Surprises In U.S. News’ 2017 MBA Ranking

There’s a big surprise in the 2017 U.S. News MBA ranking out today (March 14).

For only the second time in 28 years, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School fought its way into a tie for first place with Harvard Business School. To capture the top prize, Wharton had to rise three places, jumping over both Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

The last time Wharton shared first in the U.S. News survey was three years ago when the Philadelphia-based school was in a three-way tie with HBS and Stanford. Wharton administrators have to be breathing a sigh of relief after Booth, building on years of momentum, surpassed the school on the U.S. News list last year for the very first time.

Wharton’s emergence, however, likely has to do more with flaws in U.S. News’ methodology than any major improvements at the school. Wharton was a beneficiary of the way the magazine calculates salary and employment metrics to gain its first place finish (see How Wharton Fought Its Way To The Top Of U.S. News’ 2017 MBA Ranking).


New Stanford GSB Dean Jonathan Levin sees his school fall behind HBS, Wharton & Booth

There are other surprises on this year’s list–and a few shocks. Stanford, despite its highly advantageous geographical location in the most dynamic economy in the world, fell three places to fourth, behind HBS, Wharton and No. 3 Chicago Booth. Stanford’s fall is largely a result of the self-confidence of its MBA graduates who wait longer than peers at other schools to accept their job offers. Only 62.8% of its MBAs were employed by graduation, compared to 85.8% at Wharton, mainly because fewer students are pursuing jobs with mainstream MBA employers, preferring startups and early-stage companies that hire just in time. In all probability, that is also why Stanford slipped in U.S. News’ survey of corporate recruiters, falling behind HBS, Wharton and Chicago Booth among the major employers who complete the survey.

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School and MIT’s Sloan School of Management each climbed one place to finish in a three-way tie with Stanford for the No. 4 spot. New York University’s Stern School of Business, unfairly penalized by U.S. News over a human error in filling out the magazine’s survey last year, climbed back to 12th place from 20th in 2016. Yale’s School of Management, which rose five spots last year to win its highest U.S. News ranking ever, held onto its ninth place finish.

Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business proved that its strategy of offering full scholarships to every single MBA student has paid off. For the first time ever, Carey cracked the Top 25 list, moving up ten places to 25th from 35 a year ago, thanks to significant improvements in the quality of its incoming cohort of students (see Biggest Winners & Losers In U.S. News’ 2017 MBA Ranking). The University of Southern California’s Marshall School also made big gains, rising seven places to a rank of 24th from 31 in 2016. To make way for Carey and Marshall, two schools fell off the Top 25 list. Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business and Notre Dame University’s Mendoza College of Business, both tied at 25th last year, fell into another tie this year to rank 29th.


Darden Dean Scott Beardsley has seen two straight ranking drops

Besides the drop by Stanford, two other Top 25 schools lost some ground. The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and Vanderbilt University’s Owen School of Management both fell three places to finish 14th and 25th, respectively. It’s the second consecutive year that Darden has fallen on the U.S. News list under new Dean Scott Beardsley. The school’s full-time MBA program was ranked tenth only two years ago.

Though the U.S. News ranking fails to assess schools outside the U.S., it is arguably the most watched and followed of all the MBA rankings. The magazine puts a 2018 date on the ranking, even though it is coming out in 2017 and based on 2016 data. That’s largely because of the use of quantiative data on admissions and career outcomes. The methodology takes into account a wealth of proprietary and school-supplied data to crank out its annual ranking of the best full-time MBA programs. The magazine does its own peer assessment survey of B-school deans and MBA directors (25% of the score). It also does its own survey of corporate recruiters (accounting for 15% of the overall ranking). U.S. News said it averaged the recruiter scores over the past three years for the ranking. The magazine reported a 43% response rate for the peer survey but none for the mashup of recruiter polls.

Other metrics included in the ranking are starting salaries and bonuses (14%), employment rates at and three months after graduation (7% to 14%, respectively), student GMATs and GREs scores (about 16%), undergrad GPAs (about 8%), and the percentage of applicants who are accepted to a school (a little over 1%). This is the fifth year U.S. News included GRE scores in its ranking methodology.


  • gsbgrad

    As a ’14 Stanford grad who chose between GSB and HBS, and chose GSB (which was true for a meaningful percentage of my classmates), I find this ranking disappointing and flawed. Salary and timeliness for hire may be important at the long-tail, but it is not important here and says nothing of my experience.

    I went to Stanford as a former VC that wanted to be best positioned to have my own fund in the future. I studied 200 top investor bios, and 65% actually had MBAs, and amongst those with MBAs, the vast majority went to Stanford. When I chose Stanford over Harvard, I got a lot of push back from my family and former employer, but the tied ranking made me comfortable choosing Stanford, even with the more limited brand recognition vs. Harvard. This drop in rankings would require even more resolve in my plan.

    The reasons for falling, and the methodology for ranking has absolutely nothing to do with the things that matter to me or define a good business school in the top tier. Stanford is a highly entrepreneurial place. Salary and time to employment are not reflective of who we are. Citing “confidence” as the explanation for slow time to employment is just crazy. Slow time to employment is because we have a very high percentage of classmates who choose non-traditional jobs and start companies. To me, these are the types of people I want to be surrounded by. They are so intelligent, ambitious and take risks – all things that require confidence and resolve.

    When I left Stanford, I wanted operating experience, and it took me a couple months to secure my “just in time job”. I also made far less than I ever made in finance. But none of those things were indicative of the quality of Stanford or the quality of the job I took. I think about Interpersonal Dynamics and Leadership Labs many times a day, even two years later. My job was a direct result of Entrepreneurship and VC, where Eric Schmidt and Peter Wendell led the class, and my weekly advisor led the National Venture Capital Association for many years. This advisor introduced me to key VCs, who then pointed me in the direction of the company I ultimately ended up joining. With this insight, I found a classic rocket ship. I joined at employee 100, and the Company is now 4.5x bigger. I was the second person on my team, that is now a team nearing 30. I have 13 direct reports, and I’m building a global function.

    I’m still paying back loans, and I don’t love that, but only Stanford would have put me in a position to survey the innovation landscape so broadly and focus so intensely on my leadership style. Hopefully next year we see some rankings that better reflect what “best” means for a broad range of ambitions.

  • Truth

    The Wharton pay number is manipulated. Read their employment report and the other M7 employment reports. The number doesn’t logically follow. The pay at HBS and GSB is higher. The pay at Booth is almost identical.