10 Business Schools To Watch In 2016

To Watch

Hockey great Wayne Gretzky once quipped, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” You could apply the same advice to choosing a business school. Sometimes, the decision comes down to more than cultural fit and professional interests. It may also require you to look at the long-term and ask yourself, ‘How will an MBA from this school be viewed in 10 or 20 years?’

In 2004, Washington University (Olin) finished 39th in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings. Since then, it has climbed 20 spots. If Gretzky were picking an MBA program back then, he would’ve undoubtedly picked up on Olin’s rising incoming GMAT scores and outgoing placement rates. And he would’ve known to give it a second look. So which schools are poised to make big moves? Here is Poets&Quants’ list of the ten programs to keep an eye on in 2016.

(Editor’s Note: These schools are not ranked in any order.)

Yale School of Management

Yale School of Management: Yale is sometimes caricatured as a refuge for romantics, where the socially-conscious view business as a means to solve social ills. If that’s true, it may be the recipe for the future. This year, Yale trended upwards in nearly every ranking metric. For starters, it cracked the Top 10 (for the first time) in Poets&Quants’ 2015 annual MBA ranking – a remarkable seven spot leap from two years ago. Not surprisingly, recruiters have taken notice. The school ranked #1 in diversity of recruiters drawn to campus according to The Economist. It also placed 9th among recruiters in the September Bloomberg Businessweek survey, along with notching a 4.3 score from recruiters in U.S. News and World Report – beating out Columbia, Haas, and Tuck.

But it’s not just recruiters singing the SOM’s praises. In the same Economist survey, students and alumni ranked Yale 4th in both quality of classmates and personal development and education experience. And alumni further showed their support with a 51.2% participation rate in the school’s 2014-2015 fund raising campaign – a nearly 10% jump in two years.  That is second only to Tuck – and the school generated an additional $961K from alumni over the previous year to boot. Such momentum has also paid off in recruiting. Bruce DelMonico, the school’s assistant dean for admissions, describes the Class of 2017 as the strongest he has seen in 10 years. And the school enjoyed a 25% increase in applications in 2014-2015, boosting both the percentage of both women and international students to 40%.

Now, the stars are aligned. In 2014, the school moved into its 250,000 square foot Edward P. Evans Hall. And Dean Ted Snyder – the architecture of the University of Chicago’s rise to being a Top 5 MBA program – is now into his fifth year at the helm. With strong funding and a stellar faculty, expect Yale to climb a few more rungs in the coming years.

Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management

Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management

Vanderbilt University (Owen): If you can’t beat them, hire them. That was Vanderbilt’s thinking behind recruiting M. Eric Johnson, associate dean of the Tuck School of Business, to be its dean in 2013. A former Owen faculty member for eight years, Johnson has been tasked with importing Tuck’s intimate, upbeat, student-centric culture to Nashville. Already known for its southern friendliness and strengths in leadership and ethics education, Owen has seen a rise in incoming student GMAT scores and undergraduate GPAs during Johnson’s tenure – not to mention a jump in placement rates (90.8% to 93%), starting base salaries ($100,513 to $108,255), and starting bonuses ($20,138 to $22,484) between the 2014 and 2015 graduating classes.

However, Owen’s biggest selling point may be its location. Nashville is often called the “Silicon Valley of Healthcare,” boasting a booming metro area that’s flush with Fortune 500 companies. And coupling a Tuck-inspired small school culture with a vibrant business scene may just be the ticket to long and lucrative careers for Owen grads.

Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

Rice University (Jones): I dare you to find anyone who has something negative to say about Jones. This year, Rice made headlines in the Bloomberg Businessweek rankings, finishing 3rd in the alumni survey and 2nd in the student satisfaction survey. In fact, Jones was one of only three schools (Haas and Anderson being the others) to finish in the Top 10 in both categories. Oh, and it ranked #3 in terms of alumni career satisfaction in a 2014 Forbes survey. Talk about a happy customer base!

Like Owen, Rice is a relatively small program that benefits from being based in a thriving business community. The Houston area boasts 26 Fortune 500 companies – the third-largest concentration in the United States. Plus, Rice is home to the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, ranked  by UBI Index as the top university-managed business incubator in 2014. And the program is a steal financially, with 94% of full-time MBA students receiving grants averaging $33,320 per year! That said, the school’s biggest plus remains its people. “Fantastic experience,” writes “Jesus” about his time in the MBA program in Forbes. “I remain very close to the school and I consistently see how hard and effectively the staff work to make the school an even better place.”

  • Mhier

    Here at Google we’ve always consider these schools are the solid top 5: Stanford GSB, Berkeley HAAS, Harvard, MIT Sloan and, a distance 5, Wharton.

  • bwanamia

    No, B. Wana Mia, IV

  • Spartan 22

    Things change over time though. There isn’t enough room in the M7 to accommodate the critical mass of qualified new applicants so those people will find themselves attending “lower” ranked programs-programs which have distinguished themselves in other ways since the MBA curriculum is mostly commoditized anyway. Fuqua catches alot of flack on here but Apple’s CEO has an MBA from Duke and now the school is a pipeline into the types of tech jobs MBAs place a premium on attaining these days. Ross and Tuck have salary levels comparable to the best of the M7 and the GMAT/GPA combos of Yale’s incoming classes put them just under HSW. It’s going to get a little more crowded at the top and that’s a good thing.

    We’re only going to see more of these trends provided the MBA continues to attract more and more talented applicants each year Reputation may die hard but ideas about prestige and the elite won’t mean much if you can capably offer someone the professional opportunities they want.

  • C. Taylor

    Right or wrong, it’s something of a virtuous circle. You ‘know’ which programs are the elite through your social network (family and or work, etc.). If working at the right place, you see colleagues getting into the elite programs. This network also informs your approach to successful entry.

    The right places also hire graduates of the elite programs both at the undergrad and MBA level. So what stresses the Japanese to no end also exists in the US. Most are just blind to it. Which high school you attend and how well you perform make it easier to join the elite undergrad programs. Perhaps the US is slightly more egalitarian in its meritocracy, but old habits die hard in the admissions/HR world.

    From the economic viewpoint, a well-deserved reputation for quality graduates/applicants is meaningful.

  • “Top 5” Class Of 2018 Member

    Disagree – in fact I still don’t view U Chi as top 5 school. Objectively, I would view someone from Sloan, Kellogg, CBS as a stronger. As someone who just went through the process, most of my fellow applicants viewed these schools as more attractive and from outcomes they seemed way more selective. Lots of folks that got denied w/o interview from wharton, sloan, CBS seemed to skate into Booth.

    When I visited for my Booth interview, I was very unimpressed with the quality of students: big 4 accounting folks, other unimpressive middle office finance jobs, big 10 schools and they came off as highly unpolished/weird in comparison to Wharton/CBS/kellogg students i met during interviews. My hypothesis is that U Chi decided to climb rankings after the big Booth donation and they became hyper-focused on GMAT/GPA. To get their stats up, they accept mediocre finance kids/nerds who studied really hard to get into booth and finally have their shot at the big leagues/front office. Plus, despite this metoric rise in rankings, Booth does not have strong senior-level alumni network in comparison to historically strong schools.

  • Questionable Post

    You sound a bit like Thurston Howell the III. Creepy post. I mean sure they are all great schools but such a creepy post. There are a significant number of “acceptable” business schools I would add to your list including Columbia, Northwestern, Tuck, and Haas. And just outside of that grouping there are a number of others that will provide an equally elite education with similar outcomes…

  • bwanamia

    Just seeing this. Rankings don’t mean a thing to me. For three generations of family and relations that I know personally, the acceptable five elite b-schools have been, in no particular order, HBS, GSB, Wharton, MIT, & Chicago. Period. Case closed.

  • Johnstoned

    Who’s Cornell?

  • [email protected]

    US News is the gold standard of rankings.

  • nope=donaldtrump

    re: non-profit, based on what evidence? Less than 5% of SOM students go into non-profit.

  • M7lover

    Sounds like you’re the one with the chip on your shoulder 😉

  • David

    Thanks for the insights! I am currently doing that due diligence with respect to individuals who have done the program. So far I am not convinced by their trajectories, but haven’t ruled it out yet. The credential and education are important to me in the longer term for accessing exec-level positions.

  • Aditya Tripathi

    Very surprising Oxford Said isnt on this list.

  • Orange 1

    David, MOOCs are continuing to advance to the point where a lot of MBA content can be accessed for next to nothing. At the least it can show an employer the willingness to keep learning. Then there are certified programs that try to capitalize on school name (e.g. eCornell and UCLA Extension).

    What people tell me is to look up the background of individuals with jobs for which you aspire and also review job postings. Do they require formal management training? A Yale EMBA is $160k. Will doors open because your resume has that school on it in addition to your other attributes? Really no concrete way to know. It’s a gamble. Any chance you could go to a part time program and have an employer pay part of it?

  • C. Taylor

    Surveys in which Booth was ranked in the top five:
    FT :: 01, 02, 03, 04 (first published in 01)
    US News :: 97, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15 (first survey in 90)

    Surveys in which Booth was NOT ranked in the top five:
    BB/BW :: 88, 96, 00 (first published in 88)
    Forbes :: 99, 07, 15 (first published in 99)
    Economist :: 04, 05 (first published in 02)

  • M7

    Said literally no one ever. Booth, CBS, and Tuck all have a large number of sponsored students from MBB, Yale SOM…None. Why on Earth would you lie about being at MBB?

    Most of the Yale SOM grads I’ve met over the years have been nice and down to Earth. However, in recent years it seems current students and recent grads now have enormous chips on their shoulders. No one is taking SOM over Booth, CBS, or Tuck without MASSIVE scholarships or a desire to go into non-profits.

  • nope

    The M7 will not expand. Period. Yale’s 15 minutes will end in a few more years and then it will be back to its spot as the number one school for non-profit.

  • StanfordOrBooth

    Booth Is Highly Rated.

    There I fixed your user name for you

  • StanfordOrBooth

    You picked the one publication that refuses to rank Booth its deserved rank because it is in love with HBS, Tuck and MIT and is more than wiling to change its methodology to protect them. The rest of the other publications have ranked Booth from 1-5 in the same time period.

    You are sooooo wrong.

  • Spartan 22

    “foot” the bill*

  • Spartan 22

    If your employer isn’t going to fit the bill, don’t do it. I find the people who chase these degrees are typically senior enough/experienced enough to do without it.

  • David

    I agree with you, but may be a bit more bullish on Yale. The halo effect of the university and *massive* endowment should be quite helpful.

  • David

    Mrs. SOM – Awesome to get a reply from a full-time SOM student; thanks so much for weighing in! I actually went to a Yale EMBA event recently, so have had a bit of interaction with some current/prospective students and staff. Broadly speaking, the vast majority of impact from the MBA ‘racket’ seems to be from the summer internship and that one shot upon graduation in which they help you get access to interviews for elite positions that set you on an upward trajectory. I’ve looked closely at before and after resumes of EMBA grads and the degree doesn’t appear to be nearly as life changing/impacting as the full-time MBA. I already have a master’s in my field and am definitely thinking long-term for the EMBA impact, but am wavering because I’m not yet convinced that my career success will be dramatically better with the degree vs. without. Also, it’s incredibly expensive. Regarding cost, EMBAs seem to be priced about the same as full-time MBA programs in that the full package price usually includes food/lodging/books/materials. The one differentiation seems to be in availability of financial aid/scholarships.

    Orange 1 – I definitely empathize with your points! The true long-run value of the degree is the question that I am really hung up on.

  • C. Taylor

    If sustained, the free tuition at ASU’s full time program will cause waves.

  • Orange 1

    Let’s face it. MBA programs are the cash cows of major universities. It’s not like you have to spends millions to erect a nuclear particle chamber. Just set up some classrooms, lecture halls, and a student lounge and away you go.
    EMBA programs are the logical extension of this thinking. Take someone who has been successful but a ha, if only they had an MBA their climb would be so much faster, and you have created a need. A cash cow on top of a cash cow as @Mrs SOM notes they are more expensive and 75% of the students are paying their own freight. Do you get a “brand” on your resume? Sure but whether that is going to help in the long run is debatable.

  • Jeff Schmitt

    Hi, Bwanamia. Booth may have had the reputation of a “Top 5” school, but the rankings (at least U.S. News) don’t bear that out historically. In the 2003 U.S. News rankings, Booth placed 9th (behind programs like Kellogg, Fuqua, and Haas). In 2004, it tied with Columbia for 6th. In 2005, it was 8th. Come 2006, it was back to 6th before finally cracking the Top 5 in 2007…where it has remained ever since. Thanks for posting.

  • Jeff Schmitt

    Hi, Jack. Sorry, no kickbacks. One factor that John and I weighed was innovative approaches. By that measure, the Institute really cleared the bar. By that token, I am really kicking myself for not giving greater consideration to Arizona State with their free tuition.

  • Jack Welch

    Jack Welch Institute? Surely you are joking right? The rest of the list is fine but JWI makes me really think if got a kickback from that institute.

  • bwanamia

    Chicago always was a “top 5 school”. This has been the case for several decades. That’s what bothers me about this blog: almost no comprehension of the elite school landscape.

  • Orange1

    Agreed. I think John said it nicely, the Terrific Ten, I believe is how he put it. I think its safe to say the only school Yale SOM can leapfrog at this point is Darden (on USNW) and perhaps Haas/Kellogg/CBS in the future.

  • Mrs.SOM

    Columbia has a solid EMBA program as well..Honestly as a Yale SOM student I couldn’t tell you, the executive MBA students come to class on the weekend and I have yet to interact with a single one.

    I think EMBA is a waste of money quite frankly. It cost more than a normal MBA and as soon as people find out your MBA was at the executive level I think that immediately changes their perception. I guess it makes sense if you are truly coming to school to learn material and network, but for most the goal is to have a prestigious mark on the resume to advance their career.

    Proud to see SOM got a nice shoutout. Apparently apps are up big again Y-o-Y, so we are starting to see momentum.

  • Hey now

    No love for Cornell? Not like they just made the biggest announcement in the history of the program or anything 🙂

  • Booth_overrated

    What a joke

  • David

    At the EMBA level there appears to be quite a lot of room for competition and improvement right now. Executive level degrees are relatively new in their current iteration and most have definitely not caught up to student needs, particularly in terms of career outcomes. I am curious to see how hard Yale intends to compete with their new EMBA program and how much emphasis to place on empowering and assisting students in career progression. As far as I can tell there are really only two games in town right now in attempts to match the quality and impact of a full time MBA program – Booth and Wharton – and even those seem to pack far less punch than the regular 2-year MBA.

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  • Spartan 22


  • Spartan 22

    Don’t envision a downswing. The game is too competitive at this level for school’s to simply lose their advantage, give up, or fall off. I just expect there to be more room at the top now-the M7 will now become the M10. Yale had the brand equity and resources to leapfrog the cluttered 10-15 space, but once past there, the variations become much smaller. The latest employment reports show you just how closely grouped the schools within the top 10 really are-only H and S have achieved any real separation.

  • Orange 1

    It was only a matter of time that a business school associated with Yale would move up. If Princeton started a business school, the same thing would happen within 20-30. But for them to move up further, who drops down? All the schools have top faculty, students, etc. In fact, perhaps the top 20 schools are commoditized in terms of education content with the only differentiator the companies that recruit, which see the students as differentiated for whatever reason.
    Would also be interested in which schools people think are on the downswing and why?

  • McKingMeCrazy

    Interesting article. Wouldn’t say too groundbreaking with Yale SOM. Working at MBB out of undergrad I am considering BSchool next year and Yale is top on my list. Many of my managers went there in recent years and speak very highly of it. Not up with HBS or Stanford just yet, but I would consider it over Booth, Columbia and Tuck anyday of the week.

  • StanfordOrBooth

    the architect of the University of Chicago’s rise to being a Top 1 MBA program

    There, I corrected it for you

  • Ocean Study

    It’s puck not pick