Kellogg | Mr. Danish Raised, US Based
GMAT 710, GPA 10.6 out of 12
Darden | Ms. Unicorn Healthcare Tech
GMAT 730, GPA 3.5
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBB to PM
GRE 338, GPA 4.0
Harvard | Mr. Sales To Consulting
GMAT 760, GPA 3.49
Chicago Booth | Mr. Semiconductor Guy
GMAT 730, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. Polyglot
GMAT 740, GPA 3.65
Wharton | Mr. Sr. Systems Engineer
GRE 1280, GPA 3.3
Tuck | Mr. Consulting To Tech
GMAT 750, GPA 3.2
Stanford GSB | Mr. Rocket Scientist Lawyer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.65 Cumulative
Stanford GSB | Mr. Navy Officer
GMAT 770, GPA 4.0
Darden | Mr. Stock Up
GMAT 700, GPA 3.3
Stanford GSB | Mr. Classic Candidate
GMAT 760, GPA 3.9
Cambridge Judge Business School | Mr. Social Scientist
GRE 330, GPA 3.5
Darden | Mr. Federal Consultant
GMAT 780, GPA 3.26
INSEAD | Mr. Consulting Fin
GMAT 730, GPA 4.0
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Enlisted Undergrad
GRE 315, GPA 3.75
INSEAD | Ms. Hope & Goodwill
GMAT 740, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. Milk Before Cereals
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3 (16/20 Portuguese scale)
Chicago Booth | Mr. Guy From Taiwan
GRE 326, GPA 3.3
Darden | Mr. Leading Petty Officer
GRE (MCAT) 501, GPA 4.0
Columbia | Mr. NYC Native
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Tepper | Mr. Leadership Developement
GMAT 740, GPA 3.77
Harvard | Ms. Athlete Entrepreneur
GMAT 750, GPA 3.3
Darden | Mr. Education Consulting
GRE 326, GPA 3.58
Harvard | Ms. Ambitious Hippie
GRE 329, GPA 3.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Unrealistic Ambitions
GMAT 710, GPA 2.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Equal Opportunity
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0

UPenn’s Wharton School vs. Columbia Business School


Columbia is one of the largest two-year, full-time MBA programs in the world, with a total enrollment of nearly 1,300 students–not including more than 200 additional Executive MBAs. Still, it’s smaller than Wharton’s1,674 full-time MBA students. In fact, only one other top school enrolls more full-time MBAs than Wharton: that’s Harvard Business School, with 1,837 students. Even accounting for Columbia’s location in New York, it’s surprising to see that Wharton enrolls a significantly higher percentage of international students (37% vs. Columbia’s 32%), more female students (40% versus Columbia’s 34%), and a far greater representation of minority students (29% vs. Columbia’s 18%). The numbers for women, international and minority students are for the Class of 2011.

Enrollment StatsWhartonColumbia
Total MBA Enrollment1,6741,293



Surprisingly, the largest single chunk of MBAs at Wharton have undergraduate backgrounds in the humanities and social sciences. At first blush, you’d expect to see far more math and engineering folks here because of the school’s strength in finance. Instead, you get a sizable group of poets.

Undergrad DegreesWhartonColumbia
Humanities/Social Science42%NA


Jobs and Pay:

The financial meltdown of 2009 led to a disaster of an MBA recruiting season at Columbia’s Business School. Nearly four of every ten graduating students in the Class of 2009 was without a job at commencement. Columbia was more severely impacted than any other top ten school because it traditionally feeds Wall Street and the big banks which were largely on life support at the time. In fact, for the first time in recent history, three consulting firms–McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain–were at the top of the list of employers hiring Columbia MBAs rather than the financial services firms which tend to dominate. The same three consulting firms hired away the most Wharton grads as well. Wharton did slightly better, though nothing to brag about, because a third of its class didn’t have jobs when they graduated. Grads from both schools fared much better three months after commencement, yet roughly one in four MBAs were still looking even then. Starting pay for Wharton grads was just a little bit more than at Columbia by about $600 a year.

The estimates of median pay 10 years after graduation and over a full career come from a study by PayScale done for BusinessWeek and do not include stock options or equity stakes by entrepreneurs. Columbia grads did better after ten years than Wharton grads, but surprisingly, over an entire career, they trailed Wharton MBAs. The differences, however, are slight. In fact, Columbia MBAs were third in career pay behind only Harvard and Wharton.


Job & Pay DataWhartonColumbia
Starting salary & bonus$123,741$123,150
MBAs employed at commencement65.8%61.1%
MBAs employed 3 months after commencement74.6%77.3%
Estimated median pay ten years after commencement$161,000$165,000
Estimated median pay & bonus over a full career$3,491,372$3,349,669

Who Hires Who:

Big prestigious companies come to both Wharton and Columbia to hire the best and brightest. The single biggest surprise is the emergence of consulting firms at both schools for the Class of 2009, a consequence of the near total collapse of finance due to the severe economic recession. For the first time in recent memory, consulting firms were the top three hirers at both schools known for finance. Even so, about 48% of Columbia’s Class of 2009 still went into financial services, vs. 43% at Wharton. Interestingly, Morgan Stanley hired only five Columbia MBAs vs. 18 Wharton grads. Microsoft hired eight Whartonites and Amazon snapped up seven from the Class of 2009. Typically, more Wharton grads go into health care, technology, and consumer products and retail companies than those at Columbia. NA does not necessarily mean that a company didn’t hire any graduates from the school, but rather that the number of grads it did hire did not qualify it for breakout treatment by the school. The cutoff number at Wharton was six hires; at Columbia, it was three hires. An asterisk in the Wharton column indicates that the company at least three MBAs or as many as five.

Hiring CompanyNumber of Hires

at Wharton

Number of Hires

at Columbia

McKinsey & Co.5046
Boston Consulting Group3121
Bain & Co.1820
Morgan Stanley135
JP Morgan Chase1215
Deloitte Consulting1012
Deutsche Bank1011
Goldman Sachs98
Credit Suisse811
Pacific Investment Mgt.8NA
Booz & Co.720
BofA/Merrill Lynch79
Barclays Capital610
Johnson & Johnson6NA
American Express3*6
American ContinentalNA4
Fidelity Investments3*4
General ElectricNA4
Blackstone Group3*3

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.