Boston University (Questrom): In academia, they call it a “signature experience.” It is an opportunity, over weeks and months, for students to pull everything together and apply what they learn, often creating something new in the process. At Questrom, that experience is called the Cross-Functional Core. Held during students’ junior year, this series of four courses, which cover finance, management, marketing, and operations, is basically a team-based exercise. Culminating with the development of a business plan, students learn business fundamentals while developing a solution to be prototyped and pitched.
Teaching in context not only brings learning alive, but exposes students to the expectations, limitations, and collaboration inherent in day-to-day work life. “Two years later, I can still remember the nights we spent together and the really intense work the team put into the project,” says Ryan Touger, a 2014 alum. “It helped me with teamwork, public speaking, thinking creatively and just producing something that you can really take pride in.”
Touger wasn’t the only student to get a real taste for hands-on learning through his signature experience. The typical Questrom student averaged 2.5 internships before graduation, with 92% completing at least one. Another third took advantage of an overseas global immersion. You can expect even more offerings, thanks to a $50 million naming gift made to the school in 2015. In the coming years, look for the program to beef up its ongoing push in enhancing its curriculum and career services, with the school recently launching a new center to integrate these areas at the undergraduate level. “We have a much more synergized approach to academic and career advising,” says Dean Rachel Reiser. “There’s increased communication, increased collaboration and many more points of interconnection between career and academic advising than ever existed before.”
That makes for even stronger classes in the years to come.
Georgetown University (McDonough): You can have consistency or you can have excellence. But consistent excellence — that’s a rare combination indeed. When it comes to business programs, it’s a pairing that defines Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business.
In P&Q’s 2016 undergraduate business school ranking, McDonough was the only program to rank in the top 10 of all three measured dimensions (admissions, academic experience and employment (finishing 6th, 7th and 4th respectively). Indeed, the program finished 4th overall, fulfilling the wish of outgoing Dean David Thomas, who was driven to turn McDonough into a top 10 program.
The bar to enter the school is high: The average SAT is 1490 (with SAT averages jumping 63 points in the past five years alone). Even more, just 16.4% of students can get into this elite four-year program. It isn’t cheap, either. Over four years, the total cost is nearly $280,000, though some of that is defrayed by financial aid as 55% of McDonough students receive assistance at an average of $42,794 a year.
Sound steep? Oh, the perks of being a member of the McDonough community! In 2016, graduates pulled down $73,867 paychecks to start, with 98% of them landing a job within three months of graduation (with the number rising to 100% at the six-month mark). You won’t find many alums who regret their four years among the Hoyas, either. In P&Q’s alumni survey, Georgetown B-School alums gave their school 4 A+s, 6 A’s, and 2 A-‘s across 12 twelve core metrics ranging from faculty quality to the value of alumni networking.
What sets the McDonough experience apart? For starters, the program boasts 105 study abroad programs, stretching from Buenos Aires to Beijing. Over half of the students take advantage of these offerings, including a Global Business Experience, where students work for an international firm on a global consulting project. This cosmopolitan flair is further reinforced by the student body; half of the 2016 class were drawn from either underrepresented minority or international populations. As a result, McDonough students enjoy an early leg up in an increasingly culturally diverse workforce. Not only that, Georgetown boasts a signature onboarding course called BUILD (Business Undergrads Invested In Leadership Development), a summer orientation that focuses on business fundamentals before first years even start regular classes.
Let’s not forget location. You won’t find a better business school setting than Washington D.C. At the intersection of the public and private sectors, it is blessed with a blossoming tech and entrepreneurial scene and representation, in one form or another, from nearly every Fortune 500 firm. In other words, jobs should remain plentiful near the Georgetown campus, even if the bull ever morphs into a bear.
University of Minnesota (Carlson): Business isn’t a set of do’s-and-don’ts. In the end, it is a method for understanding people, how they view the world and themselves…and what will ultimately motivate them to act. Alas, you will only learn a shard of what makes the world go if you focus on your home country. That’s one reason why Carlson requires their students to take a trek overseas.
Call it a defining and eye-opening moment in their education, let alone their lives. Away from home, students must step out of their comfort zones and navigate a baffling maze of languages, currencies, and practices. For example, one Carlson class took a foray into Cuba in 2015. The result was an electrified student body who were eager to experience and learn. “I’ve never seen a more excited group of students,” says Steve Spruth, senior lecturer in Carlson’s strategic management and entrepreneurship department. “They could barely sit in their seats the first day of class, which is rare. That tells me that we’ve created this experience that people realize is hard for them to have on their own.”
Such signature ventures are one reason why Carlson ranked 5th in the academic experience of P&Q’s 2016 undergraduate business school ranking. However, it isn’t the only reason why this program is on the upswing. When people think of the Midwest, “cold” is probably the first word to come to mind. Here’s another: “low cost of living.” Median income in the Twin Cities is nearly $15,000 above average according to Interest.com. Even more, the median home price is $213,000, a third of what people in the Bay Area. If you can survive January, just remember that the Twin Cities is flush with corporate cash, with 17 Fortune 500 firms calling it home. That may be one reason for Carlson’s vaunted 97% placement rate, the finishing touch on an up-and-coming program.
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