The Best B-School Alumni Networks

Alumni

The Best Alumni Networks

Raise your hand if you enjoy networking.

Wow, tough crowd. But that’s the response you normally get. For many, networking is awkward. It’s hard enough to strike up a conversation with a stranger. But networking takes it to another level.

And I’m not just talking about those events where you have a “My name is…” label slapped on your chest. True, most of us associate networking with “working the room.” The extroverts attack their target list; the introverts sidle over to anyone who hasn’t joined a pack. We share the same tired stories, evaluating if the other person is a business prospect (or knows someone who might be). The best make you feel like the most important person in the room. The rest of us often fumble our way through it.

That’s not by accident. Regardless of forum, networking often involves asking for something. That means you can get shot down or (worse) be in someone’s debt. Not to mention, someone may just ask you for something in return (and that can be time-consuming or tricky too). In the end, it’s still a shot in the dark. You just hope you find the right people with the right interests in the right mood.

And that’s one reason why business school is so attractive. Here, you can join like-minded people. You can share experiences and build relationships over time, without the pressure of quarterly quotas and red-soaked financials. You are part of a community – and that extends well beyond your graduating class. In fact, many b-school grads students (and grads) reach out to alumni as much as peers. It’ natural: People want to help those with whom they share a common bond. Attending their alma mater proves that you have the chops to be a difference-maker. It is that unspoken reinforcement that you are worth their time.

Question is, which alumni networks will offer the biggest bang for the tuition buck? The Economist might have an answer there.  Each year, as part of its annual business school rankings, it includes “Potential to Network” as 10% of each school’s ratings. This number is based on three equally-weighted categories: The ratio of MBA alumni to current full-time MBA students; the number of overseas chapters; and the student rating of alumni network (which is based on surveys from 12,946 respondents from 100 business schools).

This year, there was quite a shake up in the rankings. Last year, four European programs (and Thunderbird) made the top 10. This year, only one European school – IMD – cracked the top 10 (at number 10, no less). What’s more, only three schools – University of Notre Dame (Mendoza), the University of Southern California (Marshall), and the University of Virginia (Darden) – repeated in the top 10.

This year – drum roll please – the top spot belonged to Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business.  So what sets Tuck apart? For starters, the school is known for a tight-knit student community. The students have a reputation for being friendly and supportive. In fact, many students live together in the dorms, rather than in apartments, further deepening their bonds. The school is also renowned for being very student-centric and club-driven, with accessible faculty and world-class research centers. The intimacy of small town New Hampshire, coupled with a business school comprised almost exclusively of full-time MBA students, further enables students to remove distractions and develop relationships. And the “niceness” of the Tuck culture carries on after graduation. In fact, 70% of Tuck alums donate back to their school each year – nearly three times more than b-schools on average according to Poets&Quants.

In other words, they are the perfect alumni to approach when you’re looking for guidance (or working capital for that matter). In fact, on the five point scale used by The Economist to measure the usefulness of alumni networks, Tuck notched a near-perfect score (4.98).

Stanford, which was unranked last year, jumped up to number two in networking. After ranking number six last year, Notre Dame climbed to number three. They were followed by Darden (last year’s number ten) and Ross. Marshall climbed from number eight to number six.

There were also some significant drops over the previous year. Last year’s top five – HEC Paris, Vierick Leuven Gent, Thunderbird, New York University (Stern), and California-Berkeley (Haas) – all dropped out of the top five. In fact, several top American and overseas institutions failed to make the top ten for networking, including Wharton, Booth, Kellogg, the London Business School, Columbia University, IESE, INSEAD, Esade, MIT Sloan, and IE Business School.

Student Ranking of Alumni Network Usefulness

RankBusiness SchoolRating (Out of 5)Economist Rank Overall
 1 Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business 4.98 2
 2 Stanford University Graduate School of  Business 4.90 9
 3 University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of  Business 4.89 45
 4 University of Virginia Darden School of  Business 4.84 3
 5 University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross  School of Business 4.81 20
 6 University of Southern California Marshall  School of Business 4.81 64
 7 Cornell University Samuel Curtis Johnson  Graduate School of Management 4.80 23
 8 University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler  Business School 4.72 35
 9 Harvard Business School 4.71 6
10 IMD (International Institute of Management  Development / Switzerland) 4.71 21

Source: The Economist

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Source: The Economist

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  • Concrete

    ROI comes in many forms, both quantitative and qualitative. At the end of the day, one might say Wisconsin has a better ROI because it only costs half as much, so about a 50% (not 100%) higher return compared to HSW (while factoring in 50% lower lifetime earnings potential)!!! But the $60k of savings in the short run (and the higher IRR) is not the correct way to analyze b-school ROI.

    Besides the tuition bill, other things (i.e. earnings potential, prestige/brand, upward mobility, alumni size & strength, networking w/ the most qualified peers, quality of education, recruiting/target industry, getting into best program possible, fulfilling your maximum potential, best credentials, etc) also hold some form of value, which can be converted into monetary-equivalent terms (if need be) or some other form of utility for each individual. This is what truly determines “ROI” at B-school. Utility is the overall summation of all factors and is measured differently by each person based on his/her unique preferences.

    This is why Forbes’ ROI rankings are completely short-sighted and should be taken with a grain of salt as a basis for comparing MBA programs.

  • Tuckie#2

    You have misread my post. I simply said that Yale was not on my personal radar screen. This is mostly because I did not want to be in a big city, knowing that I would likely (and do) work in one for the rest of my professional career. I did not suggest nor believe that Yale is any less then Tuck so please relax.

    In fact, I truly believe that all of the top 20 or so schools are outstanding. I met my wife at my workplace and she happened to be a Cornell MBA. Trust me when I say her education is the equivalent of mine and the Johnson network is amazing and so responsive.

    Yale SOM is fantastic and any reasonable person would not suggest otherwise. Admissions stats are something to look at for sure but at the Top 20 Business School level, all the students are smart. Placement, network, and ROI are what really matters. And any of the schools mentioned on this thread will give people lots of opportunities to do amazing things. Whether Tuck (I am obviously biased – as you are about Yale), Yale, Cornell, Duke, or Darden the rewards will be there. Fit and culture can help make the luxury of such a decision easier.

  • NYC_MBA

    I considered Yale for 2 out of the 3 reasons you stated before I got into Columbia. Imagine my surprise when I saw SOMers at all of my off campus recruiting events (Tech, Finance, General Mgmt). Recruiters don’t care about these petty rankings arguments-both Tuck and Yale will take you where you need to go. Your preference will come down to incidentals such as location-not the endowment size or class size, which are just ridiculous arguments.

  • NYC_MBA

    Relax, dude. No one is saying that Yale is a bad school. I strongly considered going there before ending up at Columbia. You write like an international so I assume the brand name is what’s making you such a Yale cheerleader (internationals tend to love it-as thy do Columbia)- But there are some real differences between the two in terms of recruiting, salary, placement, etc. Yale is more of a peer to Darden/UCLA/Ross-which is by no means a bad thing. It’s only been around for like 30 years so as far as I’m concerned it’s done really well. Generally, at least anecdotally, people who apply to Tuck also apply to M7 schools such as Kellogg and use Darden and Fuqua as “backups” (due to the similar cultures at each). They don’t generally consider Yale-likely because Tuckies are all gunning for MBB placements, which is where Tuck has a strong advantage. I imagine that Yale attracts an entirely different type of student altogether. The SOMers I’ve met have all been elite students academically, but didn’t have nearly as relevant work experience as those in the M7+Tuck/Haas. I do agree that over time, you’ll likely see more conventional MBA students make a beeline for the school given its resources, but that’s going to be gradual. In the meantime, Tuck’s got a new dean as well and their 2014 class just posted the best recruiting numbers in the history of the school. It’s not just going to fall over.

  • SOMer16

    @YaleoverDartmouth – I really hope you are not actually at SOM, because posts like this are not representative of the Yale community or our MBA program.

    To everyone else, I have some classmates who got into Tuck, but turned it down for SOM due to a preference for location, interest in nonprofit, or easier access to NYC. Tuck right now is a better ranked program and much better for consulting. But I’d say we are on par now if not better for finance. Either way, both are great programs.

  • HBS14

    Um – I can’t speak to Tuck students, but at least at HBS, Tuck was a close second for a lot of us. YSOM was / is on no one’s radar. The two aren’t even comparable.

  • YaleoverDartmouth

    Dude! Tuck endowment is less than 50% of Yale SOM’s (check John’s comment in another post). Yale GMAT and GPA scores are consistently above that of Tuck.. Tuck has historical advantage and SOM is new to MBA game, I agree.. But the gap has narrowed immensely esp. for Internationals and those interested in Finance jobs. Awesome new building, new dean and rise in rankings and better fin aid.. And better overall University brand prestige and location.. I see them as peers now. In Both BW and FT rankings Yale is above Dartmouth.. And experience-wise Yale is keeping class size at 320 for next 5-7 years which is just 30-40 above the Dartmouth MBA size.. So forget past and live in present! This year Yale witnessed 25% jump in applications and in general historically Yale received more applications per MBA spot compared to Tuck.. That means something! So Tuck is awesome but Yale is no less.. It’s ‘personal’ choice at the end of the day!

  • YaleoverDartmouth

    TOO MUCH! Dude! Tuck endowment is less than 50% of Yale SOM’s (check John’s comment in another post). Yale GMAT and GPA scores are consistently above that of Tuck.. Tuck has historical advantage and SOM is new to MBA game, I agree.. But the gap has narrowed immensely esp. for Internationals and those interested in Finance jobs. Awesome new building, new dean and rise in rankings and better fin aid.. And better overall University brand prestige and location.. I see them as peers now. In Both BW and FT rankings Yale is above Dartmouth.. And experience-wise Yale is keeping class size at 320 for next 5-7 years which is just 30-40 above the Dartmouth MBA size.. So forget past and live in present! This year Yale witnessed 25% jump in applications and in general historically Yale received more applications per MBA spot compared to Tuck.. That means something! So Tuck is awesome but Yale is no less..

  • Greer.west

    I’ve spoken to two current Tuck students and will say that I was not impressed with the the interaction. Both were very dry and did not seem interested in the conversation at all. For all of this talk about Tuck students being so friendly and ready to help prospective students I simply didn’t get that impression.

  • agreewithu

    Your comments make sense to me. If an applicant enjoys a small and friendly and tight-knit community and is not overly inspired by the big city then Tuck, Darden, and Johnson all have some common attributes that would likely appeal. I happen to love all three and would be very pleased to attend any, but favor Tuck and Johnson (I love skiing and Johnson’s Immersion Program (and Cayuga Fund). Hope I have that privilege. Yale imo also shares many similar traits obviously except for the urban environment.
    good luck

  • tenderX

    Yes it is. Like it or not, Tuck always seen as peer and similar to Harvard and Wharton.

  • um

    Yale a Tuck safety school, lol

  • MBA Grad

    I wouldn’t say that it’s “low”. Look at how close all of the scores are…they’re separated by razor thin margins, making this a closely cropped group. HBS probably took a slight hit due to its size-there’s no doubt that it’s network of alumni penetrates every area of business and society, but it might require slightly more effort to connect with them on balance relative to a school where intense bonding is part of the value proposition.

  • David

    I’m honestly surprised Harvard got ranked so low. Really, other than the great faculty and challenging case method; I was pretty sure 100% that one of the top main draws of HBS was the alumni network.

    Has that dropped as of recent? Or is this just the Economists bias? Genuinely curious here, this is the first time I see something like this. I’m hoping someone can answer that for me, as I’m honestly all ears to listening (or rather reading in this case).

  • Tuckie#2

    I am a fairly recent Tuck grad (2009), and loved it!!
    I agree that Darden and Fuqua were possibilities for me personally, but so was Johnson. Yale was not on my personal radar screen. I agree with the thinking though that there are some common themes amongst these mentioned programs – notwithstanding that Tuck is the best (personal bias).

  • Tuckie

    For most of us Darden was always the back-up, as well as Fuqua to a certain extent. For the more non-traditionals, Yale SOM has been brought up.

  • snowAgain

    With respect to Alumni Network usefulness, I think this is a powerful long-term attribute for a business school to have and that it should not be underestimated by prospects.
    Also, Dartmouth Tuck and Cornell Johnson seem to me to have much in common: small and collaborative culture, bucolic/non-urban locations, tight alumni networks, and highly-regarded faculties despite their sizes. Now I recognize that Dartmouth Tuck wins in terms of rankings and employer prestige over Cornell Johnson, but Cornell seems to be an excellent alternative. In recent months I visited both schools and felt similarly positive about both.