U.S. News Business School Rankings for 2014

U.S. News & World Report has just announced its 2014 business school rankings. While we never like to see applicants put too much emphasis on the rankings, it’s always a little exciting when U.S. News refreshes its rankings of the nation’s top MBA programs. Don’t solely decide to apply based on whether an editor at a magazine moved your target school down from 8th to 9th this year, but do take a look at the rankings — and, especially, the data associated with the rankings — to help you start to narrow down your list and get a feel for what kind of MBA program you have a shot of getting into.

Without further ado, here are the top 25 U.S. business schools according to U.S. News. Each school’s 2013 ranking (from 12 months ago) follows in parentheses:

2014 U.S. News MBA Rankings
1. Harvard (1)
1. Stanford (1)
3. Penn (Wharton) (3)
4. MIT (Sloan) (4)
4. Northwestern (Kellogg) (4)
6. Chicago (Booth) (4)
7. UC Berkeley (Haas) (7)
8. Columbia (8)
9. Dartmouth (Tuck) (9)
10. NYU (Stern) (11)
11. Duke (Fuqua) (12)
12. Virginia (Darden) (13)
13. Yale (10)
14. UCLA (Anderson) (15)
14. Michigan (Ross) (13)
16. Cornell (Johnson) (16)
17. Texas (McCombs) (17)
18. Emory (Goizueta) (19)
19. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) (18)
20. UNC (Kenan-Flagler) (19)
21. Washington University in St. Louis (Olin) (22)
22. Indiana (Kelly) (23)
23. Minnesota – Twin Cities (Carlson) (30)
24. Washington (Foster) (35)
25. Georgetown (McDonough) (24)

What Changed?
Not a whole lot, at least not at the top of the rankings. The top five schools sit exactly where they sat last year, and the only change is that Booth, which had been in a three-way tie with Sloan and Kellogg for the #4 spot last year, dropped down to the 6th position. In the rest of the top ten, the biggest news is that Yale, which had been slowly marching up the rankings, dropped from #10 to #13. Elbowing its way into the top ten was Stern, which moved up one spot this year to #10.

There were a couple of big movers toward the bottom of the top 25: Take a look at the big jumps Carlson and Foster made this year, most likely the result of improved job placement statistics at those schools. Those are both great programs that don’t always get enough recognition outside of their local markets, so we’re glad to see them break into the top 25.

How Do the Business School Rankings Work?
The U.S. News rankings involve a blend of qualitative and quantitative ratings. 40% of a school’s overall score comes from assessments by business school leaders and by corporate recruiters. So, really, a large part of what they’re ranking is a school’s reputation, which can make the entire process a bit self-reinforcing. Even if a school makes dramatic improvements to every aspect of its program — from academics to job placement to alumni services — it can take years for these results to have a significant impact on these qualitative ratings. So, know that a large part of these rankings are essentially backward-looking… A school’s peer’s opinions of the program are shaped by what the schools have done over the past few decades (or more), not necessarily by what the school is doing right now.

Another 35% of an MBA program’s rating comes from more quantitative measures of the program’s success in placing job candidates, including mean starting salary and bonus data and the percentage of grads who have full-time jobs at graduation and three months after graduation. Once again, you should pay attention to what’s being ranked: A school that sends many more grads into investment banking will likely report a higher average starting salary than a school that sends many grads into the non-profit sector. That doesn’t invalidate the data, but keep this in mind as you look at these numbers.

The last 25% of a business school’s rating comes from other quantitative measures around the admissions process, including the mean GMAT score and undergraduate GPAs of the incoming class, and the school’s admissions rate. This is perhaps the most straightforward group of statistics, but keep in mind that schools are always trying to game the system and find ways to tweak these numbers to improve their rankings. (There have been a lot of these shenanigans lately, from Tulane’s MBA program to Claremont-McKenna’s undergraduate college.)

None of this means that the rankings aren’t useful. We all pay attention to them, and we will continue to do so as long as U.S. News, Bloomberg Businessweek, and other publications keep ranking graduate schools. But remember that they’re not the beginning and end of your business school research!

You can read more about the most competitive business schools in Veritas Prep’s Essential Guides, 14 in-depth guides to the most elite MBA programs, available on our site. If you’re ready to start building your own MBA candidacy, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!