Poets&Quants’ Most Popular Stories Of 2021

By the end of the year, it was clear that 2021 would be remembered as only slightly less disruptive and chaotic than its predecessor. Waves of coronavirus, first the Delta variant, then Omicron, had business schools scrambling between sighs of relief. In the spring, the 2020-2021 academic year ended on an optimistic note, with most leading B-schools holding in-person commencement ceremonies for the first time in two years; but in the fall, the new calendar was disrupted almost immediately by Covid flareups, and as the holiday began in December, it was clear to many schools that a return to remote instruction was imminent.

Poets&Quants chronicled the endless see-saw and lots more, and will do so again in 2022 as the age of coronavirus continues. Below are our most-read stories of the last year — always helpful if you’re looking for clues about how our coverage will incline in the coming one.

But keep in mind: It’s not all bad. Just as in every year, 2021 was a year not only of heartbreak and challenges but of breakthroughs and achievements, too. The feel-good may not have quite outweighed the feel-anxious, but those stories happened — and we were there to cover them. Read on!


This one is a no-brainer. People read Poets&Quants because they want to know how their lives will improve through graduate business education. No one pores through employment data at a more granular level than we do, and our annual reports on median salaries, bonuses, and other compensation always draw strong reader interest. (That’s also why the next story on this list is included below.) In May we wrote:

“Gaudy numbers sometimes obscure larger trends.

“In 2020, a newly graduated MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business accepted a job in financial services in the West for a base salary of $400,000. Two Harvard Business School MBAs reported starting salaries of $375,000 — one of them, notably, at a nonprofit. At Columbia Business School, an international MBA in finance pulled down a cool $375K, as well.

“In fact, half of the top 26 business schools in the United States reported select graduates striking it rich with base salaries north of $200K in 2020, while 17 B-schools reported improbably large sign-on bonuses of $100K or greater, according to the data provided to U.S. News & World Report for its 2022 ranking. The latter group includes a UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School MBA who got a $250K bonus, the highest reported.”

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MBA Experience at McKinsey & Co.


Jobs, jobs, jobs. Our McKinsey story and related stories on the target schools for consulting giants Bain and Boston Consulting Group drew about 150,000 pageviews last year. In April we wrote of McKinsey:

“Of the big three MBB firms, McKinsey & Co. has the smallest target list of favored business schools. Both the Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Co. have more expansive lists, with BCG having 28 MBA programs with favored status while Bain boasts 40 different programs. In any case, the lists vary greatly in the choice of business schools.

“While these mainstream recruiters of MBA talent, offering internships and jobs to hundreds of MBAs every year, closely guard the lists of their business school favorites, they tip their hands in revealing targeted programs for their pre-MBA summer programs.

“The deadline for McKinsey’s Early Access program this year is May 13th. To be eligible to compete for a spot, applicants need to be admitted to a full-time MBA program at one of the 17 targeted schools with an anticipated graduation date of 2023. It’s exclusive, for sure. Only students entering a two-year full-time program or dual degree program will be considered by McKinsey. The consulting firm makes it explicit that candidates enrolled in a one-year, part-time, or executive MBA program, even at a targeted business school, are not eligible.”

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Harvard Business School


$250 may not seem like a big sum for MBA applicants. That’s the cost of two years of Netflix – or the application fee for a target school. Between rent and debt, it isn’t always easy for young professionals to scrape together that amount. And it is even more daunting when the school only accepts one candidate from every ten applications.

Those are the odds of getting into Harvard Business School. Today (June 17), HBS announced that it would begin offering a needs-based application fee waiver for the 2021-2022 cycle. According to the school, the action is designed to attract a more diverse set of candidates, while reducing financial hurdles that might spook students who face hardship.

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