Michigan’s Ross vs. Northwestern’s Kellogg

Kellogg’s Don Jacobs Center at Northwestern University.

Program Focus: The most obvious difference is that Kellogg has long been known as the business school for marketing. In U.S. News & World Report’s latest survey of B-school deans and directors, Kellogg takes first place in marketing (Michigan is eighth), third place in general management (Michigan is a strong sixth directly behind Wharton and Dartmouth), seventh place in finance (Michigan is 12th). In entrepreneurship, the survey shows Michigan in 12th place direclty behind Northwestern which is in 11th place. It should be noted, however, that only .5% of the Class of 2009 at Ross started their own companies straight from school (compared to 10% at Stanford). in non-profit management, Northwestern is rated fourth, while Michigan is sixth, and in production/operations, Northwestern is considered fourth, with Michigan right behind it at fifth. The only specialty area of study where Michigan beats Northwestern is international business where the Ross school is ranked fourth, behind Thunderbird, Wharton, and the University of South Carolina, and Kellogg is ranked 13th. These are exceptionally strong showings for Michigan, which almost beats every other public university business school in every key specialty.

Curriculum: At Kellogg, the incoming class is divided into cohorts of some 65 students, each dubbed a specific name, from “Poets” and “Cash Cows” to “Jive Turkeys” and “Bucket Heads.” You can opt out of one of the nine fundamental courses in the core and take a higher-level offering, a so-called turbo class, but you pretty much move through the core curriculum with your section. About half of Kellogg’s students waive at least one course. The schools’ offerings are based on the quarter system in which you’ll take between three and five courses per quarter. Kellogg requires a minimum of 24.5 courses. Again, the key differentiator in the Kellogg experience is teamwork and collaboration which is pushed to the maximum. At Ross, incoming students are divied up into six cohorts and go through a set menu of courses together for the first semester and a half. You can waive out of some of these coures but few do other than CPAs who duck the basic accounting course (about 20% of Ross students waived accounting last year). At Ross, each semester is 14 weeks long and then also divided into seven-week mini-terms.

More importantly, the single biggest difference from the Ross perspective is its unique (and this is truly one-of-a-kind) emphasis on so-called “action learning.” After going through the core curriculum, every full-time MBA student is assigned to a five-person team and then lent to a company and a project that starts in the third week of January. There are 150 possible projects to choose from, with a bewildering array of global companies, for the 500 first-year students. This isn’t part of a course and the experience is not optional, as it often is at other business schools. It’s mandatory, intense, all-consuming, and occupies your complete time for seven straight weeks. Each team has two faculty advisers who act as coaches on the project. Some second-year students are assigned to help with team dynamics. In 2010, Google had the most popular project: 246 of the 497 students asked to be assigned to the Google team which had to come up with a strategy and plan for Google to successfully launch a new product in the European and East African markets. The logistics of pulling this off, with companies as varied as Amazon, Citigroup, Colgate-Palmolive, Barclays, General Electric, and Hershey’s, among others, in places as farflung as Peru, Malaysia, Italy, India and South Africa, among others, represents as huge an investment as any business school has ever made to create a truly differentiated experience for MBAs. Ross has four full-time staffers on this one part of the MBA program, while 35 faculty members are involved in advising the student teams and another 10 professors offer support to improve the presentations and deliverables for the client companies. Needless to say, this is Ross’ secret weapon (not only providing a unique MBA experience to students but helping to get more companies interested in the school’s grads), just as the mandatory application interviews at Kellogg have had an outsized impact on getting some of the best student material available in the world).

Kellogg School of Management. Photo by John A. Byrne.

On-Campus Recruiting: Both Kellogg and Ross attract the top MBA corporate recruiters in the world and, just as importantly, both schools have best-in-class career services offices to help with job searches. Getting an MBA at either school will expose you to an amazing array of world-class companies that actively recruit large numbers of MBAs. Outside of consulting, which draws a much higher percentage of Kellogg grads, the stats are remarkably similar in terms of what industries grads from both schools enter. Frankly, the biggest surprise is that Ross has been able to pull off in Ann Arbor. Everyone knows the decline of Detroit has put the regional economy in a tough place. You’d think that would impact recruiting at Ross to at least some extent. It has–but only in the positive. Ross’ career services staff has done an exceptional job at diversifying the recruiters who come to the school, even attracting a large number of high-tech companies including Amazon, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Dell Computer, and Genentech. Ross also does well on the consumer marketing side, with 11% of its class going into that industry–roughly the same percentage that Kellogg puts into consumer marketing despite Kellogg’s number one marketing strength. After consulting (which takes one in four students) and high tech (which takes a surprisingly high 17%), consumer marketing is the third most popular employer at Ross. Finance has much less allure at most these schools: At both Kellogg and Ross, financial services, including investment banking, private equity, and securities firms, hired just 15% of the grads. Part of this can be explained by the financial collapse, however, because at Kellogg alone the percentage of grads going into investment banking fell to only 5% from 12% a year earlier. Kellogg MBAs also seem to do extremely well with the top management consulting firms, including McKinsey, Bain, BCG and Booz, probably because of the high level of interpersonnel skills Kellogg MBAs are known for thanks to those mandatory application interviews. In fact, consulting as an industry hired 38% of Kellogg’s Class of 2009.

  • CPD

    Any chance this will be updated prior to the R1 deposit dealines?

  • Yes. This is a summer project. We intend to update all of them over the next two to three months and to add more.

  • an0n

    John, can you update these comparative articles? This is 7 years old.

  • Totally agree!

  • Update me

    This really needs to be updated

  • We’ll be doing some major updates on the smackdowns soon. We’ll update everything we have and then add a whole bunch more.

  • Deciding

    Can we see a Ross / Yale?

  • K admit

    Please, do a favor for the Kellogg community and go to Cambridge.

  • Justpassinby

    Given how many things have changed at both schools, an update would be simply awesome!

  • JohnAByrne

    Great idea.

  • Haas vs. Ross

    John, how about a smack down of the top 2 public MBA? Berkeley Haas and Michigan Ross?

  • MBAGuy

    John, what are your thoughts on Michigan? Is it not as “sexy” as some of the other b-schools? There’s not a lot of news about the school both good/bad. Its just there, hovering around a ranking of #10, not going up/down. If it was a stock, I would say it’s a solid blue chip. How’s is the brand both nationally and internationally among employers and academics? Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

  • BritishAmerican

    As an Ohio State grad who has heard the “You can beat us at football but you’ll still work for us someday” joke from Michigan grads for years, it makes me smile every time SCUM emails me to market their MBA program, as if I’d ever give it any real consideration. But here is a serious issue I have… I have been accepted into the Kellogg MBA program and the Cambridge MBA program in the U.K. I would much prefer to go to Cambridge but I don’t understand how to compare the salary statistics between the two programs. Kellogg (like all U.S b-schools) reports a base salary and shows the sign on bonus separately. Cambridge just shows the “average package salary” of its graduates. Once converted to U.S dollars it looks as if Cambridge boasts a very similar salary to Kellogg or anything other top U.S school… But what is meant when they say “average package salary”? If that includes a one-time sign on bonus or any other money that I couldn’t realistically expect to command every year then that would be a HUGE overstatement of compensation and really misleading on Cambridge’s part. Does anybody know how to compare compensation between the U.K vs U.S programs?????

  • WTF

    That would be great.
    Please let me (or other regular visitors) know if I can be of any help with that.

  • JohnAByrne

    And, by the way, I know I need to update these smack downs and add quite a few more. Will turn to this soon when news slows and our next big project on MBA Startups is completed.

  • WTF

    Thank you, John.
    Really appreciate your fast respond.

    It seems okay now. Don’t know why there was a problem before, but I tried 3 different browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Opera) on 2 different machines with the same result.

    Thanks once again!

  • JohnAByrne

    That’s really strange because I can access those pages without any trouble. I’ll take off the barrier on this and see if that changes anything for you.

  • WTF

    Pages 2 and 3 are unavailable even for logged in users. =(

  • UmNoJustNo

    Duke wins that one hands down.

  • Noname

    Thanks, John. We all really appreciate what you’ve been doing!

    Also, I’ve visited more than 15 top b-schools, and I have to say that while Northwestern University and Evanston are mindbogglingly beautiful (I’d really like to spend there much more than two years), Kellog’s facilities are VERY tired. I understand that there is not enough space for the number of people and that there is new building under way, but some maintenance would be nice nonetheless.

    And I would like to share with you a photo taken in an interview room (one where you are supposed to have job/internship interviews with world’s best companies).
    Yep. It’s scotch tape.

  • jkids210

    Thanks. I look forward to an update. Its always good reading.

  • JohnAByrne

    Totally agree. I often have to decide whether to keep on top of the current news and features or to go back and update. Need to get some balance and do both.

  • jkids210

    When will this profile be updated? It’s been 4 years so another comparison is warranted to reflect changes in the schools.

  • Bastion

    No contest. Northwestern carries the bigger name and they are higher ranked.

  • RAF

    I got my MBA at another top-20 B-school and eventually got a Ph.D. at Kellogg. I’ve looked at the differences, and I’ve concluded that the main difference is the culture. The other school did all the right things. Kellogg did the same things, but did them right, with passion and concern. Everyone at Kellogg – students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, etc. – were proud to be affiliated with the school and wanted to contribute.

  • I am a Michigan man. I met many and managed a few Kellogg guys in my career. Net, employers are well served by grads of both schools. It is hard to make generalizations, but I do thing that Midwest schools attract and produce more down to earth managers. The coastal elites tend to be a bit aloof and holier-than- thou. Coastal grads of the elites also seem to be less risk adverse, less pragmatic, and overconfident?
    I did have a chance last weekend to visit the new building at Michigan – all I can say is wow. Truly a fantastic place. Anyone who values great architecture and wants to spend their grad years in a world class environment should visit. I never visited Kellogg but cannot imagine that it holds a candle to Michigan’s new digs. – Go Blue!

  • @guest

    Actually, if you look at the career reports, they are pretty comparable in most fields. Kellogg is much better at consulting at the elite strategy firms (MBB) but Michigan does better in tech. In investment banking and corporate positions, they are both similar. Actually Duke, Darden, NYU and Yale are probably better schools to go to than Kellogg and Ross for investment banking.

  • JohnAByrne


    I love them, too. They just take a lot of time and effort to do. I pretty much have to lock out the world for a full day to do just one. I’ve been wanting to update the ones we have and significantly add to the entire list a whole new range of smack downs. I will get to this for sure, just not entirely sure when.

    Thanks for loving them!

  • liberation26

    John, I love your b-school smack downs. We are still waiting for Ross Vs Duke! 🙂

  • TWW

    Sure Chicago is half an hour away (and half hour back) by train for Kellogg students, but Ann Arbor offers great culture, sports and recreation, entertainment and night-life all with walking distance. Direct access to the intellectual resources of one of the largest and most diverse research universities in the world give Ross students an edge.

  • guest

    i think michigan shouldn’t be compared to kellogg as these two schools are not peer schools. yes, i always thought michigan trailing far behind kellogg and other top schools in ranking. they are not in the same tier. not sure why you thought the rankings would be similar…


    Georgetown vs Emory is better fight! UNC good to compare with Michigan Ross!

  • GTvsUNC

    GTOWN vs UNC seems to be a constant toss up. Many would love to see that smackdown.

  • oars

    Duke vs Yale is a good match up as well.

  • raj

    Can we have Yale SOM vs Fuqua?

  • BenGleck

    What a joke. For better or worse (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Road_to_Wellville_(film)), Kellogg is 100% a Michigan name and Michigan legacy. How dare those Illini attempt to usurp it it for their own nefarious purposes. Get some integrity, will you?

    While you’re at it, get your own lake too.

  • Ross Alumna


    Thanks very much for all of your business school writing. As a recent Ross alumna, I wanted to correct a comment about the size of Michigan’s Erb Institute student body size and also ask if you would consider a research project that would be of tremendous value to applicants. 

    The Erb Institute at Michigan has 100 students across all the years of the program, not 40. It’s the largest dual degree sustainable enterprise program in the country, which comes with substantial community resources and financial support, as well as the largest number of advisors on its boards for impactful job placement. 
    More info here: http://erb.umich.edu/

    Secondly, I continue to see the Business Week Payscale MBA analysts of salaries at 20-years and find it hard to believe that, outside of the top three, twenty year salaries are so low for almost every school. Many alumni of the top 10 or top 15 schools make $150k including base, signing bonus, and other guaranteed compensation immediately upon graduation. How can it be right that they’re only making $175k after 20 years? 

    Therefore, would you consider redoing the 20-year salary study with more stringent criteria for inclusion of a school’s figures? Particularly important is sample size at each school included. I’d have to imagine that few alumni submit their data to Payscale.com. It would be interesting if business schools could start collecting their own data from students – and even more interesting, if a central “auditing” body could do the collecting. 

    Of course, pay is only one measure of a school’s success – for many students, it is less important than other factor’s like job satisfaction, impact, and geographic mobility – and the heavy reliance on it in several MBA rankings continues to perpetuate the MBA stigma in society. 

    Thanks for your work. 

  • Being close to Chicago gives Northwestern a huge advantage; Chicago is a huge international city, while Ann Arbor is nice, but very small.

  • John P

    cool thanks I will

  • John P,

    I’ve visited both Fuqua and Darden. If you want one person’s perspective, go to this link and click on the respective school:


    I posted links to my blog on the comments section.

  • John P,
    Agree. It just takes a huge investment in time to do these smack downs and we have a lot on our plate right now. Hope to get to this soon, though. Thanks for the nudge.

  • John P

    I would still love to see Fuqua vs. darden. It’s compelling comparison and very similar. Thanks!

  • T Thomas

    Great article! I am deciding between these two schools now and it’s a difficult decision becasue they are so close. Your article was extremely helpful! Thanks!

  • MBA Decision

    How would the school cultures of Ross and Fuqua compare to Kellogg and Tuck?

  • Thanks Carlos. Besides Kellogg and Tuck, I also would put Virginia’s Darden and Cornell’s Johnson School in the mix of schools with cultures that are defined by teamwork and community, along with Stanford, Yale, UCLA and UNC. We do write about schools that are not top ranked, but there really has to be a compelling reason. An example: the new MBA program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in a story called “The Anti-MBA Business School.”

  • Carlos

    I just discovered the web site and passed my whole morning exploring it, it is very informative and entertaining. I have learned things about the process that I didn´t know existed in a few hours.

    I have a couple of questions.

    What other schools share the team work and community culture that Kellogg and Darthmouth practice?

    Does the web site publish articles about schools that are not top ranked or considered premium MBA programs?

    Thanks , greetings from Mexico. Carlos

  • Kellogg MBA

    Hi John,

    Quote: “With only 18% of its students with humanities undergraduate degrees, Kellogg has among the least number of poets of all the major business schools. That’s a bit shocking due to the reputation that Kellogg MBAs have for having high interpersonnel skills…”

    I noticed that you commented several times in several blogs in P&Q about how surprised you were about the relatively low number of Humanities undergrads and the correspondingly high number of Engineering/Math and Business/Economics undergrads that were accepted into Kellogg each year.

    My take on this as a Kellogg alum is that a large number of every Kellogg cohort, including myself, have relatively quant backgrounds, no less than that of Wharton, Chicago or Columbia but is looking to switch careers, mostly from commerce and industry (eg. as chemical engineers, physicists, etc) into management consulting and to a lesser extent, industries other than our pre-MBA fields. Kellogg as the #1 Marketing B-school in the US and globally, prepares us in every aspect possible for that switch where our strength in core business areas from strategic to operational, marketing to financial is highly regarded by top management consulting recruiters. Add to that the strong emphasis on a collaborative culture and seamless teamwork that became second nature to every Kellogg grad (we do live and breathe teamwork and collaboration at Kellogg!), it is no surprise that Kellogg is a breeding ground for management consultants and one of the first port of call for top global management consulting firms looking to recruit MBAs.

    A little off topic but it still puzzles and intrigues me up to this juncture that recruiters from the finance industry (especially the investment banks, PE and hedge funds) generally perceive Chicago’s Booth grads as more quantitatively adept when Kellogg grads across the board, have more quantitative backgrounds and are clearly more adept to working in a team (Kellogg is fiercely known for our emphasis on collaboration and teamwork while Booth is infamously known for the lack of networking among students and alumni – pls read the comments in the piece on Booth vs. Kellogg) than our peers at Booth. This could also be one of the reason why top management consulting firms like Mckinsey, Boston Consulting Group and Bain among others recruited 38% of Kellogg’s 2009 graduating class while that for Chicago is much lower. The adage-old stereotype that Kellogg grads are naturally more poets than quants is, without doubt, a myth. I sincerely hope this post would seek to provide sufficient clarification and enlightenment to potential B-school applicants and financial industry recruiters.

    Best wishes to all B-school applicants out there!


  • ZY

    Good post. I would like to see your thoughts on Kellog’s MMM vs. Michigan’s Tauber vs MIT’s LGO.

  • You will. Just takes time. I think that’s a good match up.

  • Mike

    Love it!!! I would tove to see a comparision between Ross & Duke as well.


  • SD

    Great job John. keep it up!

  • mpd762

    Hi John,

    Thanks for the great article, and this wonderful site as a whole. I’d like to echo John Doe’s request for a Kellogg vs. Tuck article. Kellogg recently began notifying applicants of their acceptances, and, in seven days, Tuck will do the same for their EA applicants. Such an article would greatly benefit EA applicants to Tuck who will essentially have two weeks to decide between these schools. If you can get to it, I don’t think there’s a better time for that comparison!

  • Vikalp,

    I really don’t know enough about you to confidently recommend whether you should apply to Ross. ISB might be your best choice, depending on your background and interests going forward. If you are in India and have not spent a lot of time outside the country, I would definitely apply to Ross. Why? Because it would be a far more valuable experience for you to leave India and study an MBA abroad. The problem with ISB is not one of quality, per se. It’s the lack of diversity of the students and faculty. You won’t get the kind of global, multi-cultural experience that you could at any of the best European or U.S. schools. That is a huge drawback to an MBA from an Indian institution. On the other hand, if that doesn’t matter to you and you plan to use your MBA in India, it may not be a big deal. Good luck.

  • Vikalp

    Hey John
    I have been an avid reader of your site till now. I need your and other community member’s help now.
    I have been accepted at ISB. Now I am confused if I should still to apply to ROSS. Can you give some insights? \

  • John Doe


    Why do you think the Tuck school suffers in the prestige department by students (and recruiters) when compared to the likes of Columbia and Northwestern. It seems that is is considered half a notch below? Is it the location?

    Or is it the poor placement in finance and being a “regional” New England school? It seems they have the potential given the premium MBA experience to be a legitamte top 5 school in USNW.


  • That’s a logical comparison because there are quite a few cultural similarities between those two great schools. Will do as soon as I can.

  • John Doe


    Would love to see a Tuck vs Kellogg comparison!!!

  • I’m surprised to see Michigan’s rankings often behind Kellogg’s ratings. I thought they would be closer. Another surprise was Michigan’s marketing program is so close to Kellogg’s, considering Kellogg is usually considered the #1 marketing school. Great article! I love seeing these head-to-head comparisons.

  • Sushant D’Souza

    A comprehensive comparison- thank you for putting such efforts into this

  • Thank you for coming to the site. Tell your friends. Spread the word!

  • Hi John, thank you very much for this analysis. Very helpful!

  • John,

    These posts are extremely helpful. Keep them coming. Great job!

  • ultrasound technician

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  • Betsy,

    Betsy, many thanks much for reminding everyone of Michigan’s leadership position in sustainability. I’ve had the folks at MIT’s Sloan School recently tell me that they’ve lost admitted students to Ross due to your dual-degree program in sustainability with the university’s School of Natural Resources. This is a three-year program and admitted students can choose which school they would prefer to spend the first year at. Many of the 15 to 20 students who start this program begin at the natural resources school, spend the second year at Ross so they can graduate with their b-school peers. The third year is where the two schools programming comes together. Currently, there are about 40 students enrolled through all three years. Applicants should know that they essentially have to be admitted to both schools for this program, and each school views each applicant separately.

  • Great comparison, John! One area students might be interested in is sustainability. Ross is big in that area; they are going to be holding the annual Net Impact Conference in October this year.

    Here’s some more info I have on Ross’s environmental and social enterprise leadership:

    * Ross is ranked as the top U.S. MBA program in Beyond Grey Pinstripes 2010 report, for a combination of coursework, student experience, and faculty research. Says one student, “These issues aren’t just an extracurricular activity here at Ross, but a core piece of your education.” According to Net Impact’s 2009 report, “Ross incorporates triple-bottom line issues into some of its core classes” and MBA students also have the option to take such courses as “Corporate Environmental Strategy, Finance for Sustainable Enterprise and Sustainable Manufacturing.”

    * The Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, a 50/50 partnership between Ross and Michigan’s School of Natural Resources, also influences student awareness and course options. The Erb Institute focuses on: alternative energy and clean technology, climate strategy and carbon policy, mega-city mobility and accessibility, base-of-the-pyramid and social enterprise, and green buildings and development. Students also have the option of a joint MBA/MS program, which combines coursework, fieldwork and research related to business, the environment and sustainability.

    * Ross offers loan repayment assistance for those who go into non-profit careers after graduation.