Harvard | Mr. Polyglot
GMAT 740, GPA 3.65
Kellogg | Mr. Danish Raised, US Based
GMAT 710, GPA 10.6 out of 12
Darden | Ms. Unicorn Healthcare Tech
GMAT 730, GPA 3.5
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBB to PM
GRE 338, GPA 4.0
Harvard | Mr. Sales To Consulting
GMAT 760, GPA 3.49
Chicago Booth | Mr. Semiconductor Guy
GMAT 730, GPA 3.3
Wharton | Mr. Sr. Systems Engineer
GRE 1280, GPA 3.3
Tuck | Mr. Consulting To Tech
GMAT 750, GPA 3.2
Stanford GSB | Mr. Rocket Scientist Lawyer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.65 Cumulative
Stanford GSB | Mr. Navy Officer
GMAT 770, GPA 4.0
Darden | Mr. Stock Up
GMAT 700, GPA 3.3
Stanford GSB | Mr. Classic Candidate
GMAT 760, GPA 3.9
Cambridge Judge Business School | Mr. Social Scientist
GRE 330, GPA 3.5
Darden | Mr. Federal Consultant
GMAT 780, GPA 3.26
INSEAD | Mr. Consulting Fin
GMAT 730, GPA 4.0
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Enlisted Undergrad
GRE 315, GPA 3.75
INSEAD | Ms. Hope & Goodwill
GMAT 740, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. Milk Before Cereals
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3 (16/20 Portuguese scale)
Chicago Booth | Mr. Guy From Taiwan
GRE 326, GPA 3.3
Darden | Mr. Leading Petty Officer
GRE (MCAT) 501, GPA 4.0
Columbia | Mr. NYC Native
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Tepper | Mr. Leadership Developement
GMAT 740, GPA 3.77
Harvard | Ms. Athlete Entrepreneur
GMAT 750, GPA 3.3
Darden | Mr. Education Consulting
GRE 326, GPA 3.58
Harvard | Ms. Ambitious Hippie
GRE 329, GPA 3.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Unrealistic Ambitions
GMAT 710, GPA 2.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Equal Opportunity
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0

Surprises In U.S. News’ 2017 MBA Ranking

MANY BIG FLIPS AND FLOPS IN THE RANKING

While the metrics employed by U.S. News may appear to be reasonable, they yield very close results–in many cases the difference between an MBA program ranked 35 and 40 or 60 and 70 is statistically meaningless. The best proof of this is the roller-coaster, year-over-year flips and flops in the ranking by so many schools.

The further one goes down the list, the more likely you’ll see wildly volatile results—evidence that these MBA programs are so close together in quality that there really is no meaningful difference among them—at least as measured by the U.S. News’ methodology.

Consider the seven schools that U.S. News puts in the same rank of 57th. Those seven schools alone had 104 changes in places, with each averaging a change of 15 positions on the ranking. The Zicklin School of Business at CUNY’s Baruch College jumped 28 places to rank 57th from 85th last year. The Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah soared 22 places to 57th from 79th. The Isenberg School at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst rose 18 places to 57th from 75th.

IOWA’S TIPPIE PLUNGES 19 PLACES IN ONE OF THE YEAR’S BIGGEST FALLS

Dean Amy Hillman led W. P. Carey to its first Top 25 ranking

And what goes up, inevitably goes down. This year, the University of Iowa’s Tippie School of Business plunged 19 places to finish 64th from 45th last year. That 19-position drop is among the largest falloffs in this year’s U.S. News ranking, but by no means is it unusual.

In most of these cases, there were no substantial changes at the school or the full-time MBA programs that could possibly warrant such big swings. Indeed, it is rare when a big change is the result of meaningful and dramatic alternations of an MBA program.

The one clear example this year is the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University which rose 10 spots in a single year to a 25th place finish. The school’s improved admissions metrics reflects a strategic decision to offer a full scholarship to every single MBA student in a completely revamped MBA curriculum.

A RARE EXAMPLE OF A SCHOOL THAT ROSE ON THE BASIS OF MAJOR CHANGE

The upshot: Carey reduced its acceptance rate to just 14.3%, below Wharton’s 19.6% or Kellogg’s 20.1%. The average GMAT score for its latest cohort jumped ten points to 682, just a point below Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business, while the average GPA rose to 3.54, a sliver above Dartmouth Tuck School’s level, from 3.37 a year earlier.

The numbers hardly tell the full story. The deep quality and wide diversity of the class taking advantage of this unprecedented offer is not fully captured by a few metrics (see Meet Arizona State’s MBA Class of 2018). No doubt, this cohort will also realized substantially higher starting salaries when they graduate, providing even more lift to the school in U.S. News’ future rankings.

And then there is the big eight-place jump by NYU’s Stern School. Last year the school did a free fall, dropping nine places after Stern had unintentionally omitted one data point out of more than 300 asked for by U.S. News (see Why U.S. News Whacked NYU Stern). It was the number of incoming students who had taken the GMAT test. The magazine relies on this statistic in its ranking model to to determine the strength of a school’s entering class relative to other programs.

HOW IN THE WORLD COULD STANFORD FALL BEHIND WHARTON & BOOTH?

Instead of calling up Stern and asking for the missing piece of information, U.S. News—which is ranking tens of thousands of schools in business, law, medicine, engineering and education at the same time—chose to use its estimate which severely penalized Stern. When school officials tried to give U.S. News the previously omitted information, the magazine refused to re-run all its rankings calculations. So Stern’s rise is, in effect, a correction of sorts on a unfair ranking in 2016.

Otherwise, this year’s biggest news has to do with Wharton’s move into a first-place tie with Harvard Business School and Stanford’s second consecutive decline in the U.S. News ranking to finish in a three-way tie for fourth place. Stanford fell into second place last year behind HBS due to comparatively lower employment rates for graduates, and it fell further behind this year for the same reason.

Though 72% of Stanford’s graduating class had job offers at graduation in 2016, only 63% of the students accepted those offers. That is a job acceptance rate that is nine percentage points below the year-earlier level of 72% when 79% of the class had offers. The deterioration in those numbers also showed up three months after graduation. At that point, 90% of the class had offers but just 82% of the MBAs accepted their offers. The job acceptance rate three months after commencement dropped four percentage points from the 86% level of a year earlier. Yet, the pair of job accepted metrics at graduation and three months later account for a substantial 21% of U.S. News’ ranking.

HOW THE TOP 10 PERFORMED ON U.S. NEWS’ PEER & RECRUITER SURVEYS

School2016 Peer Survey2016 Recruiter Survey
1. Harvard4.8 (4.8)4.5 (4.6)
1. Wharton4.7 (4.7)4.5 (4.5)
3. Chicago (Booth)4.7 (4.7)4.5 (4.5)
4. Northwestern (Kellogg)4.6 (4.6)4.4 (4.5)
4. MIT (Sloan)4.7 (4.7)4.4 (4.5)
4. Stanford GSB4.8 (4.8)4.4 (4.5)
7. UC-Berkeley (Haas)4.6 (4.6)4.3 (4.3)
8. Dartmouth (Tuck)4.3 (4.3)4.2 (4.2)
9. Yale SOM4.3 (4.3)4.3 (4.3)
9. Columbia4.4 (4.4)4.1 (4.1)

Source: U.S. News & World Report Year-earlier scores are between parentheses. All scores are on a five-point scale with five representing the highest possible score.

(See following page for core metrics of the Top 25 ranked schools)

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.