At Poets&Quants, we’re data nerds. We love talking rankings methodology with school administrators, readers, and each other. So it should come as no surprise we take seriously the methodology and data gathering for one of our most important annual projects — so much so, that it’s basically a year-round project.
Each year we start by placing our entire school and alumni surveys and methodology into Google docs and inviting school administrators, deans, and research staff to offer comments and suggestions. This year we invited 85 schools to do just that. After two weeks of open comment, we take all their many comments and suggestions into account and — if it makes sense to do so — adjust our methodology. This year, we made changes to the alumni survey as well as the methodology in the academic experience and career outcomes categories, both of which are comprised of data gathered from the alumni survey.
This year, 47 schools chose to participate, up from 35 the previous two years and 25 in the inaugural ranking. Of those, 45 allowed us to survey their alumni. Two schools elected not to survey their alumni. Of the 45, all but two met the minimum response rate of 10% to have their data count in the methodological calculations. Among the 45 schools to survey their alumni, 5,880 total alumni were surveyed, and 1,143 responded, for an average response rate of 19.4%.
POETS&QUANTS’ APPROACH TO RANKING ONLINE MBA PROGRAMS
This year’s admissions standards remained the same as previous years. We asked schools to submit average GMAT scores for all students enrolling during the 2019-2020 academic year (July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020). We also asked what percentage of the newly enrolled population submitted GMAT scores and combined that with the percentage of students enrolling during the same timeframe with at least 10 years of work experience that had their GMAT scores waived. To calculate the final GMAT score, we multiply the average GMAT score by the total percentage of students reporting the GMAT and percentage of students with at least 10 years of work experience.
For example, if a school reported an average GMAT of 650 with 25% reporting scores and 25% with 10 years of work experience or more, the final GMAT score is 325. Requiring a GMAT score for online MBA programs isn’t common so this awards schools that do not require a GMAT score for enrolling seasoned professionals into their programs. Within the entire Admissions Standards category, this data point is weighted by 50%. Lehigh University topped this data point, reporting an average GMAT of 629 with 34% reporting a score and 78% of the class having their GMAT waived with at least 10 years of working experience.
Next, we ask schools to report the average undergraduate GPA of students enrolling during the 2019-2020 academic year and give it a 20% weight. This year, Worcester Polytechnic Institute had the highest average undergraduate GPA with 3.54. The University of Texas-Dallas followed at 3.48. Also given a 20% weight is the average work experience of students enrolling in 2019-2020. This year’s highest average is 15 years at George Washington University, the Jack Welch Management Institute, and Rochester Institute of Technology. For the final 10% in the category, we calculated acceptance rates during the 2019-2020 enrollment cycles for each school. The school with the stingiest admissions this year was Jack Welch at 24.79%. Next was Drexel University at 31.32% and rounding out the top three was the Rochester Institute of Technology at 33.33%. It was by far the most competitive year for the top business schools since we started this ranking in 2017.
Academic experience is comprised of 18 questions from the alumni survey. The first 15 are scaled one-to-10 questions asking the alumni about their satisfaction with the faculty, fellow students, alumni network, the quality of professors, and accessibility of professors, among other areas. That average score is given an 80% weight, up from 75% last year. The reason we increased it is last year’s survey only included 11 questions. UT Dallas had the highest average at 9.63. Indiana University’s Kelley School followed with 9.45 and USC’s Marshall School rounded out the top-three at 9.41.
Next, we asked alumni if the program had at least one international experience, student clubs and organizations, and at least one consulting project for a client organization. “Yes” answers were averaged across all three questions and given a 20% weight. None of those questions were included in last year’s methodology, but they were on last year’s alumni survey. The school with the highest average was Villanova University (63.33%). Following Villanova were Indiana Kelley (60%) and American University (48.81%).
The career outcomes category is also from the alumni survey. We asked alumni if they received a salary increase and a promotion. We took the average of those two questions and gave it a 40% weight. Those questions were previously given a 25% weight in the academic experience category. The University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business had the highest average this year with 76.47%. Maryland was followed by The College of William & Mary (74.20% and Santa Clara University (72.22%).
Next, we asked alumni to rate their school’s career advising office and career coaches and support. The two questions were averaged and given a 20% weight, the same as last year. The University of Utah and UT-Dallas topped this category, each earning an average score of 9.5. USC’s Marshall School followed with 9.48. Next, we asked if the school helped alumni reach their primary (20% weight) and secondary (10% weight) goals. These categories were given a 40% (primary) and 20% (secondary) weight last year. William & Mary topped the primary category with 9.74. North Carolina State followed with 9.67 and the University of South Florida had the third-highest at 9.6. William & Mary also led the secondary category with 9.81. North Carolina State (9.67) and USC Marshall (9.23) rounded out the top three.
For the final 10%, we asked graduates to rate the career-advancing potential of their new alumni network. This was given a 20% weight last year. NC State topped the category with an average of 9.33. Hofstra followed with 9.3 and USC rounded out the top three with 9.26.
Admissions Standards (100 possible points):
- Average GMAT (adjusted for percentage that reported plus percentage that had it waived with 10 or more years of work – 50%)
- Average undergraduate GPA (20%)
- Average years of work experience (20%)
- Acceptance rate (10%)
Academic Experience (100 possible points):
- Average score of 15 one-to-10 scaled questions (80%)
- Average percentage of three other questions looking at international experiences, student clubs and organizations, and completing a consulting project (20%)
Career Support and Outcomes (100 possible points):
- Average reporting a salary increase or promotion (40%)
- Average rating of career coach/mentor and career advising office (20%)
- Average of primary career goal being met (20%)
- Average of secondary career goal being met (10%)
- Average satisfaction of alumni/professional network (10%)
Editorial note: Imperial College Business School submitted incomplete admissions survey data that would’ve greatly impacted its ranking. Poets&Quants goes through extensive fact-checking after the data has been reporting, confirming all key data with schools before calculating and finalizing the ranking. Imperial College confirmed its original data during that fact-checking process. Days before the publication of this ranking, Imperial College provided the missing data and requested it be considered for the ranking. Unfortunately, we were unable to make that change within the methodology of the ranking because of the timing and our staff felt it would impact the 46 other schools in the ranking that successfully reported accurate data and confirmed the fact check.
The 2021 Poets&Quants Online MBA Rankings Package
THE BEST ONLINE MBA PROGRAMS OF 2021
HOW ONLINE MBA STUDENTS RATE THEIR EXPERIENCE
HOW ONLINE MBAS RATE THE IMPACT OF THE DEGREE ON THEIR CAREERS
ACCEPTANCE RATES FOR THE TOP ONLINE MBA PROGRAMS
AVERAGE GMAT, GRE & GPAS FOR THE 2021 TOP ONLINE MBA PROGRAMS
MOST & LEAST EXPENSIVE TOP ONLINE MBA PROGRAMS OF 2021
VIDEO: DEANS’ PANEL — A CONVERSATION WITH LEADERS OF THE TOP ONLINE MBA OPTIONS
PODCAST: MBA ALTERNATIVES: A BUSINESS CASUAL CONVERSATION ON THE PROS AND CONS OF MBA ALTERNATIVES FROM ONLINE MBAS TO PART-TIME MBAS AND EXECUTIVE MBA PROGRAMS
Comments or questions about this article? Email us.