You’ve heard about the M7 again and again. The Magnificent 7 business schools, the cream of the crop, elite of the elite, best of the best — the gold standard in graduate business education. But the M7 are not the only great B-schools in the United States. In fact, one or two of them could arguably be expelled from that informal yet very real group of elite peers and replaced by a school whose academic reputation approaches or even exceeds theirs. Which school could be dropped? Let’s put a pin in that and circle back another day.
A related but less thorny question: If there were a shakeup, which schools would move up? And what group do those schools belong to now? In other words, which schools comprise the “S7” — the Second or Super 7 elite schools whose place in the rankings and whose admissions and employment data show they are rightfully regarded as world-class — second, as it were, to almost none?
Turns out, the S7 does exist — it was formed in 2008 as a response to the M7 and does around 40 admissions events every year. But we at Poets&Quants see the number seven as entirely arbitrary. Why seven? Why not 10? And so S10 it is.
The obvious follow-up — Which schools belong in the S10? — is not terribly difficult to answer, based on available numbers. If the M7 are (in no particular order) Harvard, Wharton, Stanford GSB, Chicago Booth, Columbia, MIT Sloan, and Northwestern Kellogg, then it follows that the S10 would be, to begin with, UC-Berkeley Haas, Dartmouth Tuck, Yale SOM, Michigan Ross, NYU Stern, Duke Fuqua, and Cornell Johnson (the original 2008 S7), plus Carnegie Mellon Tepper, Virginia Darden, and UCLA Anderson.
Disagree? Sound off in the comments! In the meantime, we have compiled a trove of data on 10 B-schools where anyone in their right mind would be ecstatic to enroll. Many of these numbers can be found online but many cannot, and they have never been compiled in their totality in one place before.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN S10 SCHOOL
First, a dose of reality. P&Q has hammered the fact that applications to U.S. business schools are in a three-year slump, a protracted decline that seems unlikely to have improved when the story of the current app cycle, now underway, is written. And what is true for the M7 — apps falling across the board, in some cases drastically — is true for their lower-ranks peers.
The worst one-year decline came at Dartmouth, which lost 22.5% of application volume; over the last three cycles, the steepest decline in apps was at CMU Tepper, which saw a 28.7% drop-off. Conversely, the best overall picture was at Virginia Darden, which lost only 3.9% last year (though Darden also saw a 20% decline over three years), while NYU Stern over the last three years lost only 10.4% of its applications.
Corresponding to the loss of applications, acceptance rates climbed at all 10 schools: Tepper has the highest rate, at 41.5%, up from 35% last year; while Tuck saw biggest leap, from 22.7% in 2018 to 34.5% last year, a jump of 52%.
Musing on the causes of the app decline, Dartmouth’s Luke Anthony Peña, executive director for admissions and financial aid, told Poets&Quants last year that economics and politics are not the only forces to blame. “I will say I believe the reasons for recent shifts in application volume go far beyond the natural rhythms of the economic cycles,” Peña said. “I think they have to do with how and when and where and why today’s graduate leaders are choosing to level up their skills and to build broader networks.”
THE S10 IN COMPARISON WITH EACH OTHER
While acceptance rates have gone up at each of the S10, yield — the percentage of admitted students who enroll — has, predictably, gone down at most. The biggest drop-offs came at Dartmouth Tuck (48.2% to 40.5%) and CMU Tepper (41% to 36.8%); but two schools, Duke Fuqua and UCLA Anderson, actually increased their yield, the former by 3.1% and the latter more significantly, by 13.6%.
All these undulations in acceptance rate and yield — and other tribulations associated with the ongoing crisis in applications — naturally have affected class sizes. Eight of the S10 saw their MBA class sizes shrink in the last two years, by a little or by a lot: Tuck, Michigan Ross, Yale SOM, and Haas enrolled slightly smaller classes in 2019 than in 2018, but NYU Stern (from 370 to 350), Duke (440 to 395), and Tepper (236 to 200) experienced drastic declines. Cornell Johnson increased its class size by three students, meanwhile, and Virginia Darden by one, while UCLA’s MBA remained the same at 360 students.
For a hint at how schools are handling the he app crisis, look no further than Cornell Johnson, one of the less-hard-hit schools between 2018 and 2019 which dropped just 4.1% (from 1,600 to 1,535). Still, the school has lost more than 21% over the last three cycles. As the gravity of the application decline became evident in 2018, Judi Byers, executive director of admission and financial aid at the Johnson School, told Poets&Quants that the school planned to loosen the bottleneck a bit, “reflective of our decision to emphasize class composition as a school priority, value, and enrollment objective.” Meanwhile, she added, the “overall professional experience and academic profile of candidates” remained strong. “And our community is more diverse now too,” Byers said, “with more women and students from underrepresented backgrounds, including LGBTQ, which has notably shifted the experience to be richer and more inclusive than it was previously.” Cornell’s acceptance rate climbed from 30% to 33% in the wake of the recalibration, and has grown even more in the year since, to 38.3% (see table above).
As MBA programs in general have entered a new era of struggle for survival, it’s tempting to see the S10 as islands of reliability. There, for example, one sees the drive for gender equality proceeding apace, with five of the 10 schools boasting 40% or greater women students (and cause for optimism at the others) in the Class of 2021. All likewise boast strong academic pedigrees: Nine of the 10 have average GPAs of 3.40 or higher, and six of the 10 have average GMAT scores of 719 or better. But these positives are mitigated by the other previously mentioned metrics: acceptance rates and yield, as well as international enrollment, where only one school, Yale SOM (44%), has eclipsed the 40% threshold.
Correction: This story originally reported UC-Berkeley’s yield number for 2018 as 63.4%; the correct number for that year is 49.4%.
See the next pages for data on cost, salaries, rankings, and much more for the S10 schools.
AND CHECK OUT THE S10 IN OUR MEET THE CLASS OF 2021 SERIES: