NYU.

  • Gene Wu

    Ummm. For Finance, every major ranking including the gold standard, US News & World Report, ranks NYU # 3 in the Finance field…. Behind only Wharton and Booth.

  • Gene Wu

    Fordham is ranked #95 at best on any of the major rankings. It’s not even close to being in the same league as these schools.

  • Gene Wu

    Read the article again…. More specifically thr part you are referring to. Jesus, do people on here just nor read before making stupid comments.

  • Gene Wu

    Umm Bob. Perhaps you should read the article again about why there is only the number “3” on the NYU side….. I see reading comprehension isn’t one of your strengths…..

  • Gene Wu

    All well and good but Hangtime is just stating what he has seen overall, as a recruiter. I have to agree with him. Besides, the CBS EMBA/MBA facilities are practically falling apart with virtually no security at the entrance to speak of. Not sure I want security to be this lax in that kind of neighborhood…

  • Gene Wu

    it all depends on who you want to work with and want to work for you eventually that counts. On another note, I had a fellow marine that went to Wharton and actually started talking smack about how NYU Stern was in the bottom top 10 and Wharton was at the top of the top ten. At first, I thought he was just messing around then I quickly realized he was serious. So, if you want this type of personality and someone who bases their worth on the name and rank of the school they went to for their advanced studies, perhaps you should choose the CBSs of the world.

  • Gene Wu

    I don’t agree with the over generalization but from my own personal experience of having sit in on classes at both and knowing many people in both programs, and choosing NYU Stern, this statement is somewhat accurate. My general observation is that most people choose CBS due to the fact that they wanted to go to an Ivy League at least once in their lives, since most of the time they didn’t go to one for undergrad. So you have this sort of mentality at CBS. On top of it all, these Ivy’s have an almost built-in sense of entitlement due to the fact that these brand names are more well known and they rest of their laurels. I had one guy I met at CBS that was in the EMBA program at CBS that derided NYU Stern as “not even in the running” in the context of top business schools. Which was kind of hilarious to me because in virtually every major ranking, Both EMBA programs are a dead heat with NYU coming out on top in the 3 and 5 year average. In the end, it all depends, both schools will give you a top notch quality education but

  • Bob

    This is a biased and idiotic comparison of why to choose a school, go to the campus and see which program you like more. They are equally top 10 schools. A lot of people go to both Columbia and NYU.

  • Bob

    You cannot compare a business school, without knowing what jobs they get after, besides reading a website of who hires NYU grads. John does not have a detailed understanding of the programs besides through a website.

  • Bob

    John knows very little about NYU as a school besides its location and is making horrible sweeping comparison claims based off a synthesis of business journals rankings with other data being faulty data.

    Case in point: NYU is said to have a higher hiring rate then Columbia in this post, yet 25 companies hired 3 NYU people each, he just wrote in the number 3 randomly. It also shows to have way less hires then Columbia.

    This article is bullshit as the author knows very little about the schools.

  • Booth Blue

    In my starting banking class there were 5 NYU alumni and 8 Columbia, needless to say there are 0 Columbia alumni that made it to the VP cut (none were self selecting exits).

  • THE the

    You are too caustic

  • linebacker

    after all said and done, doesnt the hiring table above indicate that employers clearly, and by a large margin choose Columbia graduates? Im baffled by the qualitative information when the final results show Columbia is the winner, by far…?

  • VeryOrwellianOfYou

    Ok, point taken, but how do you explain the email that was sent out telling people not to elbow each other around the investment bank recruiters? I am not even sure I can get into Columbia, but this really makes me want to avoid it, although like any other NY’er, it would have been the ideal place to finish my ivory tower career. (I posted the same to the other CBS’er would really like a reply.

  • VeryOrwellianofYou

    Ok, point taken, but how do you explain the email that was sent out telling people not to elbow each other around the investment bank recruiters? I am not even sure I can get into Columbia, but this really makes me want to avoid it, although like any other NY’er, it would have been the ideal place to finish my ivory tower career.

  • JohnAByrne


    Bear in mind this is all relative to other schools. I don’t think Columbia is a hotly competitive place filled with cutthroats per se, and I do believe the culture is supportive and welcoming, as you say. Relative to many of its peers, however, the Columbia culture is more competitive and the research–largely BusinessWeek’s opinion surveys of graduates from the latest year back to 1988–show that the culture is not thought to be as highly cooperative and friendly as others, including Yale, Dartmouth Tuck, Stanford, UNC, Northwestern, Virginia, UCLA, Cornell and Berkeley.

    Still, graduates who are surveyed did not say Columbia was a killer environment–just that it ends up much lower on the scale when asking grads to assess the business school’s culture on two extremes: whether it is highly cooperative or highly competitive. On one of these surveys, for example, Yale’s School of Management scored an 8.9 with 10 being the highest level of cooperation. Columbia scored a 4.9, with 1 being highly competitive.

    There are natural reasons for this and they are not all bad:

    1) Columbia is not a residential program where students live together. So there is less social pressure on people to behave. They disappear into the city and apartments spread all over the place.
    2) The school is based in an urban area that tends to bring out more competitive tendencies, partly because New York is not the most gentle of places to live, study or work.
    3) The school draws an unusually high percentage of students with financial backgrounds and they tend to be more naturally competitive.
    4) The school sends a higher percentage of graduates to Wall Street where few teddy bears tend to tread.
    5) The lack of community that results from having a crowded, antiquated building with few open spaces or meeting rooms where students can spend time together and bond more completely.

    Now you can just as easily make an argument that business is hard and tough and to be really successful doesn’t mean you should be considered “nice.” If you adopt that point of view, than the level of support one gets at Columbia might be just right. All that said, Columbia is one of the truly great business schools in the world and I would put its graduates up against the very best in the world.


  • Hangtime, it is unfortunate that you have negative impressions of Columbia. My experience, as a student, has been completely the opposite. I’m very involved in the Follies here at CBS and I’ve been a Peer Advisor and seen some extremely gracious and ‘win one for the team’ moments. Speaking with alumni, and having worked with some this summer, I can tell that this attitude definitely carries on into the ‘real world’. On a daily basis I see people put the needs and wants of others ahead of themselves and I know that most of my classmates get just as much of a feeling of pride from seeing others succeed as they do when they succeed themselves.

    Just yesterday I was in the library when a girl at the next table received a phone call with a full-time job offer (we are allowed to talk in our library, this isn’t a rude thing here). She was in tears because she was so happy and people were running over to her from surrounding tables. It was a very fulfilling moment and one that made me so glad to be around such supportive and selfless people.

  • As a current student I cannot stress enough that the culture at CBS is actually very supportive and not competitive. Most of our assignments are done collaboratively and I often rely on my fellow classmates who graciously take time out of their day to help me.

    We also spend our entire first semester as part of a five, or six, person learning team which we are assigned to. Each person brings a different skill set to the team and we need to rely on one another to learn and grow. For me this shouts collaboration – not competition.

  • Many students take on luxury marketing internships during semesters on Fridays, when we don’t have class. This is a pretty key competitive advantage for students who aspire to work in that sector.

  • How is this perspective valuable? He is making generalizations about the student body at CBS that cannot possibly be true.

  • Reason #5 for Columbia is simply false but is perpetuated by sites like this written by people who don’t go to any MBA program, much less CBS. I’m a current student and we do not have a competitive culture, particularly since enacting grade nondisclosure. CBS culture is incredibly supportive and collaborative.

  • NK


    I have seen you referencing this example of book-stealing (written by a Columbia student about the poor student culture) multiple times on this site.

    A quick clarification: That was written by an undergraduate student at Columbia College, not CBS. Most feedback from CBS students indicates that this perception is totally false, especially with the new GND policy.


  • Sdfd

    Brilliantly done!

  • Parron

    Thanks John for your excellent comparison.

    Looks like each of these schools really worth it but does anyone know which one is more attractive to Media & Entertainment recruters? I know both schools are part of the MBA Media and Entertainment Conference and both have strong relations and alumni within this industry, but at the end which one stands out for these recruters?  

  • John

    John how does Fordham stack up against these two schools ? I see it ranked highly for finance and marketing.

  • LA Smackdown

    Hey John – we’ve seen smackdowns for the 2 biggest name schools in New York and also in Chicago. How about a Los Angeles smackdown for UCLA v. USC?

  • busconnect

    May I add that NYU Stern is far more competitive to get into than Columbia:


  • Toby G.

    Hangtime79, you seem extremely bias–to the point where your bias beclouds your judgement and analysis. You literally stated the word “hate” when describing Columbia. What’s worse is that you’re a recruiter, someone who should act professionally at all times as you represent the face of the company you work for. Think about all the alumni that work in your industry that have connections with Columbia. I’m sure your comments wouldn’t bode well with them.

    Your scattering remarks question whether you truly are who you say you are. I hope your comments don’t stem from any personal vendettas you had with Columbia’s admissions committee, if you know what I mean.

  • Hangtime79,

    Thanks for sharing your very valuable perspective as an MBA recruiter.


  • Hangtime79

    First time back to PandQ in awhile, thought I would drop my two cents.

    I don’t know what’s different in the drinking water at 14th vs 116th I just know it comes off every time I visit both schools and meet with their students. Having been on the recruiting side of the table – I love NYU and hate Columbia. In my side of the organization (retail banking), we have had very good success with NYU graduates – but not only have we not yielded at Columbia; anyone we do get tends to come with a very self-entitled, me-centric attitude and quickly exits the firm.

    My personal opinion is that if Columbia were located anywhere else in the country it wouldn’t be considered 1/2 the school that it is. We would not be on-campus but given its location in NYC, its a “must go” school. The flip-side of this has been our success with NYU. We have good yields from NYU and associates come in competitive, but much more team-win oriented then Columbia. A good example of this an associate that I had the pleasure to work with over the last couple of months and has recently rotated to another position. NYU MBA grad, extremely intelligent, competitive, could work with anyone in our or outside our organization, and understood that to win – everyone had to win. Given her background and what she has accomplished so far – she will be going places in our organization. She is not an isolated case either as many of our NYU graduates have progressed rapidly through the org.

    Key Takeaway: Maybe you can find a little higher caliber person at Columbia over NYU (little higher GMAT, GPA) but you sure don’t want to work with them.

  • Meg,


  • Meghan Summers

    John –

    Still anxiously awaiting your much touted Booth vs Wharton smackdown!


  • Almontas


    Could you please fix the following bullet-point:

    “NYU’s massive undergraduate MBA program allows you to take those evening courses, too.”

    There’s no such thing as an MBA for undergrads (at any school). However the fact that NYU does have a part-time MBA, as well as a top ranked (non-mba) undergraduate finance program is what helps them offer these evening courses.

    You also fail to mention that having a top part-time program helps networking, as many of the part-timers are usually some of the very best “sponsored” MBA students in NYC.

  • JR Liedy

    But, for Corporate Finance, Stern has Aswath Damodaran, the corp fin rockstar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTpbGF0KbQs.

  • Adam, I’d go with Columbia. The reason: The business school doesn’t have an undergraduate population so everything is geared to graduate level teaching. It’s also obviously Ivy League. And pretty much every ranking has Columbia beating NYU. Not that NYU is a poor alternative. It isn’t. These are two great schools but the edge surely goes to Columbia. By the way, we’re finishing up a long, thoughtful piece on the best finance departments among the top business schools. Will be interesting to see the final result. Hope to have that up over the next week. It’s been a summer-long project.

  • Hi John,

    What are your insights on which school is better, and better known for Corporate Finance?

    Thanks a lot.

  • MBAHopeful,

    Ah….yes. This should have been done months ago. But alas I’m also in the middle of writing a book on entrepreneurship and right now I am pretty much consumed by it. I’m already beyond deadline for the book and I have to wrap it up shortly so it won’t be terribly long now. Sorry about that.

  • MBAHopeful fall ’12


    Any idea when the Booth vs. Wharton smackdown will come? Very much looking forward to it…thanks!

  • JP,

    Absolutely. The very next smackdown I’m working on is Booth vs. Wharton and Booth vs. Columbia. It’s just a question of having enough time to do them. Hope to have Booth vs. Wharton this week, though.

  • JP

    Oh and these comparisons are really good too, don’t get me wrong. I am just surprised by the lack of Booth comparisons. Or did I miss them somewhere on this site? Thanks.

  • JP


    How come there aren’t more Booth comparisons? You only did one and that was with Kellogg (which makes total sense). How about Booth vs. Wharton, the #2 and #1 in finance in the US? Or Booth vs. Columbia, also finance rivals. Actually, I was at Wharton recently and I met someone who jokingly told me that Booth is their rival. Booth vs. NYU, Booth vs. MIT, etc. Or Booth vs. Michigan (two other midwest semi-rivals).

  • Marc T

    Hi John,

    I find those comparisons all very interesting but i believe they should somehow be extended more towards some of the other highly ranked schools. You have already done a comparison between Wharton and LBS, but it would be interesting to see for example IE vs. Insead, or IMD vs. IESE etc.

    I believe management education is truly a global subject now and whilst the US still dominates in sheer numbers , poets and quants rankings themselves include a number of high profile European schools. This would i believe help some of the more international prospective students.



  • rockrock

    any comments on which has a better network/career opportunities for going into hedge fund industry?

  • Hi John,
    Can you share some info on the financial aid scenario/chances at these two colleges? From what I have found out, aid/scholarship chances in NYU are better than that in Columbia… is that so?
    I have a 760 GMAT and close to 4 years of work-ex and am currently living in Mumbai, India.


  • actually let me amend that. My friend/coworker is getting her MBA part time. I do know that there are many Sternies who worked at Bloomingdales.com prior to attending Stern.

  • I laughed out loud @ 1.) You prefer Greenwich Village to Morningside Heights (we’re not kidding!) Soooo true and seeing that I’m equidistant from both neighborhoods I like where I live. I will say that I work for Bloomingdales.com and there aren’t any MBA Sternies working for .com. I think there may be some on the store side though.

  • Todd

    Cannot comment on NYU, but not fair to say Columbia “doesn’t touch” luxury marketing. Plenty of my classmates went to luxury companies (LVMH, Cole Haan, Coach, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom) and we have a long list of retail classes, some focused specifically on luxury. Even though it was not my focus, I attended events with CEOs from Coach, Lord & Taylor, May & Company, Cartier, and Michael Kors in my two years at CBS.