This year’s Poets&Quants ranking of the best full-time MBA programs in the U.S. proves that the best business schools tend to stay put: There is not a single difference between the top eight MBA programs in our new 2013 composite ranking and the top eight in 2012. What’s more, all top 10 schools remained firmly in the top 10 this year.
The steadiest institution is still Harvard Business School, which took the very first spot for the fourth year in a row. Despite less-than-flattering publicity generated by a New York Times’ front page story on gender inequality at Harvard, an MBA from the school remains the quintessential credential in business. No rival beats Harvard in the formidable resources it brings to the game: the outsized number of superstar professors, the diversity of its course offerings, the stellar quality of its students, the size and scope of its campus, and the career achievements of its alumni spread all over the world.
This year’s entering class at Harvard, moreover, is one of the most impressive ever. Drawing from an applicant pool that was up 3.9% last year to 9,315 hopefuls, Harvard welcomed just 941 incoming MBA students, with the highest percentage of women ever at 41% of the class. The median GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) score was a hefty 720, while the average undergraduate grade point average for the newest crop of MBA students was an impressive 3.67.
IT’S A WIN-BY-A-NOSE FINISH FOR THE TOP FOUR BUSINESS SCHOOLS
Yet, it’s worth noting that the underlying index scores in our composite ranking–which annually weighs the five most influential MBA rankings ranging from BusinessWeek to U.S. News & World Report–are especially close. The scores of No. 1 Harvard, No. 2 Stanford, No. 3 Chicago, and No. 4 University of Pennsylvania are fractions away from each other; a mere 0.35 separates No. 1 Harvard and its perennial West Coast rival No. 2 Stanford.
This is also the fourth time in a row that Chicago has ranked ahead of Wharton on the Poets&Quants list, giving slightly more credence to the view that it is no longer H/S/W at the top, but rather H/S/C. Wharton was the only Top 10 school that saw a decline in applications for the Class of 2015. It’s applicant pool shrunk by 5.8% this past year, while Chicago Booth reported the biggest percentage boost in applications of any Top 10 school–a healthy 9.9% that actually made Chicago slightly more selective than Wharton for the first time.
The immovable top eight differ in many ways—size, region, culture, and so on. But the schools do have one feature in common: They’re all private, pricey, highly prestigious institutions with powerful global brands.
This is business school, after all.
RELATIVELY MINOR SHIFTS AMONG THE TOP 20 MBA PROGRAMS
In a separate ranking of the best schools outside the U.S., London Business School again topped our list, followed by INSEAD. IMD took third place, moving up from fifth last year. Two business schools based in Spain rounded out the top five, with the University of Navarra’s IESE Business School in Barcelona fourth, while IE Business School in Madrid was fifth (See Top 50 Non-U.S. MBA Programs of 2013).