Breaking Down the 2017 U.S. News Ranking of Top Business Schools: Part 2

US News College Rankings

Make sure you check out Part 1 of this article before you begin reading more of our thoughts on the recently released U.S. News and World Report‘s 2017 ranking of Best Business Schools. Now let’s take a deeper look at some of the surprises this year’s rankings presented:


Ranking surprises 
We were quite surprised to see Columbia (#10) come behind Tuck and Yale this year (ranked #8 and #9 respectively). Columbia has a very high yield of admitted applicants who choose to attend the school, and it has been working hard to foster a more collaborative culture. However, Tuck’s employment statistics and remarkably high percentage of graduates receiving a signing bonus (87%!) play well to the U.S. News methodology. We shouldn’t sell Tuck short, though, as other intangibles at Tuck not included in this ranking — such as student satisfaction, alumni network, and tight-knit culture — also rate among the highest of any MBA program.

Yale snagged Dean Ted Snyder from Chicago Booth back in 2011 after he presided over its precipitous rise in the rankings. His magic potion seems to be working at Yale as well, and we’ve dubbed him the “Rankings Whisperer.” He thoroughly understands the drivers of rankings and pushes all levers to the max to improve the standings of his schools. Yale has begun to move away from its ties to the social and nonprofit sectors, driving up average starting salaries and recruitment percentages, but perhaps distancing the program from its roots.

University of Virginia’s Darden School always seems to be the sleeper success story, and this year is no exception. With its best placement in more than a decade, Darden came in at #11. Darden’s reputation amongst peer schools and recruiters is not as strong as most other programs ranked in the top 15, but it has a very strong starting salary/bonus and other statistics.

Be wary of average salary numbers
The U.S. News ranking incorporates average salary plus signing bonus in its rankings, which in theory, is not a bad thing. After all, many applicants desire to gain an MBA, at least in part, to improve their salary potential. However, we recommend that you look at salaries just like the rankings themselves—by using the numbers in a broader context. After all, the difference in average salary and bonus between Harvard (ranked #1 overall) and Cornell (ranked #14 overall), is less than $5,000 per year.

If you analyze the data industry-by-industry (as we have), you’ll find that there’s little difference in salaries coming out of the top 10 to 15 programs. The biggest difference is the percentage of graduates who are able to land positions in highly selective industries, such as private equity. But here’s the rub: most of these highly selective industries are looking for extremely qualified candidates who have pre-MBA experience that fits their needs. So even if you manage to squeeze into Harvard or Stanford, if you don’t have the pre-MBA experience that these firms are looking for, then you’re going to have a tough time getting an interview, much less landing a job, in the highest paying private equity or venture capital positions.

Also, some roles, such as in investment banking, do not have as high of base salaries or signing bonuses, but a high percentage of your income will come from performance-based quarterly and annual bonuses. Other roles simply pay less, such as marketing and product management, but remain very attractive to a significant number of MBA graduates. Schools with a higher percentage of graduates taking these roles, such as Kellogg, can have lower overall salary averages, when their graduates make as much or more than peers within their chosen industry. None of this information can be captured in the U.S. News ranking.

Bottom line: Are you likely to make more money coming out of a program ranked #5 than ranked #20? Yes. But should you let this number dictate your decision between #7 and #12? Not necessarily. There are many other factors to consider, such as whether your target companies, industries, and so forth.

A holistic approach
We’ve provided a bit of context and analysis around this year’s ranking, and we encourage you to use these lists as merely a starting point in your research process. We encourage you to take advantage of our Veritas Prep Essential Guide to Top Business Schools to assist in your process, as it’s now available for free on our website!

In addition, if you’re interested in finding out your chances of admission to the top schools, you can sign up for a free profile evaluation to explore your individual strengths and weaknesses. Veritas Prep has worked with thousands of successful applicants to the top business schools, and we look forward to assisting you on your own journey!

Travis Morgan is the Director of Admissions Consulting for Veritas Prep and earned his MBA with distinction from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He served in the Kellogg Student Admissions Office, Alumni Admissions Organization and Diversity & Inclusion Council, among several other posts. Travis joined Veritas Prep as an admissions consultant and GMAT instructor, and he was named Worldwide Instructor of the Year in 2011. 

UVA (Darden) Application Essays for 2010-2011

The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business has released its application essays for the 2010-2011 admissions season. (We wrote about the school’s upcoming MBA admissions deadlines last week.)

You’ll notice that Darden has one of the shorter sets of admissions essays that you’ll find among top schools. Also, Darden’s essays are pretty different than most other schools’ essays, meaning that you won’t be able to do much copying and pasting. Darden wants you to put original thought into these essays and demonstrate your fit with — and your enthusiasm for — the program.

Here are Darden’s essays for the 2010-2011 admissions season, followed by our comments in italics:

Darden Admissions Essays

  1. The Darden MBA program expects students to actively participate in learning teams, the classroom, and the broader community. Please share one or two examples from your past experience that best illustrate(s) how you will contribute to this highly engaging and hands-on learning environment. (500 words)

    This question is new this year, although it’s loosely descended from last year’s Essay #2, which asked what you will contribute to an MBA program. This new version is actually very focused compared to most MBA admissions essay questions: Darden doesn’t wallflowers, but rather active participants… Give them specific reasons to believe you are one of the latter. Ideally you can spell out at least one really good example using the “Situation-Action-Result” method outlined in Your MBA Game Plan. (One really good example beats two okay ones, hands-down.)

    Also, you only have 500 words, but this question is your best chance to demonstrate a measure of fit with Darden… Again, words are precious here, and the majority of your response will need to focus on you, but you need to give the admissions team at least some reasons to believe that you “get” the Darden community and understand what they’re looking for when they talk about valuing active contributors.

  2. Please discuss how a global event that has taken place in the past two years has impacted the way you think about leadership broadly and personally. (500 words)

    This question is a revision of last year’s Essay #1, which asked “How have the changes in the global economy over the last 18 months affected you and your plan for the future?” We didn’t particularly like this question, since it tended to steer applicants towards talking about “big picture” issues instead of talking about themselves. Plus, built into the question was the assumption that everyone HAD been affected by the rocky economic climate, while in fact many applicants’ plans hadn’t changes at all. This left many strong applicants scrambling to generate an impressive-sounding story when they didn’t necessarily have one.

    So, we’re glad they changed the question, although the risk of an applicant focusing too much on “big picture” global issues — that don’t really shed any light on who they are and what they hope to achieve in life — still remains. The key here is to especially focus on the last few words, which put the emphasis on on YOU. If the global issue you want to discuss is rising energy prices and your alarm over what you think is a lack of a coherent national energy policy for your country, don’t just stop there. Bring it back to a time you witnessed a similar challenge at work, and how you took the steps needed to make sure your team wasn’t only making short-sited decisions. That’s the type of story that can turn a potentially murky response into a winner.

Plan on applying to Darden this year? Download our Darden Annual Report, one of 15 free business school admissions guides available on our site. And, be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter!

Photo courtesy of Mr. T in DC, under a Creative Commons license.

UVA (Darden) MBA Admissions Deadlines for 2010-2011

The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business recently published its application deadlines for the coming admissions season. Here they are, followed by our comments in italics:

UVA (Darden) Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 14, 2010
Round 2: January 5, 2011
Round 3: March 30, 2011

Like many other top business schools, Darden has moved its Round 1 deadline forward, by two weeks in this case. However, unlike some of those other schools, Darden’s Round 1 notification deadline comes in January, after most schools’ Round 2 application deadlines. So, if you’re waiting on your Round 1 Darden decision, there’s a good chance you will have to submit your other apps before you hear back from Darden. The schools’ Round 2 and Round 3 deadlines have barely changed vs. last year’s.

Darden has also released its 2010-2011 admissions essays (just two of them… short and sweet), which we’ll dig into on this blog soon!

Getting ready to apply to business school? Call Veritas Prep at 800=925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter!

Photo courtesy of Mr. T in DC, under a Creative Commons license.

UVA (Darden) Application Essays for 2008-2009

UVA’s Darden School of Business has released its application essays for the 2008-2009 admissions season. Here they are, with our comments in italics:

UVA (Darden) Application Essays

  1. What pivotal choice(s) have you made in your life that have influenced your decision to pursue an MBA? (500 words)

    (This question is new this year, and that emphasis on the word “you” is Darden’s. Last year’s first Darden essay was very similar to Stanford’s “what matters most to you, and why?” question, which probably was leading applicants to talk about everything BUT themselves. Now the admissions committee is explicitly putting the emphasis on YOU with this question. Of course, you should always keep the discussion in your essays and your admissions interviews focused on you — what you accomplished, what you were feeling when you made a decision, etc. — as much as possible. But this question goes directly after that, so make sure to answer the question.)

  2. From the following categories, describe the one that has taught you the most: a creative challenge, an ethical dilemma or an experience of failure. Why? (250 words)

    (This question is also new this year. This is a very short essay, so you’ll obviously need to keep it focused. At least the school gives you a menu from which you can choose a topic. You may be tempted to recycle essays from another application, but the fact that this is so short will make that very difficult.)

  3. Describe how you are a fit with the case study method. (250 words)

    (We think this is a great question. Darden takes the case study method as seriously as HBS does, and anyone who applies to Darden must be able to explain why that learning style is a good fit for them. Having trouble answering this? Then think long and hard about why you’re applying to Darden.)

For more advice on applying to Darden, visit the Veritas Prep UVA (Darden) information page, and let us help you develope your own MBA Game Plan for Darden.

Don’t Be Dissuaded, Declares Darden Dean

Okay, overzealous alliteration aside, Dean Bruner of the Darden School of Business recently posted an article encouraging current and potential MBA candidates to maintain their enthusiasm about a business career despite the current financial crisis. Though he acknowledges that graduates will likely have to be less picky in their job searches, he insists that in the long run, getting your MBA will be beneficial. Take a look at what he has to say here.