2012 U.S. News Ranking of the Best B-Schools

After winning sole possession of first place in U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the best business schools last year, Stanford managed a tie for first with arch rival Harvard Business School today (April 13).

By tying Stanford, Harvard regained the No. 1 ranking after dropping to second last year. Before that, Harvard had led or tied for first for eight straight years. It was Stanford’s third consecutive win or tie for first.

The University of Pennsylvania broke through its tie last year with MIT Sloan to take third in the annual ranking of the best full-time MBA programs in the U.S. Three schools—MIT, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and Chicago Booth—were in a dead tie for fourth place.

As reported by Poets&Quants last week, New York University’s Stern School fell out of the U.S. News top ten, winning an 11th place finish. The top ten were rounded out by No. 7 UC-Berkeley’s Haas School, No. 8 Columbia Business School, No. 9 Dartmouth College’s Tuck School, and No. 10 Yale’s School of Management.


Like all rankings of business schools, the U.S. News list often engenders much controversy and debate. But it is among the most influential and most followed of several prominent rankings. This year, U.S. News said it surveyed all 441 master’s programs in business accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Some 393 responded, with 136 respondents providing enough data needed by the magazine to calculate full-time M.B.A. rankings. U.S. News ultimately ranked 102 business schools this year, down from the 111 it gave numerical rankings to last year. At the bottom in a tie for a ranking of 101 were the business schools at Rollins College in Florida and Santa Clara University in California.

The magazine only ranks U.S.-based schools, unlike BusinessWeek, The Financial Times, or The Economist which publish global rankings, either combined or separate.  (One other note: As a marketing ploy, U.S. News claims this is a 2013 ranking to give it greater shelf life. It is based on 2011 data and released in 2012 which is why we label it a 2012 ranking.)

U.S. News’ methodology takes into account a wealth of proprietary and school-supplied data to crank out its annual ranking of the best business schools. The magazine does its own survey of B-school deans and MBA directors (25% of the score). This year, U.S. News said about 44% of those surveyed responded.  It also does its own survey of corporate recruiters (accounting for 15% of the overall ranking and for which 18% of those surveyed responded), starting salaries and bonuses (14%), employment rates at and three months after graduation (7% to 14%, respectively), student GMATs (about 16%), undergrad GPAs (about 8%), and the percentage of applicants who are accepted to a school (a little over 1%).


The most impressive gain in this year’s U.S. News’ Top 25 was achieved by Emory’s Goizueta School which rose four spots to finish 19th from a rank of 23rd last year. Emory’s advance was largely due to vastly improved placement stats: the average salary reported by a graduating MBA last year jumped to $121,050, from $100,300 in 2010, while 78.9% of the school’s graduates had jobs at commencement, up from 57.2% a year earlier. Emory told U.S. News that 94% of its Class of 2011 had jobs three months after graduation, up from 87.3%.

The University of Minnesota’s Carlson School, on the other hand, suffered the largest fall of any Top 25 school, dropping nine places to a rank of 30th this year from a 21st place finish in 2011. Carlson lost ground in U.S. News’ survey of recruiters, scoring a 3.1 on a five-point scale, down from 3.5 a year earlier. Its latest acceptance rate ballooned to 40.9%, up from 30.3% in 2011. Both the grade point average and GMAT scores fell for the latest entering MBA class: average GPA fell to 3.2 from 3.5, while its average GMAT score dropped eight points to 686 from 694 in a single year.


Typical of most rankings, the further down on the list you go, the more dramatic the year-over-year changes tend to be, largely because there is often little, if any, statistical significance to many of the numerical ranks assigned to schools by ranking organizations. In the next group of 25 schools, for example, Notre Dame’s Mendoza School was the biggest winner, gaining a dozen places to finish 25th this year, up from 37 a year ago. It was the largest jump in the rankings of any top 50 school.

The improvement could be attributed to Mendoza scoring better on U.S. News’ peer assessment survey, a 3.5 this year versus a 3.2 last, higher average GMATs, 692 for the latest entering class compared against 685 in the previous year, and much better placement numbers. The average salary for a member of Mendoza’s Class of 2011 was $104,763, up from $96,490. Some 68.6% of the class had jobs by graduation, up from 48.2% a year earlier, while 86.9% of the class was employed three months after commencement, up from 75.9%.

Similarly, big drops were suffered by both the University of Iowa’s Tippie School and UC-Irvine’s Merage School of Business, which both tumbled nine places to finish in a tie for 49th. For a few schools, however, those drops would have offered comfort to deans who experienced the biggest declines of the year: The business school at the Rochester Institute of Technology plunged 31 places this year to a rank of 94 from 63 a year earlier. The Leavey Business School at Santa Clara University plummeted 26 spots to a rank of 101st from 75 last year, while the business school at Auburn University dropped 25 places to 88th from 63rd only a year ago.

(Table of the Top 25 and how they stack up against each other on the following page)

  • Andy

    Washington University’s Olin Business School (ranked 22) has a very strong MBA program and I expect it to move further up, in the rankings.

  • Andy

    Washington University’s Olin Business School (ranked 22) has a very strong MBA program and I expect it to move further in the rankings.

  • ChrisR


    What are your thoughts on the Neeley School of Business at TCU?  It has been rising fast in the US News rankings.  The MBA program has become more competitive and is quite generous with scholarship money.  The program is also smaller allowing greater focus on each student’s career path.  The full-time class by GMAT is competitive with other other schools in the area (643 mean with a bulk of the students scoring 650 to 690).  I think the Neeley School has benefited from its location in DFW and will continue to move up in the rankings.


  • ChrisR

    Good point!  And Fordham is $1,158 per credit!

  • JohnAByrne


    You would think there should be a better connection there, but there isn’t. These are two entirely separate things: one is the school’s success at getting jobs for its latest graduating class, effectively its placement record. Carlson was terrific at this last year. The other is a simple opinion poll of corporate recruiters by U.S. News. My guess is many of these recruiters in the sample never set foot on the campus of Carlson. No one ever said there is a perfect way to rank schools.

  • Ashish Potla

    “Carlson lost ground in U.S. News’ survey of recruiters, scoring a 3.1 on a five-point scale, down from 3.5 a year earlier” — Wasn’t Carlson supposed to be number 1 in placements last year according to Bloomberg?

  • Apandey2013

    Kellogg, the best consulting. Im a Booth Student and I stayed for my consulting prep at a Kellogg frnds place and prepped with them, there is nothing compared to that.

  • JohnAByrne

    That’s correct. Duke’s average GMAT score fell eight points to 689 for last year’s entering class. Because application volume fell at many schools, drops in average GMATs were not unusual.

  • ps1840


    I don’t have access to the US News average GMAT scores, but 689 for Fuqua seems to be low.  I recall average GMAT being more along the lines of 697 and a median of 700.  Can you confirm please?

    Thanks much.

  • Said Mohammad

    The “employed” and “later” stats for Baruch and Fordham are terrifying. 

  • ASDF

    I agree that one goal of rankings is to differentiate programs. But if the actual reality of these schools is that there is no meaningful difference, then you’re just asking a ranking system to create differences for their own sake, whether or not it’s an accurate reflection of reality. 

    My bigger point is that you’re complaining based on the outcome when you should be complaining based on the process. If you agree, a priori, that USN’s methodology is valid, then you can’t complain about the outcome if it doesn’t match up to a preconceived notion. If you think the methodology is flawed, then make that argument and show how you think it should be changed. Complaining about the outcome of a ranking, rather than the process, doesn’t make much sense though.

  • Zack

    Which school sends the most MBAs into the field of consulting?

  • JohnAByrne


    Yes, but not quite yet. We’ll update right after the BusinessWeek ranking comes out in November. That way, we’ll revise just once, incorporating the new rankings by the FT, U.S. News, The Economist, and BusinessWeek at one time. Generally, changes are minimal from just one ranking, anyway. Put them all together and there could be more significant changes.

  • jay


    I too agree that the difference between many top schools is
    minimal. I would say Booth, Sloan, Kellogg, Columbia GSB, and Tuck are all of
    comparable quality. You could even perhaps add Wharton to that list (evidenced
    by the Sloan-Wharton tie last year). They would all give a “roughly similar
    quality experience to some theoretically generic b-school student.” That doesn’t
    change the fact, however, that the purpose of a school ranking system is to
    rank schools. The purpose is not to group them. So, while ties are not an
    entirely unreasonable outcome for rankings (P&Q has a top five tie), two,
    three, and four ties within the top ten alone is unreasonable. If year after
    year, a ranking system is unable to achieve its objective of differentiating between
    top schools, then the entire system (including the methodology) needs to be

    Also, the USNews ranking is most certainly not saying that a
    higher ranked school should “always be chosen in a head to head competition.”
    That is not what a ranking is designed to do.

  • CL

    John,  Will you be revising the P&Q ranking based on the US News 2013 business school rankings?

  • JohnAByrne


    Yeah, I can do that. Currently, the schools are listed the same way U.S. News lists the schools that are tied. Will do this in the future, though.

  • JohnAByrne


    Yes, will do over the next few days. 

  • JohnAByrne


    Hard to know for sure unless I do some reporting on this which I am inclined to do at some point. I believe there may be differences because the collection periods for the data are dramatically different. When BusinessWeek collects the data, it’s relatively early in the process so some schools may have less complete information to report. On the other hand, BusinessWeek is not using this data to rank schools. So when a school supplies it to U.S. News, which does use this information to rank a school, the school could be tempted to show the data in the best possible light. If that’s so, it would be interesting to see where the biggest differences are and then do some reporting at those schools to see what gives.

  • highwyre237

    Here is a link, and the text from US news regarding the Methodology for Specialty Rankings

    Specialty rankings: These rankings, including executive M.B.A., are based solely on ratings by business school deans and directors of accredited master’s programs from the list of schools surveyed. They were asked to nominate up to 10 programs for excellence in each of the areas listed. Those schools receiving the most votes in each specialty are listed and are numerically ranked in descending order based on the number of nominations they received as long as the school/program receives seven or more nominations in that specialty area. This means that schools ranked at the bottom of each specialty ranking have received seven nominations. 

    So, the only thing used is the opinion of Deans and Directors.  No other metric is considered in specialty rankings

  • seeksleek

    Yale will rise and rise, Ted Snyder is serious!!

  • seeksleek

    Are recruiter scores applied to specialty rankings// what did they use in the case of Entrepreneurship

  • seeksleek

    I completely agree. Tuck had a great recruiting year with over 90%+ employment, top 4 grad salaries and a1-2% selectivity rate reduction. Perhaps it is the small size of the class and a smaller employer pool that is affecting the ranks. They must be highly valued by recruiters , reason why they get top bucks.

    And Darden. This is such a great school. Top notch teaching and good recruitment. The rigor is well known. I would nt have been surprised if the school were ranked above NYU, Yale, Duke, Michigan, etc

    Would have to look at who responds to the recruiter surveys. What% is Consulting, Finance, Banking and Industry employers….. etc and if any Non-US employers included?

  • This Should Be Obvious

    USNews is the most ‘comprehensive’ ranking but key components of the data are incoherent. Tuck’s employment statistics ROCK, but its recruiter score is low. Seems like the recruiters are saying one thing when they fill out surveys and something esle entirely when they put money on the line. This is significant when you realize that the recruiter score (15%) and the combined salary and placement stats (14% + 7% + 14%) account for HALF the raw score. 

    In comparison, BW’s the best when it comes to the putting statistical values for subjective experiences, with USN’s value-add being the hard data.

    They should do away with their flimsy recruiter score (they can keep the dean’s survey because they’re the only school that does that) and then rely mainly on the data.

    – Kellogg obviously had a CRACKING recruiting season last year, though with slightly lower compensation than its peers.
    – Darden gets hosed – its employment numbers are better than Yale’s and Stern’s (significantly better) but selectivity and survey data are screwing it.
    – Stanford students don’t dig OCR. Probably lots of VC, PE and start-up offers over the summers.
    – Berkeley Haas’s recruiter scores and recruiting data appear to be more closely aligned – a rare case. Their comparative strength in academics is what propels them above peers in the recruiting market. 

    And this data is way better than that of previous years; not back at pre-crisis levels, but definitely showing improvement.

    Disclaimer: did not apply to Tuck and heading to a school that always ranks higher, I’m just trying to be objective.

  • Data


    Can you explain the many differences between the data you cite here (http://poetsandquants.com/2011/11/08/mba-jobs-back-for-class-of-2011/) regarding employment stats for the class of 2011, and the same stats that usnwr relied on?

  • Data

    If you take the highest employed after 3 months numbers (Kellogg), and apply it to Booth’s class size of 590, it would only add about 24 students. Doesn’t seem terribly significant.

  • highwyre237

    according to US News, of the 107 people who answered about their base, the average was $100,682, 93 of these people recieved a signing bonus.  The average was $23,434.

    So, 100,682 + ((23,434*93)/107) = 121,050.

    The links that you provided say the exact same thing.  

  • b-school guy

    Emory does not have a salary near $121K – it’s wrong

  • Data

    John, any plans to add the data for schools 11-100, or is it proprietary to USNWR?

  • highwyre237

    I fully understand why Babson ranks on the top of the Entrepreneurship list each year, they base their entire curriculum around being an Entrepreneur.  I do not question how structured the curriculum is for Entrepreneurs, but I’d rather have a ranking that better gaged a student’s success post MBA.  Now, I’m not knocking Babson, and Entrepreneurship is in a different class then say Marketing or Finance…  But, there’s no question that you’d have an easier track coming out of school, even as an entrepreneur in boston, if you went to MIT or HBS.I dont question that Babson is a focused entrepreneurship program, I’ve researched the program, and if I were personally looking for a thinktank for a few years to develop a business idea and wanted to live in Boston metro I’d chose Babson over BC/BU/Northeastern/Umass… But If I were able to get into HBS or MIT, babson wouldnt be on my radar.This point is even stronger when looking at careers that require being employed by someone else.  US News rank specialties “based solely on ratings by business school deans and directors of accredited master’s programs from the list of schools surveyed.”  Why wouldn’t they take employment data in specific functions into consideration?  These rankings simply do not hold value unless they are a clear depiction of where one would not only get the best education in a certain subject, but also have the the greatest success afterwards. 

  • ajk

    what is the reason for booth’s lower employment numbers compared to other top 10 schools?  is it due to the high percentage of students going into PE and VC that have late recruiting cycles or is there something else

  • This is a good point. I do not have the raw data that US News has but I’d argue that once your are past the top 20 the differences are quite minimal after that. I suspect they are not statistically significant. Please don’t choose schools based on rankings alone. With regard to specialty rankings we are proud of our standing in Entrepreneurship. For students we offer 50+ courses in Entrepreneurship alone, have the largest number of faculty in the field, and several textbooks used in many universities were written by Babson faculty.

  • Dream

    error on UTD, it should be +3

  • highwyre237

    Harvard is 139,735 Sal+Bonus, their Base average is $121,785 according to US News

  • Indie jones

    I think Rice University (Jones) deserves an honorable mention in the report for climbing 9 places to 25th!

  • Omarsial1

    Since when do they include bonus in the salary….in that case HBS would be way higher the 130ish

  • Aspirant

    Confusing: Booth scores below W on both Peers and Rectuiters, however it tops the BW rankings which essentially tracks the same 2 metrics!! :-

  • ASDF

    When a ranking that includes as many different variables as USN comes up with ties that’s not necessarily an indication that the ranking system is broken just that at a certain point the differences between schools are so minimal as to be ultimately meaningless. It’s possible that the natural distribution of the best business schools isn’t even and is clumped as the USN rankings suggest and in fact these rankings are an accurate reflection of reality. Rankings are useful for a general impression of the b-school landscape, but far far less useful for head to head comparisons of two schools of similar quality. 
    Basically all the three way tie at 4th tells us is that all three schools would give a roughly similar quality experience to some theoretically generic b-school student while the three schools above should always be chosen in a head to head competition between any school in the 4 spot. Within the tie for 4th, personal preferences with respect to geography, career, culture, etc. come into play in making a head to head decision. 

    I think this is a pretty reasonable stance to take. Partly because I agree that between Chicago, MIT, and Kellogg there’s no difference for a generic student and the decision comes down to personal needs. Partly because I think that ties are an entirely reasonably outcome for rankings. If you agree that the process used to establish the outcome is valid, then you should agree that the outcome is valid. Complain about the methodology if you think it’s flawed. Complaining about rankings based on the outcome doesn’t make much sense except in the extreme. 

  • Mark C

    Hi John,
    Can you please use alphabetical order when schools are tied? Or some kind of rule to order them in case of a tie?

    Thank you.

  • jay

    I personally think it’s ridiculous that the USNews Top Ten is littered with ties each year.  Last year, MIT and Wharton tied for 3rd, Booth and Kellogg tied for 5th, Tuck and Berkeley tied for 7th, and Stern and Yale tied for 10th. This year HBS and Stanford tied for 1st and Sloan, Booth, and Kellogg all tied for fourth. What’s the point of a ranking system that’s unable to separate schools?

  • highwyre237

    Babson is once again #1 in Entrepreneurship, but has fallen below a few more Boston Regional Schools, not including HBS MIT and Tuck

    37 BC
    37 BU
    56 Northeastern
    57 Umass
    61 Babson

    It makes me question the specialization rankings in general.  Do they really hold any weight at all??  I know Entrepreneurship is a special case, but even look at some others, St. Joseph’s is an unranked program, but ranks 14 and 17 in marketing and finance respectively.  I find it hard to believe that I’d be better off going to an unranked program over any top 25 regardless of my concentration post MBA. 

    John, I’d love to see this site tackle MBA Specialty ranking, and give a bit more weight to overall reputation 

  • highwyre237

    The 121K figure is Salary + Signing Bonus, its correct

  • Srini Karupan

    Looks just about right unlike the silly FT rankings. I’m not surprised to see Yale climb into the top 10.  

  • b-school guy

    John – I think you made an error for Emory … “: the average salary reported by a graduating MBA last year jumped to $121,050, from $100,300 in 2010”.

    Only the top 10 have base salaries at 120K + on average

    On Emory’s website the salary figure is  $100,682 for its latest report (2011), consistent with US News.