Harvard | Mr. Student Product Manager
GMAT 760, GPA 3.4
London Business School | Ms. FANG Tech
GRE 321, GPA 3.7
Harvard | Mr. PE Strategist
GRE 326, GPA 3.6
Columbia | Mr. CPA
GMAT 720, GPA 3.5
Wharton | Mr. Digital Health Start-Up
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Sports Management
GMAT 690, GPA 3.23
Darden | Mr. International Trade
GRE 323, GPA 3.6
Harvard | Mr. Health Clinic Founder
GRE 330, GPA 3
Said Business School | Mr. Strategy Consulting Future
GMAT 720, GPA 3.98
Stanford GSB | Mr. Robotics
GMAT 730, GPA 2.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Aspiring Tech Entrepreneur
GMAT 690, GPA 3.4
London Business School | Mr. Supply Chain Latino
GRE 320, GPA 3.4
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Operations Manager
GRE 328, GPA 3.1
Harvard | Ms. Media Entertainment
GMAT 740, GPA 3.3
Wharton | Mr. Private Equity Analyst
GRE 320, GPA 3.3
GMAT 770, GPA 3.7
Wharton | Mr. Basketball To B-School
GRE 334, GPA 3.73
Harvard | Mr. E-Sports Coach
GRE 323, GPA 5.72/10
INSEAD | Ms. Insightful Panda
GMAT 700, GPA 87.5%
NYU Stern | Mr. Bioinformatics
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
Harvard | Mr. Impact Investment
GMAT 760, GPA 3.2
Chicago Booth | Mr. Nonprofit-ish
GRE 333, GPA 3.81
INSEAD | Ms. Humble Auditor
GMAT 710, GPA 3.56
London Business School | Mr. Investment Finance
GMAT 750, GPA 2.2
Chicago Booth | Mr. Corporate Development
GMAT 740, GPA 3.2
Georgetown McDonough | Ms. Healthcare Tech
GMAT 680, GPA 3.2
Chicago Booth | Mr. Civil Engineer
GMAT 770, GPA 8.9/10

U.S. News Best MBA Program in 2018: Chicago Booth

Stanford University Graduate School of Business – Ethan Baron photo


As is often the case, there were some wild swings in the ranking, generally impacting schools that are further down on the list. In all, 15 schools that remained on the ranking had double-digit increases or decreases, even though little changes occurred in those MBA programs. The biggest plunge was sufferred by North Carolina State University’s Poole College of Management in Raleigh. That school’s full-time MBA program dropped 35 places in a single year to end up at a rank of 92nd from 57th (see Big Winners & Losers In 2019 U.S. News MBA Ranking).

The biggest gainer, not including the new schools on the list, was Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland. Weatherhead climbed 22 spots to place 55th from 77th only a year ago. Those roller-coaster results are the result of a ranking system with underlying index scores that are closely clustered together in a way that makes numerical rankings statistically meaningless in many cases.

As many as 12 schools turned over, meaning there are a dozen MBA programs on this year’s list that were unranked the previous year. The highest ranked new entries include the full-time MBA programs at the University of Kansas, which placed 73rd, No. 78 Howard University, as well as American University and Chapman University, tied for a rank of 79. The newbies replaced just as many programs that fell off the ranking.


Another perennial surprise in this year’s ranking is the relatively low ranking for Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. Though Stanford’s MBA program is generally regarded as neck-and-neck with Harvard for being the best in the world, U.S. News’ methodology does not favor the school which placed fourth this year. Though Stanford’s admissions standards top every other school, with the lowest acceptance rate of any prestige MBA program in the world at 5.7%, Stanford suffers from comparatively weak placement scores.

Only 63.9% of Stanford’s MBAs had jobs at graduation last year, the lowest level of employment for any top 30 business school. Three months after commencement, fewer than 90% of Stanford MBAs were employed at 87.6%, lower than any other top 25 school. U.S. News interprets those stats in the most negative sense, assuming that Stanford grads are having trouble finding jobs with their MBA degrees.

In truth, the degree is so valuable and the school’s graduates are so self-confident that they routinely search for the perfect post-MBA job. For many Stanford grads that means an independent search for a job with an early stage company or startup that doesn’t recruit many MBAs. Those searches don’t fall neatly into a recruitment calendar to satisfy U.S. News’ job metrics.


The result? Those low placement scores pretty much cancel out the highest average GMAT for any prestige MBA program (737), the highest undergraduate GPA (3.74) and the lowest acceptance rate. Stanford also loses out on the way U.S. News calculates pay. By not including other guaranteed compensation or equity awards (and Stanford grads are far more likely to get stock options or stock with their jobs than most other MBAs), Stanford also is at a disadvantage in the ranking.

According to U.S. News, Stanford grads had the second highest average salary and bonus behind only Wharton. In truth, MBA pay at Stanford last year was the highest ever reported for any MBA grads because the average other guaranteed comp came to $83,065, Average expected performance bonus added a whopping $71,946 more. Add those together with salary and bonus and the average first-year compensation for a Stanford MBA last year was a rather remarkable $227,768. That’s a big difference from the U.S. News salary and bonus average of $159,440.

All of this is a reminder that rankings often under- or over-value even the tangible attributes of a business school education. And they often fail to capture the intangible benefits of an MBA experience that could be far more valuable than what a methodology can measure. The unmistakeable takeaway? Take the U.S. News ranking, and all rankings for that matter, with a very big grain of salt.

(See following pages for the full ranking and how it compares with previous years)

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.