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The M7, Elite Of The Elite, By The Numbers

Chicago Booth students in class. Courtesy photo

In the business world, the M7 need no introduction. Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, Columbia Business School, MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management are — and have long been — the cream of the crop.

The designation itself — M7, standing for Magnificent 7 or Magic 7 — is self-given, and therein lies the source of a long-running, probably inextinguishable dispute. Many feel it should be the Terrific 10, including Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, UC-Berkeley’s Haas School, and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business; the rankings lately certainly reflect that. For that matter, you could add another couple of names — Yale SOM, in particular, has been making waves lately — and see little dropoff in the quality of education. Or the cost.

But the M7 modality, set in stone after a legendary meeting of the seven schools’ deans many years ago, is more than just shorthand for greatness. It affects interactions at every level of the seven schools and other schools that do business with them. It impacts more than the twice-yearly meetings among the seven deans — it also impacts meetings among vice deans, admission directors, career management directors, even PR and marketing types.

MAKING THE MOST IMPORTANT DECISION BE THE MOST WELL-INFORMED

If you’re seeking an MBA, none of this much matters. All that does matter is that the M7 is the Holy Grail of the MBA Kingdom, and hard as hell to get into —and afford. Every year, a huge number of applicants will only apply to the M7 schools or a subset of them, and every year, many will fail to crack the code. There are always some success stories, but there are always more failures — see the M7’s acceptance rates, below — because these schools are the most selective in the B-school landscape.

How much does the fascination with this group of schools and their mysterious self-designation have to do with some applicants’ obsession with only attending an M7 school? Hard to quantify. But just try to persuading them that the Tuck School or the Darden School at the University of Virginia might be preferable. Crickets.

So, in the interest of making one of the most important decisions of your life be one of the most well-informed, we’ve compiled updated numbers on as many aspects of attending an M7 school as we could find. We contrast everything from GMATs and GPAs to starting salaries and job offer rates. We have rankings by school and discipline, as well as information on cost and scholarship availability. In short, this guide will help you decide whether to aim your B-school aspirations at the best of the best, and what that might entail.

BEST OF THE BEST

What will you learn? For one thing, times change. Just two years ago, only two the seven schools had at least 40% female students. Now, six do, led by Wharton’s 44%. In terms of under-represented minorities, a couple schools have seen big jumps in two years: Chicago Booth grew its minority population by 7 percentage points, to 29%, while Stanford GSB also grew to 29%, from 23% in 2014. MIT Sloan, meanwhile, backslid, going from 25% in 2014 to 18% in 2016.

Two years ago, Wharton’s incoming class’s average score on the General Management Admission Test outdid Harvard’s class for the first time ever. Last year, Wharton repeated the feat, outdueling HBS 730-729. But Stanford — which is also the most exclusive of the seven schools, with a miserly 6.1% acceptance rate — bested them both with an average score of 737. Stanford’s 3.73 average GPA was best among the M7, too.

It’s no secret that two years at any of the M7 schools will set a student back about $200,000 — that’s been the case for a couple of years now. Of course, those numbers keep inching upward: An MBA from Stanford GSB, leading the pack, will cost about $210,838 (not counting scholarships or fellowships), while HBS isn’t far behind at $204,640. Kellogg is the least costly of the bunch, at $189,020.

That’s a lot of scratch. But don’t lose sight of the salient fact: When it comes to the top seven MBA programs in the world, you’re looking at the best of the best, which attracts the most talented students and faculty, and certainly the most corporate recruiters offering the most sought-after jobs. One more thing these schools boast: highly achieving alumni and valuable networks in nearly every walk of life.

  • avivalasvegas

    I’m guessing you’re other addition to the list is Tuck? If so, I suppose I can agree that they are comparable. There was a time not too long ago that Ross was considered a solid Top 10 program – not sure what happened there.

    I like the EU schools you’ve listed. IMD’s had a rough half decade but its a top quality program for sure. The only issue I have with both INSEAD and IMD is the length of the program. As I look back at my 2 years, there was a LOT of opportunity and learning that came from my internship and the second half of the program. I wouldn’t trade that extra year in for all the scholarship money in the world.

    I do agree that the US job market > the EU job market for most. There was a time pre- Brexit that the disparity was almost gone and the currency rates actually meant you could be paid more for a similar role in parts of Europe than you could in the US. Add in the very arguable better quality of life and you’d have a solid option.

    Not anymore.

    I’d be curious to know if LBS grads have a hard time finding employment in the US?

  • C. Taylor

    I guess it depends on your viewpoint. It’s pretty easy for some to write INSEAD, IMD, and LBS off in comparison to “top 5” US programs. I suggest doing so is a mistake.

    I view the US as having nine (fairly even) ultra-elite programs, rather than seven, with Kellogg and Haas holding up the rear. US programs in general have one key advantage over non-US programs for anyone who doesn’t have US citizenship or residence status. That is the two sequential dice rolls for access to the largest single-language MBA job market in the world–the US.

    The main difference in outcomes you see across top programs is due to differences in backgrounds and cost of living adjustments. This means, for example, some will get VP roles post-MBA, and others will get associate roles.

  • John

    That’s because IB is not lucrative these days and people want to have a life instead of being corporate slaves. Grads from higher-ranked schools choose something more interesting to do.

  • Haha Good One

    The reason most people seek a top MBA is the job afterwards and when looking at programs in the South there are clearly a couple schools who attract the blue chips while the rest not so much.

    Duke/Darden and to some extent Emory/Texas but there are clearly roles that are held our for M7s — high end corp strategy/top PE/VCs/Top Boutique Consultancies. MBB/BBs obv only recruit at the top schools and i would guess thats one other good indicator on making it to the Suite.

    Using CEOs is a bit misleading since theres a number of factors besides the alma mater, to get there but if looking down at the C-Suite as a whole I’d be confident the M7 have an advantage.

  • avivalasvegas

    I can see the struggle Marc faced with this. One on hand, you’ve got 2 great schools in LBS and INSEAD, worthy competitors to the bottom end of the Terrific Ten. On the other, they’re just not in the same league as the M7, despite being excellent options for those not interested in moving to the US. Ultimately, if either were worthy of the contrast to the M7, I would support their inclusion. To date, that just hasn’t been case but I’m hopeful that will change!

  • avivalasvegas

    They’re just trolls – ignore them. They know that IIT is nothing but a middle management factory.

  • M7Bound

    Doesn’t that seem a bit dubious? What if other schools, too, stopped reporting the salary numbers of like 10% of their graduating class? Can’t imagine how that won’t greatly skew the numbers + provide misleading results. Ridiculous!

  • Southern ROI

    I consider UNC/Texas/Florida/Ross = to Darden.(UVA appears fancy, but in reality is it better than McCombs???, all Rugby and Imagery aside?) They are a both Public, so I know Darden is classy, but come on! They are a not Ivy! I Consider South Carolina a step above, because of their International Business Program (not flashy, not expensive,but effective).If they tripled the cost, I guess then they would be in UVA territory. Obviously Duke is in another CLASS, but if you ask anyone from an M7 program how they would rank Fuqua and Duke gets treated like a red headed step child(read this site and see Tier 3). I have several VP’s at my company from Duke. I’d rather be top 10% from Ross/ MCombs /Darden/ or Fuqua then last at HBS.I digress, if Finance/Consulting is your goal you are dead on. If you want to be a CEO lets pull the Fortune 500 and find out who is running America. That’s all I’m saying. MIT would get allot more respect by that regard as well as Notre Dame! M7 = Smoke and Mirrors!

  • Southern ROI

    I consider UNC/Texas/Florida/Ross = to Darden.(UVA appears fancy, but in reality is it better than McCombs???, all Rugby and Imagery aside?) They are a State School! They are a not Ivy! I Consider South Carolina a step above, because of their International Business Program (not flashy, not expensive,but effective).If they tripled the cost, I guess then they would be in UVA territory. Obviously Duke is in another CLASS, but if you ask anyone from an M7 program how they would rank Fuqua and Duke gets treated like a red headed step child(read this site and see Tier 3). I have several VP’s at my company from Duke. I’d rather be top 10% from Ross/ MCombs /Darden/ or Fuqua then last at HBS.I digress, if Finance/Consulting is your goal you are dead on. If you want to be a CEO lets pull the Fortune 500 and find out who is running America. That’s all I’m saying.

  • Mike

    Read the above comments. The alumni numbers are completely illogical.