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The Highest MBA Signing Bonuses

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Two years ago, you stepped onto campus. You raced between classes, projects, clubs, and interviews. Even downtime like pub crawls and overseas travel meant careening from one point to another. After all this, you’re drained, physically and mentally – but financially, too.

And that’s why sign-on bonuses have such great appeal. Strapped for cash as you start your new job in your home? That check will sure come in handy (even with taxes clamping down on 40% of it). Need to get away from it all? Sign your contract and you’re off to Barcelona or Bora Bora for some well-earned R&R. Sure, you’re indentured for a year, but it’s easy money – a down payment on your time and talent, a goodwill gesture to seal the deal.

Which MBAs land the best bonuses with their job offers? That really depends on what you’re seeking. As a whole, MBA grads of Yale University’s School of Management earned the highest average sign-on bonuses. Among the 141 graduates who shared their starting pay with Yale, the 2015 Class averaged $31,155 in bonus alone. About 50 Yale grads also reported receiving “other guaranteed compensation” (i.e. year-end bonus, 401K bonus) worth an average of $24,395. Combined, the sign-on bonus and additional compensation amounted to an additional $34,616 for Yale MBAs, with graduates in the 75th percentile bagging $51,750. Overall, however, the outlook is less joyful as Yale grads ranked 14th in total pay at $139,310. What’s more, Yale finished 22nd among the 26 highest-ranked schools in terms of the percentage of students actually receiving a signing bonus (65%).

WHARTONITES REPORTED GETTING A LOT OF OTHER BENNIES

In the big picture, Wharton grads fared far better than Yale. Pulling down $100 less in bonus (on average), Wharton grads earned over $7,000 more in combined base and bonus than Yale (though an even smaller percentage of Wharton grads made bonus at 62.8%). Wharton’s 2015 grads also enjoyed several additional benefits outside their sign-on bonuses. according to the school’s annual report. Some 47% had employers cover their relocation expenses (median $10,000) and another 19% reported a guaranteed year-end bonus (median $10,000). Oh, and 20 students managed to get tuition reimbursement, too (Cha-ching: $60,000).

Rounding out the top three was New York University’s Stern School of Business at $30,410 – just $277 more than Columbia Business School. But Columbia grads are probably happy to concede this honor to their Stern island mates. In overall compensation, Columbia grads pulled down nearly $9,000 more in 2015 (with the highest-bonused Columbia grad making $15,000 more than his or her Stern counterpart).

The list includes some surprises. At Harvard, just 61.9% of graduates had a sign on bonus piled onto their compensation package. Still, Harvard grads pulled down the highest pay on average ($149,784) – and that doesn’t even count another median $26,000 in other guaranteed compensation that nearly 20% of the class collected. Stanford also scored low in terms of bonus ($26,823) and percentage receiving bonus (43.9%). Unlike many top programs, however, Stanford’s bonus deficit wasn’t made up by big base pay, as the school finished 7th in overall starting pay.

Wondering where you have the best chance of being offered a sign on bonus. That would be the University of Virginia (Darden), where nearly 89% of students reporting earnings nabbed a bonus check. And the percentage was 83%-84% at Dartmouth (Tuck), Duke (Fuqua), Carnegie Mellon (Tepper), and Vanderbilt (Owen). And what about those mythical six-figure bonuses that are part of MBA lore? These unicorn checks do exist! In fact, one MIT MBA broke the bank with a $625,000 check. A Yale grad made off with $400,000, with Wharton divulging that a grad came out with a hefty $300,000 sign-on bonus.

According to U.S. News & World Report, $25,381 was the average signing bonus among the 74 schools reporting this data. Among the top ten schools for sign-on bonus, the average was $29,899.

To see how your favorite school performed last year, check out the table below.

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Source: U.S. News & World Report