Poets&Quants Top Business Schools

University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management


School Data

Annual Tuition: 36,140

Acceptance Rate: 39

Average GPA: 3.41

International: 17%

Minority: 19%

Mean Age: 29

Average GMAT: 695

GMAT Range (mid-80%): 620-730

Female: 29%

GPA Range (mid-80%): 3.01 - 3.81

Full-Time Enrollment: 86

Male: 71%

The big challenge for Carlson is to overcome a perception that the school is merely a regional player in the business school sweepstakes. As new Dean Sri Zaheer puts it, “The challenge for us is really to raise our national and international profile. We want to make sure we get recognized for what we are. Our location is a blessing and a curse. We have these amazing relationships with 20 of the Fortune 500 companies that are in our backyard, but our location is a challenge because we have to change the perception that we are a local or regional school. We have alumni in 78 countries around the world and in all 50 states.”

If anyone can put this school on a world stage with other public university business schools such as the University of Michigan, UC-Berkeley, and the University of Virginia, it’s Zaheer. She was a professor at the school for 20 years before being named dean in March of 2012. A feisty advocate for the school and its students, she is passionate and tireless. And she has a good story to tell. Carlson has an intimate MBA program with an annual intake of just over 100 students divided into two cohorts that go through the core in lockstep fashion. This is a program where every MBA student knows each other as well as the faculty and staff.

The most distinctive part of the program is based on an 15-month experiential learning experience that every student must undertake. The “enterprise” experience–in one of four areas such as brand, consulting, ventures and funds–accounts for one-sixth of an MBA’s entire workload. Students are placed on small teams managed by both a professional and academic director and put to work on real problems with local companies. Carlson MBA candidates interested in finance or investment management, for example, can help to manage a student-run mutual fund with $40 million in assets from actual clients. “We can really take someone who has been in the military and wants to become a finance person and at the end of two years they will interview just as well as someone who has been an analyst or investment banker before,” says Zaheer.

The consulting program, headed by an ex-McKinsey manager, has worked with such companies as Best Buy, Medtronic and Northwest Airlines on projects.

Students aren’t only getting real world experience here. They are connecting with companies that are likely to hire them once they graduate. “Firms get to know our students very well from the enterprise projects,” reasons Zaheer. “It’s phenomenal for career changers but it’s also good for career enhancers because they have the ultimate responsibility for the project work.”

A “global discovery program” is part of a second-year course that culminates in a two-week international trip every January. Each section of the class travels to a different locale around the globe. Once they return, students reconvene in the course to engage in a comparative analysis of different regions.

Rankings Analysis:

In 2011, the Carlson School lost its dean who left for the University of Michigan’s Ross School. The result: Carlson suffered a fairly significant fall in the PoetsandQuants ranking of the country’s best MBA programs. The school fell 10 places to 34th from 25th in 2010. Dean transitions can often be tough on schools because the programs tend to momentarily lose focus on some metrics measured by the organizations that rank business schools. At least, that seems to be the story at Carlson.

The school lost ground in three major MBA ranking in 2011. Carlson, which had been ranked 75th globally by The Financial Times in 2010, fell off the FT’s list of the best MBA programs in 2011 when the British newspaper failed to get the minimum number of respondents to its survey of Carlson alums. It also fell behind in the latest rankings by Forbes and The Economist, in both cases dropping two places to a rank of 28 and a rank of 65, respectively. U.S. News managed to be a bit kinder to the school, giving it a three-place boost to rank 21st in 2011, up from 24th in 2010.

With new Dean Sri Zaheer firmly in place, Carlson is in a good position to turnaround its rankings status this year. Already, for example, the school won back it’s Financial Times ranking in 2012, coming in at 72 globally and 35 among U.S. schools on the FT list. U.S. News, however, ranked the school 30th in 2012, a drop of nine places from 2011.

The school will face an interesting test in 2012 when BusinessWeek surveys its latest crop of graduates along with the companies that recruit at Carlson. When BW last did this in 2010, the school earned a respectable ranking of 28th, up from a blanket second-tier listing in 2008. In its graduate opinion survey, BW picked up some critical noise, largely from international students who were less than satisfied with the career services office. As one graduate explained: “From the perspective of an international student expecting to have career opportunities with important companies in the Twin Cities Area, it becomes frustrating that most of the companies have strict sponsorship policies. This is the case for Target, 3M, General Mills, now even Medtronic. It wouldn’t be a problem for students like me, willing to eventually return to our countries. However these companies don’t hire F-1 Visa holders even for internships or short-term assignments which is part of the Practical Training block of the MBA.”

MBA Program Consideration Set:

Stretch Schools: EmoryIndianaUSC
Match Schools:  GeorgetownNotre DameWashington UniversityRiceVanderbiltTexas A&MWisconsinMichigan State
Safe Schools: University of WashingtonBrigham YoungSouthern MethodistRochesterMaryland

Notes: MBA Program Consideration Set: If you believe you’re a close match to this school–based on your GMAT and GPA scores,  your age and work experience, you should look at these other competitive full-time MBA programs as well. We list them by stretch, match and safety. These options are presented on the basis of brand image and ranking status.

Contact Information

321 Nineteenth Avenue South,
Suite 1-110,
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Admissions Office:
School Social Media:


The Carlson School is nationally ranked, has connections to global organizations, and is internationally respected. Our dynamic, intensive Full-Time MBA program relies on the bond formed when a highly motivated, diverse, and uniquely qualified cohort comes together for a transformative experience. We use the expertise of our world-class faculty, a network of top-flight practitioners, and your talented, diverse classmates to help you become prepared, educated, and well-positioned for continued success.

Experiential Learning

The Carlson School offers four Enterprise programs—Brand, Consulting, Ventures, andFunds—that give Full-Time MBA students opportunities to address real challenges from client businesses that expect real results. It’s an in-depth, transformational experience no other business school can offer. Being part of an Enterprise will give you a depth of experience that can help you move your career in a new direction. You’ll be part of a student-managed team that works with professionals at client organizations, in a structured setting, gaining valuable knowledge from their experience.

Career Development

The world-class GraduateBusiness Career Center at the Carlson School offers extensive services and resources to help you with all aspects of your career development, from career coaching and mock interviews to internship placement and negotiation strategies. Our location in a thriving business community presents countless opportunities for you to connect with recruiters from numerous industries. In fact, throughout the year, the Carlson School hosts more than 80 companies on campus–far more than most schools can offer. Opportunities extend all over the globe. Our business development team is actively building new relationships every day.

International Experience

The Carlson School is one of the first in the country to require all undergraduate and graduate students to incorporate an international experience into their degree requirements. In fact, few schools can match the Carlson School’s level of study abroad student participation. TheGlobalDiscovery Program, unique among public business schools, gives you and your peers the opportunity to enrich your education and explore topics that have a profound impact on business around the world. Global Discovery aims to help you along the path toward becoming a globally competent business leader. The course takes place during fall semester of your second year, and continues with a two-week international component in January. Each section of the class travels to a different location around the globe, reconvening at the Carlson School upon completion of the course to engage in a comparative analysis of different regions.

Twin Cities Community

Located in one of the most diverse and highly involved business communities in the nation, the Carlson School has the distinct advantage of having 18  Fortune 500 companies in the metro area, including UnitedHealth Group, Target, Best Buy, 3M, U.S. Bancorp, Medtronic, General Mills and Ameriprise Financial. In fact, Minnesota has the second highest number of Fortune500 companies per capita in the country. Our thriving and dynamic metro area is consistently listed at or near the top various national rankings for best cities for health, safety, volunteerism, activity and employment.


Each Full-Time MBA student takes part in a base curriculum that encompasses nine core courses, a three semester experiential learning experience in an Enterprise Program and a two week Global Discovery abroad program. In addition, each student has the opportunity to tailor their MBA degree to fit their own personal career goals. Students can choose from a variety of emphasis areas, seek one of the five dual degree options, or pursue industry specific electives through coursework offered in specialized programs, like the Medical Industry Leadership Institute program at Carlson.


The Carlson School MBA programs are rigorous, demanding programs designed to guide you through core coursework with faculty who are leaders in their fields; through hands-on projects in which you’ll answer to real, paying clients; through international experiences that will prepare you for a global business environment; and through a distinctive education in one of the world’s most vibrant business communities. You’ll find that, in many ways, what you get out of your Carlson MBA will be shaped by what you put into it. That said, if you’re looking for a rigorous and relevant education that’ll position you for whatever challenge you undertake next, you’ve come to the right place.


Part of one of the leading public research land grant universities in the country, research by Carlson School faculty continually contributes new knowledge and business practices that are directly applied in the corporate world. Major research contributions by Carlson School faculty include the creation of the “4Ps of marketing,” which is now a core principle taught in business schools worldwide; and the creation of the field of Management Information Systems, with the first-ever department, internationally recognized research center, and information systems degree. 

Dual Degrees

The Dual Degree program enables high-achieving students to develop sought-after business expertise that complements their graduate curriculum. Earn a Carlson School MBA in addition to the following degrees in less than two years of additional study: Master of Health Administration (MHA), Master of Public Policy (MPP), Juris Doctor (JD), Doctor of Medicine (MD) and Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD).  These dual degrees allow dedicated students to pair business acumen with other specialized skillsets. Please note, these intensive, but rewarding programs require that students apply and be admitted to both degree programs separately.

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