Stanford Tops New U.S. News MBA Ranking

The top five MBA programs, according to U.S. News’ 2021 MBA ranking


Though the U.S. News ranking fails to assess schools outside the U.S., it is arguably the most watched and followed of all the MBA rankings. The magazine puts a 2022 date on the ranking, even though it is coming out in 2021 and based on 2020 data. That’s largely because of the use of quantitative data on admissions and career outcomes. The methodology takes into account a wealth of proprietary and school-supplied data to crank out its annual ranking of the best full-time MBA programs. This year, U.S. News said it surveyed all 486 MBA programs accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International in the U.S. in the fall of 2020 and early 2021. A total of 364 responded, with 143 providing enough information to be assessed for a ranking.

The magazine does its own peer assessment survey of B-school deans and MBA directors (25% of the score). U.S. News reported that 47% of those surveyed responded. The highest scores achieved in this survey was a 4.8 on a five-point scale, with one representing a reply of “marginal” and five “outstanding.” Stanford, Wharton, Harvard and MIT Sloan all gained the top 4.8 score. It also does its own survey of corporate recruiters (accounting for 15% of the overall ranking). U.S. News said it averaged the recruiter scores over the past three years for the ranking. Stanford and Wharton earned the highest score on this metric, a 4.5.

Other metrics included in the ranking are starting salaries and bonuses (14%), employment rates at and three months after graduation (7% and 14%, respectively), student GMATs and GREs scores (about 16%), undergrad GPAs (about 8%), and the percentage of applicants who are accepted to a school (a little over 1%). This year for only the second time, U.S. News included analytical writing scores as part of the methodology. For the fourth consecutive year, MBA programs that reported that less than 50% of their full-time fall 2020 entering students submitted average GMAT scores and average GRE quantitative, verbal and analytical scores received less credit for those test scores in the rankings.

U.S. News made one subtle change in this year’s ranking due to the pandemic. If a school’s combined percentages of its fall 2020 entering class submitting GMAT and GRE scores was less than 25% of all its new entrants, it received less credit on this ranking indicator. The 25% threshold was reduced from 50% to account for many schools reporting on fewer GMAT and GRE test takers this year due the disruptions in 2020 entering class admissions process due to COVID.

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