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.


  • Stanford GSB

    Well, CBS is beating Yale at everything that you listed.

  • mbagrad

    I 100% agree, and I’m sure other MBA grads who still browse this from time to time all feel the same way. As a 2016 MBA alum from one of the top 15-20 schools, I can say that from engaging with my peers from other schools, the day-to-day grind you go through is very similar regardless of the school you end up. In other words, how you do at one school vs. another really shouldn’t differ much, and if it does, it is very marginal. As someone mentioned below it’s all about the individual once you’re in one of these fine institutions.

    From my experiences recruiting (albeit mostly in tech), unless there are real tight-knit alumni strongholds, as long as you are good enough to get the interview room, being M7 vs. Top 20 is no different. If you’re in the room, it’s on you to prove yourself that you are the right fit for for the job, and at that point the employer does not base their decisions anymore on the school you went to.

    In MBA we learn about marketing and positioning, and it’s very clear that all these top schools are putting their professors’ studies and advice into action when they put together the materials to make websites like this one generate so much hype and hits. If you’re a prospective, don’t fall into the trap of taking sites like this too seriously and too literal 🙂

  • This article is laughable

    No kidding. Not being able to secure a job is a possible reality no matter what school you attended.

  • JohnAByrne

    Thanks for your thoughts. You clearly have a deep understanding of the limitations of these stats. So I really appreciate your intelligent and thoughtful perspective. Our total comp numbers generally take these issues into account. We estimate other guaranteed for Kellogg, for example, and we do not include relocation allowances in the Wharton number. The Ross pay number, I now believe, may be somewhat inflated given the school’s 87% response rate to its employment survey, the lowest response for any prestige school and just two points above the required minimum threshold for reporting pay and placement data. I totally agree with your observation on PE and VC jobs. Stanford and HBS have a clear and distinct advantage here and those jobs are among the most lucrative available to MBAs today.

  • CreatingValue

    John, I do think that what schools choose to include in the “other guaranteed “compensation” is the main driver of the skewness of this metric, probably even more so than averages vs. mean or even the (%) reporting.

    For example, Ross’s median salary is $117.75K vs. Kellogg’s $125K but Kellogg only reports Sign-On bonuses whereas Ross reports other Sign-On + Other Guaranteed, which pushes the “Total Pay” above Kellogg’s. Another example is that Yale SOM and Wharton include relocation pay in their Other Guaranteed figure, but neither Columbia nor Booth does.

    I would argue that the ambiguity of Other Guaranteed Compensation skews the pay figures immensely. If we ranked just median/average base salaries, the groupings are very similar to the common wisdom “ranking tiers”:

    Tiers By Median Salary
    1) HBS/Stanford (135K/136K)
    2) Wharton/Kellogg/Booth/Columbia/Sloan/Hass/Tuck (all 125K)
    3) Ross/Yale/Darden/Stern/Fuqua (between 115-120K)

    From the perspective of a M7 student who’s gone through recruiting this seemed to be aligned with the reality of opportunities across the schools. The difference between H/S and group 2 schools is H/S has access to big boy PE/VC jobs that none of the group 2 schools do. At, group 2 schools, the plurality of students all do the same tier 1 IB/consulting. The group 3 schools have same opportunities as group 2, but tier 1 firms have lower quotas (thus driving down the salary a bit).

  • Anon

    I agree!

  • somsquared

    higher GMAT, higher GPA, lower acceptance rate, higher MBB/BB/PE/VC placement

  • @somsquared

    go ahead argue

  • somsquared

    SOM is arguably a tier above Tuck/CBS


    Your IP address has given me a treasure trove of info. Even the best case scenarios I envisioned for you are far from reality.

    However, I won’t blow up your spot by letting people know just how bad things really are over there. 40 comments later, I’m committed to taking the high road.

    So rest assured your truths will stay our secret. And better yet, I will not let the people who comment at CNN dot com know that despite your alias being Ted Turner there, you are, in fact, not Ted Turner.