The Best Cities For MBAs

Skyline of Lausanne, Switzerland as seen from the Cathedral hill at sunset. It includes the tower of St-Francois Church. Lake Leman (Lake Geneva) and the French Alps. Lausanne is the home of IMD Business School.  background.

MBAs want options. What does that exactly mean? For many, options translate to location – and the lifestyle that comes with it.

Many MBAs want to operate in the proverbial ‘center of the universe.’ Think New York City, London, Shanghai, and San Francisco. The world is fast-paced with people galore, a non-stop array of dining, nightlife, and entertainment. Here, there is something for everyone, communities where you can do anything and be anyone. With massive airports nearby, MBAs can fly anywhere from these cities too.

The wealth of options appealed to Reggie Greathouse, a 2023 Poets&Quants MBA To Watch and NYU Stern grad. For him, New York City provided access to every imaginable industry, company, and area of expertise – all in one concentrated, easily-accessible area.

New York City


“NYC is the center for innovation and entrepreneurship, providing students with access to a range of industry networks and opportunities to intern and work in some of the world’s leading organizations. This presents a unique opportunity for students to gain practical experience and learn from experts in the field. So far, I’ve been to Google, Uber, Palantir, LinkedIn, Deloitte, Pfizer, and MongoDB.”

For others, the best option is slow-and-steady, a wide space to spread out and savor the moment. Picture rural college towns, home to farmer’s markets and football tailgates. Less noise and fewer distractions – a place where students are the center of the action.

Before joining Dartmouth College’s Tuck school, Destinée Mentor-Richards was accustomed to working in metros like New York City and St. Louis. After re-locating to rural New Hampshire, she connected with the benefits of knowing your neighbors.

“I love the intimate size and feel of Hanover,” explains Mentor-Richards, a class president and Bain hire. “It is near impossible to walk through town or eat a meal at a restaurant without running into a familiar face. Given this, there is a certain comfort and trust inherent in living in a community where everyone feels seen and looked out for. Despite being in a more remote corner of New England, this familiarity and intimacy contributes to the entire Hanover and Upper Valley community feeling like home.”

Chicago, Illinois


In some locations, MBAs can enjoy the best of each of these worlds. Exhibit A: Evanston, Illinois – home of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School. Picture a college town with its tree-lined streets and progressive politics. In Evanston, MBAs can indulge in the usual pizza joints, coffee houses, and eclectic shops here-and-there. When the sun rises or sets, they can jog along the peaceful lakefront that hems in the campus. Come weekends, MBA can ditch these placid digs for experience all the action. After all, Chicago is just a 35-minute ride south, with its countless parks and beaches – not to mention live music venues and comedy clubs.

“Evanston is a very special place,” observes “23 grad Lauren Cziesla. “I love that it is close to downtown Chicago (and the incredible food scene that comes with that). Yet, Evanston itself is actually a small town. Most people from Kellogg who live in Evanston live within a 10-minute walk from each other. This helps foster the community and social life and promotes easy networking.  The Kellogg community is as strong as it is because the school is located in a smaller city with close proximity to the amenities of a big city.”

What are the best cities for MBAs? To borrow a popular business school expression, that depends. Want a sunshine-soaked Mediterranean climate? Check out California and Barcelona. Hoping for a four seasons experience with swimming in the summer and skiing in the winter? That’s New England to a tee! Earlier this year, P&Q asked Best & Brightest and MBAs To Watch candidates to share the best parts about the cities where they studied. From hidden hotspots to underrated activities, here are some benefits to living in the cities where the top business schools are based.

Liberty Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ann Arbor: “Ann Arbor is a magical place. There are parks, museums, breweries, and one of the best coffee shops in the world (yes, I’m obviously talking about RoosRoast!). However, undoubtedly my favorite part of Ann Arbor is its infatuation and commitment to the University of Michigan. Most of Ann Arbor’s small business owners went to Michigan, the signs of at least half the stores are colored maize or blue, and my 60-year-old neighbors set up their tailgate every Saturday morning of football season before I even wake up. It’s an electric energy to be around and I already feel nostalgic for it!”
Harshita Pilla, University of Michigan (Ross)

Atlanta: “Atlanta has an up-and-coming and vibrant vibe to it that has really grown on me. Known as the “City of Trees,” I absolutely love the spring and summertime when the whole city grows green and people are outside having fun. I’ve found making friends and doing things like going out to grab food and drinks is easier in Atlanta than nearly anywhere else I’ve been! In Atlanta, I enjoy biking the BeltLine and am looking forward to biking the Silver Comet Trail. As an avid outdoorsman, I love bouldering at Rocktown, Stone Fort, and Horse Pens 40 – all within two-and-a-half hours of Atlanta. Plus, we are literally the start of the Appalachian Trail – lots of hiking to be done! One of my co-workers at the NPS worked in Atlanta and I told him to go walk the BeltLine. He called me later and told me: “You know that random person biking down the street blasting music and vibing? That’s like all of Atlanta!” I love that energy.
Bill (William) Landefeld, Georgia Tech (Scheller)

“It’s Atlanta! What’s not to love about it? It is a culturally diverse big city with amazing food, vibrant night life, and rich history accompanied by “Southern hospitality”. My favorite part about Atlanta is its lush green spaces within the city limits, including the Botanical Gardens and Piedmont Park. It’s not often that you see a city that has an expanse of greenery and is not a concrete jungle. If you want to live in a big city, not experience traffic snarls, and stay close to nature too, look no further than Atlanta!”
Sukhreet Singh, Emory University (Goizueta)

Texas McCombs Consortium Students in front of the UT Austin Tower

Austin: “Austin punches way above its weight class. For a city with only a million residents, it’s filled to the brim with cultural options that would fit perfectly in a bigger city like San Francisco or New York City. The shopping, food, and events like SXSW and Austin City Limits are truly amazing.”
Alexis Greco, University of Texas (McCombs)

Baltimore: “I absolutely love my business school’s town, Baltimore. One of the things I appreciate the most about this city is my neighborhood and the people who live here. The city is very pedestrian-friendly, with a beautiful waterfront, and an interesting mix of historical and contemporary elements.

What I find particularly remarkable about Baltimore is the sense of community and investment in the city. It’s a small town feel within a big city, where people are genuinely committed to the betterment and growth of their community.”
Jon Ilani, Johns Hopkins (Carey)

Next Page: Barcelona, Boston, London, Los Angeles, and more…

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