10 Business Schools To Watch In 2018

Travel back to 2003. Wondering what the U.S. News MBA rankings looked like? Well, Harvard and Wharton finished as the top two full-time programs. MIT Sloan and Northwestern Kellogg were tied at 4th – just like today. And Berkeley Haas was again safely nestled in the 7th spot.

Nothing to see here, right?

Think again.


Columbia Business School – a charter member of the M7 – has slipped from 6th to 9th over the past 15 years. Thanks to the 2008 financial collapse – and the accompanying contraction of the banking industry – CBS no longer differentiates itself by offering the highest starting salary and bonus. By the same token, Duke Fuqua has tumbled from 7th to 12th – a victim of an academic arms race that has trimmed its average incoming GMATs by six points and GPA by .12 of a point. Alas, several programs have surged over the same period. The fund-raising prowess of Ted Snyder laid the groundwork for Chicago Booth’s vault from 9th to 3rd – well, that and a 39 point bump in GMAT scores. Snyder’s formula obviously works, as Yale SOM – his latest stop – has climbed into the Top 10 despite its vibrant public sector dragging down average pay.

In business school rankings, shifts are incremental. The indicators are subtle and slight, building a momentum that can only be appreciated as time passes. These changes may take the form of measurables like GMATs scores or average pay. Or, they may be stem from investments in programming, facilities, and financial aid – the hidden hand that eventually nudges those precious inputs and outputs upward.

Each year, Poets&Quants examines the MBA landscape to identify the 10 business schools that are poised to break out of their lanes. They are the programs whose courageous visions and underlying fundamentals have positioned them to increase the value of their degrees – and the quality of their experience as a whole. What are these programs and how are they separating themselves? Here is P&Q’s 3rd annual list of MBA programs that are ready to climb in the rankings and generate greater student interest in the coming year.

The Tepper Quadrangle, scheduled to open in spring 2018, is a 305,000-square-foot hub of technology, innovation, entrepreneurship, and business at the center of the Carnegie Mellon campus

Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)

The word is out on Tepper – and the word is good. Yes, it was a banner year for the program, which enjoyed a 13.5% spike in applications during the 2016-2017 cycle – tying it with Booth for the highest application growth among Top 25 MBA programs. To accommodate demand, Tepper opened 14 new spots in the program. The class wasn’t just bigger, but better as average GMATs climbed by five points as well.

One reason for the positive buzz? Happier students. In the past two years, Tepper’s student satisfaction ranking in the Bloomberg Businessweek survey has jumped from 25th to 8th. Coincidence? Hardly, as Forbes ran its own student satisfaction survey in 2017… and Tepper finished 8th (after being unranked in the previous survey). Not surprisingly, the program rose in four of the six major rankings, including going from 19th to 17th with Poets & Quants.

Here’s another number that’s certain to surprise. In a business climate that seeks stronger tech skills and female representation, Tepper offers both. Over the past five years, 33% of female graduates have entered tech on average, with the number spiking to 45% in the Class of 2016.  The market obviously likes what it sees as Tepper finished in top 10 in Bloomberg Businessweek’s recruiter satisfaction survey for the second consecutive year

And 2018 is looking promising as well. This spring, the school will open the Tepper Quad, a 315,000 centerpiece that doubles existing space and boost its master’s student population to boot. Aside from amenities ranging from a fitness center to a 600 seat auditorium, the Quad brings benefits to Tepper that are both functional and symbolic. Already the hub of entrepreneurial activity at Carnegie Mellon, the Quad is expected to become ground zero for collaborations with schools on campus.

“The Tepper Quad was designed and built to sit at the literal and metaphorical center of campus,” explains Kate Barraclough, who heads the MBA program. “The Tepper Quad is part of the school’s strategy to introduce a new “inter-connected” academic model that fundamentally changes the way business is taught and learned, by elevating a management underpinning throughout other campus disciplines, such as engineering, design, computer science, the arts, and science.”

This interconnection will only enhance the student experience at Tepper, a program renowned for a top tier teaching and research faculty – one whose emphasis on rigorous data analysis is both legendary and more relevant than ever. “The approach that underlies our program is a really deep and thorough understanding of analytics and the role that data places in decision-making; the role that modern data issues are having in every field together with some really creative approaches to leadership like how you take what you know from the data to change organizations,” says Mike Trick, senior associate dean of faculty and research. “The faculty buys into the importance of both halves of this. It gets reflected in the classroom. There is a unity happening.”

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