Breaking Down the 2017 U.S. News Ranking of Top Business Schools: Let the Games Begin!

US News College RankingsJust three and a half months into 2016, U.S. News & World Report has already released its 2017 ranking of Top Business Schools, and there’s quite a bit to talk about. The U.S. News ranking is arguably the most influential among U.S. business schools, and for good reason.

Various stakeholders can (and do) haggle over percentages of weight given to this statistic or that, but we at Veritas Prep think it does a good job at quantifying broad characteristics that a typical business school applicant would care about, namely the school’s overall reputation (40% weight), the ability to place you in a good-paying job (35%), and the capabilities of your fellow students (25%). We won’t get into the nitty-gritty here, but you’re more than welcome to read about the rankings methodology on the U.S. News website.

Now, let’s get into the juicy stuff!

Chicago Booth moves to #2
For the first time in the poll’s history, Chicago Booth has entered the #2 spot, tied with Stanford Graduate School of Business. There’s a lot to talk about here. How can Booth, which admits one in every four applicants (24.4%), possibly rank equally to Stanford, which admits only 6.1%? The key is that Stanford graduates are pickier.

Let me explain: Stanford exceeds Booth (and pretty much every other program) in every category except job placement. In fact, on the surface, Stanford’s job placement numbers look absolutely abysmal: It ranks #52 in percentage of graduates employed at graduation (71.7%) and #74 in percentage of grads employed three months after graduation (86.2%).

But wait, shouldn’t recruiters be pounding down the door to hire Stanford grads? Indeed, they do. However, Stanford MBAs are known for being exceptionally picky, and they’re willing to wait to get the jobs they want. This year, 92% of Stanford MBAs had received a job offer within 3 months of graduation, but several of them chose not to accept those offers. MBAs from most other schools have a lower tolerance for risk, so once they near the three-month mark after graduation, few offers go unanswered.

In addition, far fewer Stanford graduates go into traditional MBA recruiting industries such as management, consulting and finance. These industries will hire whole classes of MBA recruits many months before graduation, so the schools that send more graduates into those industries tend to have stronger recruitment statistics than the programs that send more graduates into non-traditional positions. Remember, most companies will only hire someone when a position becomes available (just-in-time hiring), rather than hiring a whole slew of graduates at once.

Many Stanford grads tend to gravitate toward venture capital, private equity, or Bay Area startups, which are far smaller than the enormous banks and management consulting firms that many traditional MBAs are hired to. This depresses their statistics, but is also a key reason to attend Stanford GSB. Based on all other criteria, Stanford would be the clear #1 ranked program.

This isn’t to say that Chicago Booth isn’t deserving. The school has invested significantly in its career services resources and recruiting apparatus to ensure its graduates have stellar jobs upon graduation. Fully 95% of Booth graduates had accepted a job offer within three months of graduation, leading every school in the top-10 except the (much smaller) class at Tuck, which edged them out at 95.1%.

NYU Stern drops to #20, but ignore it
The biggest loser — by far — in this year’s ranking is NYU Stern, dropping from #11 last year to #20 this year. The school is furious, and we can’t blame them. Dean Peter Henry released a press release explaining the drop in ranking, which was due to inadvertently leaving one answer blank on a survey of 300 questions. The question asked for the number of admits that had submitted a GMAT score, which was not dramatically different from the previous year.

However, rather than simply reaching out and asking NYU Stern – perennially ranked in the top 10-12 programs – what the number should be, the ranking “estimated” the number, resulting in a drop of nine places. Clearly, their estimate was nowhere near realistic, and we at Veritas Prep believe this action by U.S. News to be in egregiously bad taste and downright punitive. We encourage all of our clients and readers to ignore this year’s ranking of NYU Stern, to not incorporate it into their school-selection decisions, and assume that had the data been reported correctly, the school would have remained in approximately the same rank.

Check out Part 2 of this article, in which we’ll take a deeper look at these rankings and what they might mean for you.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

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. 

Researching Schools? Begin with the End in Mind

MBAAt this is the time of year we speak with a lot of applicants who are just starting their school research process. How do many of them start? By cracking open the U.S. New rankings or BusinessWeek rankings and going down the list. Sound familiar? The fact of the matter is that how many of us do it, right or wrong!

This isn’t necessarily a bad place to start. One has to start somewhere, and no one has yet come up with a better way to size up all of the schools in one neat, tidy place. (Many will argue that there’s no reason why all of the top schools should be sorted along one dimension,. While we’re actually pretty sympathetic to this argument, human nature isn’t changing any time soon.)

One big problem is that many applicants never look deeper to consider what their immediate job opportunities will be when they graduate. Of course, when you walk out of a top-ranked school with an MBA, the world is your oyster, and your job opportunities aren’t limited just to the schools that recruit on campus. But, every year we talk to many students and recent grads who are disappointed that job opportunities in their industry/function of choice weren’t more readily available through traditional on-campus recruiting.

How can you avoid this problem? It’s up to you to know your target schools, including what companies recruit that each school and how many grads go into each industry. Fortunately, this isn’t hard information to obtain: Just a simple online search can help you find Harvard’s and Wharton’s job placement data. While grads at these schools are less often disappointed, even a Harvard MBA sometimes says, “I wish I knew that many of the best private equity firms don’t just set up interview slots on campus like other companies do.”

And, at lower-ranked schools, you sometimes need to be even more careful. There are dozens of terrific regional programs, but if you attend one and end up disappointed that it didn’t help you land a Wall Street banking job, then you may have no one to blame but yourself. As we told the Financial Times a few months ago, you need to begin with the end in mind.

One of the best ways to start researching top MBA programs is to download our Veritas Prep Annual Reports, 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools. And, be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter!

How Much Does The MBA Program You Attend Affect Your Lifetime Earnings?

Business School AdmissionsBloomberg BusinessWeek has just published the results of its second annual study of the lifetime earnings of graduates from the world’s top MBA programs, in partnership with PayScale. While the data are interesting, the headline’s not necessarily earth-shattering.

The key takeaway? Graduates of HBS, Wharton, and other ultra-elite business schools earn more money over the span of their careers than grads from any other MBA program. HBS grads earn the most, comfortably ahead of second-place Wharton. While these numbers are certainly interesting, there were a few other numbers in the article that piqued our interest more.

What Does It All Mean?
I’m not going to tear the study apart; I think it’s a really fascinating subject, one that gets right at the heart of what we do here at Veritas Prep. But, as the article states, the study does have its shortcomings. First, the study excludes harder-to-measure compensation items such as stock options, meaning that it might look at the Stanford GSB grad who joined Google back in 1999 as a relative pauper.

(As an aside, check out the guy in the picture in the new BusinessWeek article. Looks like he’s driving a car that can float in water, some sort of high-end amphibious convertible. We want one!)

Also, as far as I can tell, the survey doesn’t compare apples to apples as far as carer paths go. Of course the MBA who builds a fast-track career on Wall Street is going to make more money than the grad who joins a leadership development program at a medium-sized manufacturing company. Does that mean that the former grad necessarily got more bang for his buck from his MBA program? (Or, is an MBA “not worth it” unless you’re going to embark on one of those seven-figure career paths?)

What We Really Want to Know
The real question that we’d like to answer — and, again, this study deserves credit for getting closer to the answer than most others ever have — is how much more a business school grad makes over the course of his career because he attended a given MBA program. Undoubtedly, a large part of the appeal of a top business school is that it opens the doors to those seven-figure banking careers (and attractive management consulting gigs, terrific leadership development programs, challenging brand management opportunities, etc.). But, what numbers the study uncovers will be heavily impacted by what careers a given school’s graduates pursue. A school that sends a high percentage of its grads to investment banks will certainly show higher lifetime earnings than a school that sends a large number of grads into the non-profit sector.

One way to at least partly solve this problem would be for the study to break out graduates by job or industry. That may prove challenging because graduates switch jobs a lot, and in some cases breaking down the numbers may make a certain school’s numbers too small to be statistically reliable, but it would be an interesting exercise.

Intriguing Stats Regarding Salary Increases
Beyond that, we were intrigued by the measure of how much certain business school grads’ compensation increases over 20 years. Interestingly, the average increase for graduates of the top 45 MBA programs was 75%, which mirrors the average increase that the general U.S. population sees. Of course, MBA graduates’ salaries start out much higher than most typical U.S. workers’ so you’re talking about a larger dollar gain over those 20 years, but this was still interesting to us. If a business school prepares a young professional to lead, wouldn’t you expect top business school grads’ salaries to increase faster than that of the typical American? It’s an interesting question.

And, some top MBA programs — such as Ross, Yale, Sloan, and Tuck — have graduates whose salaries increase significantly less than the average American’s. That’s not a list a school would want to be on! But, again, there are so many factors in play (including, as one MIT Sloan representative pointed out, the fact that many grads may go into entrepreneurship, which may produce an artificially low salary number for some grads). So, again, very interesting numbers, but be sure to take them all with a grain of salt.

Let’s Do Some Research!
Finally, getting back to the question I raised earlier — how to know how much a business school is responsible for a graduate’s lifetime earnings — probably the only way to truly answer the question would be to conduct a controlled study from start to finish. Find a population of promising young professionals who are considering a variety of career paths, randomly assign them to each of the country’s top business schools, and then watch their earnings over the next 20 years. Now that would be an interesting study.

Anyone interested in being randomly assigned to Harvard?

If you’re planning on applying to business school this year, give us a call at (800) 925-7737 and speak with one of our business school admissions experts today. And, as always, be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter!

Corporate Recruiters Using the GMAT to Select Candidates

Yesterday BusinessWeek ran an article about corporate recruiters using business school students’ GMAT scores as a way to select candidates for job interviews. While this is nothing new, the article included some interesting quotes from business school career office administrators who have advised some students to retake the GMAT to improve their chances of landing job interviews with top-tier consulting firms and investment banks.

In this tough job climate, especially, no MBA student wants to give recruiters any reason to drop his resume into the discard pile. While they may have ignored the advice to retake the GMAT a few years ago, now they’re much more willing to listen when someone suggests they should retake the GMAT, particularly when it comes from the career services office. And some schools, particularly those that may struggle to keep top-tier firms coming back to campus in this economy, have even offered their students school-run GMAT courses to help their students boost their scores.

Balancing out the seemingly increased importance of the GMAT in the hiring process, the article quotes a director of recruiting at Bain & Co. (a company for which Veritas Prep runs corporate GMAT courses), who explains that most candidates that the company would consider tend to have high GMAT scores, anyway, so the test itself doesn’t end up being a big differentiating factor in the hiring process. He even went on to say that Bain’s own research shows that there’s virtually no correlation between a new hire’s GMAT score and that person’s success on the job at Bain.

Interestingly, schools’ own pass-fail systems and grade non-disclosure policies may contribute to companies’ tendency to rely more on the GMAT. These policies are in place to discourage cut-throat competition and to encourage students to focus on learning, but they also take away what is an important hiring criterion for some companies. As a result, these companies grab for the next best data they can find, which are a student’s GMAT score and undergraduate GPA. In this way, schools have shifted some of the competitiveness from the classroom to things that students must do before they even set foot in a classroom.

What does this mean for you? Honestly, if you’re going to a top-ten business school, hiring companies are more likely to assume you “have what it takes,” and will rely less on your GMAT score (although they will still ask for it) in deciding whether or not to interview you. If you’re at a lower-ranked school where top-tier firms only hire a handful of students each year, you’re more likely to need every advantage you can get to stand out vs. your peers. In this case, if your score isn’t high enough, you may want to consider retaking the GMAT. (How high is high enough? There’s no hard cutoff, although ideally you will have scored in at least the 80th percentile on both the quant and verbal sections.)

If you’re considering retaking the GMAT, take a look at the GMAT prep classes that Veritas Prep offers. And, as always, be sure to follow us on Twitter!

Stanford GSB Job Statistics for the Class of 2008

Recently Stanford GSB published its final job placement statistics for the Class of 2008.

Not surprisingly, consulting was the most popular single industry, with 27% of the class opting for a median starting salary of $1250,000 and a median signing bonus of $20,000. Private equity came next, at 14% of the class, with the median starting salary being $150,000 and the median signing bonus clocking in at $32,500.

Slicing it by function, consulting was still the most popular, at 29% of the class, with private equity (16%) and investment management (8%) coming next.

The most popular careers for the Stanford GSB Class of 2008 were:


Percentage of Class

Median Base Salary

Median Signing Bonus





Private Equity/LBO




Hedge Funds




Internet Services/E-Commerce




Investment Banking/Brokerage


$ 95,500




$ 80,000


Venture Capital




Investment Management




Real Estate




Consumer Products








Source: Stanford GSB Blog

Interesting to see that the non-profit sector accounted for 5% of Stanford GSB grads’ post-MBA career plans. While this is consistent with other top schools’ statistics, we wonder if this number will increase this year and next as the rough economy encourages more grads to pursue non-profit and social enterprise careers in place of high-paying consulting and banking jobs, which may not be plentiful in the near term.

To get a feel for your chances of gaining admission to Stanford, try Veritas Prep’s Business School Selector.

HBS Class of 2009 Employment Update

Last week Harvard Business School’s Dee Leopold posted an update on HBS second-year students’ job prospects for this year. This update is especially interesting to anyone who is preparing to leave a steady job this year to enter a full-time MBA program.

According to Leopold, 77% of the HBS Class of 2009’s job seekers (this excludes anyone who will continue academic work or who will return to a previous employer) have found full-time jobs. She went on to write:

I don’t have any more details to offer at this point, but we are proud of both our students and our Career Services team who have helped many of our students discover and pursue their dreams and find new opportunities in the midst of great uncertainty in the market. It is still months from graduation and companies and organizations continue to be a big presence on campus – spring will be lively here at HBS. We will provide updates as the season progresses.

Hopefully for those HBS students — and for students at all business schools this year — spring will indeed prove to be a lively season for recruiting.

For more information on HBS, visit the Veritas Prep Harvard Business School information page.

Job Prospects for Business School Graduates Grow Dimmer

Adding to the steady drumbeat of news about the worsening economy in the U.S., this week the Wall Street Journal ran a story about how business schools have seen a record drop-off in recruitment for internships and for full-time jobs.

According to a survey that the Journal conducted in January, 56% of career services offices said that on-campus recruiting was down more than 10% this winter. While that’s not necessarily surprising, the trend seems to be accelerating: last fall only 12% estimated that recruiting was down vs. year ago. And activity on the schools’ jobs boards is sluggish, with 50% of career offices reporting that activity was down more than 10%, and 20% saying that job-posting activity was down more than 20%.

Compared to surveys conducted in the fall, this report suggests that the economic slowdown caught all but the most pessimistic business school students and career-services officers off their guard. While all schools were bracing for bad news and rough job prospects in the financial sector, the economic downdraft caused by that industry’s troubles has affected every sector where MBA grads typically find jobs.

If you’re applying to business school now, or are getting ready to apply soon, the obvious question is: What does this mean for you? As we always tell our admissions consulting clients at Veritas Prep, going back to the school (or NOT going back to school) just because of the economy doesn’t make sense. And, if you have a good job right now, the thought of leaving it for an uncertain future can be intimidating. However, know that these downturns typically last no more than 2-3 years, meaning that, by the time you would graduate in 2011 or 2012, the odds are pretty good that the job market will once again return to form.

I personally have walked in these shoes. I applied to business school in 2001/2002, right as the coming recession was compounded by the shock of 9/11 to create headlines about worsening job prospects and rescinded job offers for MBAs. By the time I graduated from Kellogg in 2004, the job market was again humming along nicely, and we battle-hardened second-year students regaled jaded first-years with tales about how rough we had it back in the day. Fast-forward three years, and the Kellogg Management Center again had to enforce rules to keep recruiters from not overdoing it on campus.

My point? These things are always cyclical. While this is a particularly rough cycle, especially for someone who will graduate this spring, the job market will bounce back. It always does.

GMAC’s New MBA Alumni Survey Results

According to the results of a new survey published by the Graduate Management Admission Council, most business school grads agree that an MBA is well worth the investment.

In the 2008 MBA Alumni Perspectives Survey, nine out of 10 grads from the Class of 2008 reports that their graduate business education met or exceeded their expectations. Additionally, 80% of MBA grads in the workforce believe that they couldn’t have obtained their first job without their degree.

Even more encouraging are the numbers regarding job satisfaction. According to the survey, two out of three alumni reported that their first job was the one they wanted, which actually represented a rise in job satisfaction vs. previous years.

Another point of interest was the average number of job offers that each Class of 2008 grad received — 2.7 job offers per person. Unfortunately, this number will likely trend down as the economy suffers, but the survey overall confirms the value of an MBA, regardless of whether a grad receives one, two, or ten job offers.

If you’re applying to business school this year, be sure to check out the Veritas Prep MBA admissions resources page.

This Year’s Job Prospects for MBAs

A recent article in Time described the worsening job prospects for business school students in light of the economic downturn. At schools that just a year ago were begging their students to honor their job interview commitments, some second-year students are now worried if they’ll receive any job offers by the time they graduate next spring.

Heads of career services offices at many top schools all describe the same attitude among employers: “Wait and see.” Many companies have instituted headcount freezes, and even at ones that haven’t, hiring managers are being given fewer offers to make. Today they’re much more afraid of hiring too many MBA grads than hiring too few — they know that they’ll always be able to go back to campus in early 2009 and pick up a few more new hires if they need to.

What can business school students do? Proactive job seekers are looking beyond the on-campus recruiting process to find opportunities on their own. And they’re also widening their job search to consider careers outside of banking ans consulting. Joining a smaller firm may come back into fashion as some companies that normally couldn’t make much impact at a top school find that many grads now eagerly attend their information sessions.

The worst time to be in school is right when the economy takes a turn for the worse — there’s nothing like having a job offer rescinded. For people who apply to business school this year, though, the question is: What will the economy look like in two or three years? That’s anyone’s guess, but here’s hoping that the worst of the unpleasant surprises are behind us.

MBA Grads Face Wall Street Uncertainty

Even Harvard Business School grads are feeling the pain in Wall Street’s current troubles. A recent article in the Boston Globe uncovered what HBS is doing to help its own students and recent graduates who are affected by the turmoil.

According to the article:

In the school’s first intervention on behalf of newly minted graduates, seven Harvard career coaches flew to New York to huddle with 18 members of the Class of 2008 who had taken jobs at troubled firms like Lehman Brothers Holding Co. and Merrill Lynch. All were still working, but didn’t know what the next day would bring. Harvard’s delegation promised to set up interviews with other employers.

Much like with the ethics cases of recent years, many b-school professors see this as an opportunity to teach important lessons in the moment. And students are hungry for those lessons — a Wharton panel discussion on Wall Street’s troubles recently drew more than 1,000 students.

Even the firms that are on good footing, such as Goldman Sachs, have delayed making job offers this year. And students who thought they were headed to Wall Street are now considering alternative career paths, either in corporate finance roles, management consulting, or even in financial regulatory roles. With a new regulatory framework potentially emerging, the federal government could ironically end up being a big source of jobs for these displaced finance-minded MBAs.

Recruiter Demand for MBA Grads Remains Strong

This month the Graduate Management Admission Council released a report showing that demand for business school graduate remains strong even as the economy shows signs of weakness.

The report, produced by GMAC in partnership with the MBA Career Services Council and European Foundation for Management Development, shows 6% growth in the percentage of employers making offers to MBA grads, and an 11% increase in the average number of hires by each hiring company.

The results for compensation growth also looked encouraging. Three-quarters of employers reported that they expect to increase the annual base salary of 2008 grads vs. last year’s hiring class. The projected starting base salary for all business school graduates is $89,621, about 4% more than last year. Not surprisingly, consulting (over $111,000) and finance (over $110,000) offer the highest average total compensation.

What does this mean for you? Most of all, it suggests you should stay the course. No radical changes to the hiring outlook suggest that you, if you’ve been planning to apply for business school, don’t stop now. If you haven’t been planning on doing so, then these numbers probably won’t change your mind.

It will be interesting to see what next year’s numbers look like, and what impact the overall economy has to the number of people applying to business school in 2008-2009.