To many, Seattle has emerged as the new Silicon Valley. Nestled in the shadow of Mount Rainier, the Emerald City, once known for rain, coffee, grunge and Boeing, has transformed into a commercial hotbed. Already home to Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, Costco and Nordstrom, the Seattle area boasts a thriving startup culture that’s produced tech darlings like Zillow, Expedia, and Tableau Software.
Seattle represents the ultimate ‘chicken-or-the-egg’ riddle. Is the area’s booming tech and retail sectors the result of its highly educated, diverse, and tech-savvy populace – or the cause? Maybe they simply feed into each other. With plentiful jobs, infrastructure, and funding available, Seattle is turning into the place to live and work. By extension, the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business is becoming a destination for ambitious professionals looking to earn an MBA.
FOSTER’S PLACEMENT AND INCOME OUTCOMES ARE BIG DRAWS FOR APPLICANTS
Like Seattle, Foster is on the rise. Despite the school keeping a low profile, applicants are taking notice. This year, the program received 1,045 applications and enrolled 130 students – up 25 students from the previous year (at a 26% acceptance rate). Still, Foster consciously retains an intimate experience, with its class size remaining the smallest among the Top 25 full-time MBA programs.
So what’s behind Foster’s growing popularity? Basically, applicants are looking at the numbers – and liking what they see. Over the past five years, the average starting salaries for Foster grads have skyrocketed by 36.9%, from $91,593 to $125,367 – the highest growth among the Top 50 programs in that period. Such earnings also place Foster grads above graduates at higher ranked programs like the University of North Carolina. Even more, owing to the Great Northwest’s economic renaissance, Foster students land jobs. Within three months of graduation, 95.8% of its graduates found work – the third-highest percentage among Top 25 programs (behind only Chicago Booth and Washington Olin). Nearly as impressive, Foster MBAs graduate with one of the lowest debts – with 52% of the 2014 Class carrying a $29,720 average debt. Compared to a Haas ($77,628 / 49%) or a McCombs ($69,409 / 59%), that’s quite a bargain.
Such rubrics are motivating higher caliber students to apply at Foster. The Class of 2017, for example, jumps into the fray with a 688 average GMAT — six points higher than the previous class. To put it another way, their GMATs were 18 points better than the most recent graduating class. However, the incoming class’ average undergraduate GPAs – 3.4 – were slightly down from the 2016 class’ 3.43 watermark.
A DIVERSE AND ECLECTIC CLASS FROM AN ARRAY OF INDUSTRIES AND ACADEMIC DISCIPLINES
With stronger applications come harder decisions, says Erin Town, the school’s director of admissions since 2008. “This year we had the largest applicant pool that I have seen in my nearly 14 years at Foster,” she tells Poets&Quants, “which means that we had some very tough decisions to make given the small size of our program. In this incoming class we have students coming from every industry imaginable, from both the public and the private sector, and from all corners of the world. We also found that this group of students has some incredible talents outside of work – we have musicians, athletes, outdoor enthusiasts and foodies, to name a few… I can’t wait to see what they’re able to accomplish together as a group.”
Academically, 32% of the 2017 class majored in social sciences and humanities, up from 29% for the 2016 class (and 24% for the 2015 class). Business majors represent 25% of the class, down from 28% last year. Another 24% come from engineering, up an eye-catching 11%. Professionally, 21% of the 2017 class previously worked in the tech sector, with financial services and government accounting for 12% and 11% respectively.
The program has also grown more diverse in recent years. Women comprise 33% of the class (up 1%), Foster also attracted students from 14 other countries, who represent another 33% of the student body (up 2%). U.S. minorities make up 11% of the 2017 class.
Go to next page to access student profiles of this year’s incoming class.