Wharton Tops Poets&Quants’ Best Undergraduate Business Programs Of 2017

An improv class at the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce, which finished third in this year’s Poets&Quants ranking of the best undergraduate business programs. Professor Cady Garey is on the far right, seated, wearing a blue sweater. Photo by Dan Addison, University of Virginia Communications


This more balanced system of ranking undergraduate schools can sometimes lead to dramatically different results from a U.S. News list in which deans and senior faculty are more likely to tout undergraduate programs at only the big brand schools. Consider Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business. In the 2018 U.S. News ranking of undergraduate business schools, Santa Clara is in a 14-way tie for 64th place. In our ranking, Santa Clara places 16th. With a 46% acceptance rate, the school is very accessible. Some 93% of the graduates had jobs within three months of commencement and averaged more than $60,000 in average starting salary. Perhaps more importantly, recent alums rate their experience at the school highly. More than 58% of the Class of 2015 said they had global or signature experiences while at Santa Clara. Plus, more than 96% of the class said their first job after graduating was in their desired industry–and a impressively high 87% said that first job was at their targeted employer. While Santa Clara finished 23rd and 24th in the admissions and employment categories, respectively, the 12th place alumni experience rating propelled the school to the 16th spot.

Georgia Institute of Technology’s Scheller College of Business is another example. Ranked 31st in the most recent U.S. News ranking, the 105-year-old school has been known as a top 35 or so institute for years. In it’s first year in the P&Q ranking, however, the school nearly cracked the top ten, finishing 11th, sandwiched between the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas school of Business (tenth) and the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas-Austin (12th). Akin to Santa Clara, the school’s spot was due to strong alumni satisfaction. In the alumni category, Scheller placed ninth. With an average incoming SAT score of 1400 and 86% of the class having gotten grades that put them in the top 10% of their high school classes, Scheller debuted higher than any other school this year.

The ranking is meant to identify balance among the three core components of a quality undergraduate experience, and for the second year, Washington University’s Olin School exemplified that goal. Olin didn’t outright win any of the three ranking categories but still finished solidly just behind Wharton. Similarly, the business schools at Notre Dame and Georgetown finished in the top five overall despite recording finishes outside the top ten in one of the three measured categories. Notre Dame placed 12th in the employment category, but rebounded by finishing fifth in the quality of its enrolled students the and fourth in alumni satisfaction. Meantime, Georgetown finished 11th in our alumni survey but reported admissions standards good enough for eighth place and employment rates that put them fourth.

Undergraduate students at Cornell University’s Dyson School, which had a 2.93% acceptance rate this fall. Courtesy photo


More important than a ranking, the Poets&Quants‘ report provides robust and previously unseen data that allows parents and students to make more informed college decisions. In coming days, we’ll publish articles featuring a wealth of proprietary data including in-depth features on schools with the highest scholarship rates, highest debt burdens, schools making the most innovative changes in their curricular and extra-curricular efforts, acceptance rates, average SATs, employment rates, as well as which schools enroll the most U.S. minorities and first-generation college students.

Among those findings are some revealing discoveries and trends. For example, Cornell University’s Dyson School now boasts an acceptance rate of just 2.9% (see Acceptance Rates At The Top 82 Undergraduate B-Schools). Wharton’s rate is 7.1% and the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business is 8.6%. All three schools are effectively harder to get into than Harvard Business School’s MBA program which accepts 11% of all applicants. Washington University’s Olin School now has an average SAT for its newly enrolled students of 1507 on the new 1600-point scale, which is up from 1480 last year. That puts the average in the 99th percentile of all SAT test takers meaning that only 1% of the students who took the test scored that highly on it. Wharton’s average SAT is now 1499, up from 1457 last year. Six other schools on the list have average scores of 1450 or higher.

Impressively, more than half the schools on the list reported that at least 90% of their 2017 graduates secured full-time job offers within three months of graduation. And the average salaries reported continue to reflect a frothy market for freshly minted business graduates. Wharton’s $80K is the first time an undergraduate school has reported an average salary of more than $80,000 for first jobs after graduation.

Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business recorded the second-highest salary at $77,499, an average boosted dramatically by an outlier. Kelley graduate and basketball star, Cody Zeller, who completed the employment report, was drafted by the NBA and received a four-year $56 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets. Otherwise, Kelley’s total compensation would come in at $66,026, behind 22 other schools. That’s still an exeptional return for an undergraduate program in Bloomington, Indiana.

In all, nine schools reported average salaries of $70,000 or higher, up from last year’s eight schools. Another 25 schools reported average salaries above $60,000, meaning more than 41% of the ranked schools have graduates making at least $60,000 in their first jobs after graduation–considerably higher than the estimated $49,785 average for overall undergrads, if they could land a job.

Poets&Quants’ 2017 Rankings Report

Wharton Tops 2017 Ranking Of the Best U.S. Undergraduate B-Schools

2017 Rankings Report Card: How Alumni Grade Their Business Schools

Undergraduate Business Programs That Help You Get The Job You Really Want

What Business Majors Made This Year In Their First Jobs

Acceptance Rates For The Top 82 Undergraduate Business Schools

How We Crunched The Numbers For Our 2017 Undergraduate Ranking

  • Sheldon Deng

    Thanks for this plethora of info and analysis. Just curious as to what happened to Ohio State, which was #41 last year but is not even in the top 82 this year?

    • Nathan Allen

      Thanks for weighing in, Sheldon. Ohio State submitted school survey data but unfortunately didn’t make the 10% minimum participation rate. Based on what they submitted and responses they did receive from the alumni survey, it’s safe to say they definitely would have finished well within the top 82. We expect them to try again next year and be included.


    • JohnAByrne

      The 10% threshold for alumni responses is, in my view, fairly low. The fact that a school is unable to meet this requirement is telling. I find that that alums who are generally happy with their degrees are more likely to respond to a survey like this. Those who are less satisfied may just prefer to stay quiet. Remember what everyone’s mother has told them: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

      • Sarah Diaz

        I would hold off on making assumptions about why the alumni response rate was not met on any particular school. It could be a multitude of factors. Additionally, larger graduation classes mean higher number of individuals who need to complete the surveys. This is very difficult to accomplish, even at 10%. It takes a very strategic and concerted effort. It is not just done by emailing out a few surveys. There is also a thing called survey fatigue, and alumni are already getting surveyed by the schools.

        • Nathan Allen

          Generally speaking, our data seems to support the idea about larger (and public) universities struggling a bit more with hitting the minimum response rate. The schools asked about in this comment thread (sans USC) are examples. On the other hand, there are many large state institutions easily hitting the 10% mark. Texas, Arizona State, Texas A&M, and Indiana, to name a few hit the minimum rate fairly quickly.

          All that said, this is one of the big questions we’re going to tackle and ask schools to offer some feedback on when we do the evaluation period early next year.

          • Sarah Diaz

            I agree, Nathan. Being larger isn’t the only reason one wouldn’t meet this threshold. And, as you see and mentioned, some large schools did. I just don’t think it is responsible to assume that schools who didn’t hit the alumni response threshold have alums who are less satisfied, as John indicated.

          • Nathan Allen

            Yep, that’s fair. As I mentioned, we’ll open up more discussion with your school and others about this topic as well as the methodology and surveys early next year. It bugs me when schools are willing to survey their alums and take the time to complete the school survey and then are unable to be ranked because of alumni response. I want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep this from happening as much next year.

          • JohnAByrne

            One other observation I would add to all this. While what I am about to say does not apply to every school, it does apply to a good number of schools that are unable to get to a 10% response rate for a single alumni class. Failure to meet this minimum threshold may also suggest that a school hasn’t invested enough resources in the alumni network. Some schools, frankly, aren’t keeping very good track of where their alums end up. That is also, to my way of thinking, a measure of a school’s quality. If some schools do this well and invest in alumni relations and development, those networks are going to be more valuable for current students and graduates. It is another indicator of quality.

  • Avery

    USC? #17 last year to nothing this year.

    • JohnAByrne

      Avery, unfortunately the response rate from alums was below 10% so USC was excluded. We do think the school has a solid undergraduate program. Sadly, we couldn’t get much cooperation from the school to help.

    • Nathan Allen

      USC didn’t meet the minimum alumni response rate, nor did they submit a school survey. They likely would’ve been up around there if they had qualified.

  • Taric Sam Alani

    Complete garbage, Creighton University isn’t even listed, despite being the only CFA Institute University Affiliate to offer a degree that prepares students for all three levels of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam. They also offer a graduate certificate that prepares students for the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) exam.

  • Pranav Desai

    Thanks for publishing this, can you tell me why Boston College is not on the list. Is it the 10% participation threshold?

    • Nathan Allen

      BC decided not to participate this year. We’ll invite them again next year.

  • JS

    What happened to Uconn this year?

    • Nathan Allen

      Same. Submitted school survey data. Fully willing to participate. Didn’t meet the minimum response rate. We expect them to try again and be included next year. Definitely still a top 80 school.

  • A. Murray

    Same as other questions….What happened to University of Missouri and University of Tennessee from last year’s rankings? Not enough response, or something else?

    • Nathan Allen

      Yep. Not enough response. Both schools submitted school survey data, which is updated in their school profiles. Just not enough response. Both indicated they will try again next year.

  • Red Layug

    I’m confused how the admissions criterion was computed and given weight on this ranking. For example, Cornell’s admission rate is a measly less than 3% — that’s substantially lower than Wharton’s and Haas’, yet it only ranked number 3 for admissions. It doesn’t make any sense.

    • Nathan Allen

      Here’s a breakdown of how we do it. Each category (admissions, alumni survey, employment) have 100 available index points. Within each category, we assign weights to different datapoints. As you can see in the chart on acceptance rates carry a 30% average. We assign a calculation that gives descending points based on the difference between the data points. For example, out of 30 points available for acceptance rates, Cornell earns the 30. Wharton received 28.62 and Haas got 28.11.

      Then you jump over to average SATs where 35 points were available. WashU scored 35 with the highest SAT, Wharton received 34.11, and Haas with 30.1, and Cornell with 30.01. Finally, top 10% of high school class, which again had 35 maximum points available. Haas and Cornell earned around 21 and 26, respectively, while Wharton earned about 34.

      The short way of saying all of this is the differences between acceptance rates weren’t as great as the differences between average SATs and high school class rank, so Cornell didn’t get as big of a gap on acceptance rate as Wharton did on average SAT and high school rank.

  • Red Layug

    % In Top 10% of High School Class (35%). University of California-Berkeley (Haas) – 60.87% ???

    Really? I think this figure needs to be double checked. The UC’s admit only the 10% of their graduating high school class, and UC Berkeley reported 98% of their students were in the top 10% of their HS. I think it’s safe to say that the missing 2% were due to athletes, not those students heading to Haas, which is an oversubscribed program.

    • Nathan Allen

      We question that as well. It comes from the alumni survey data (alums of the Class of 2015 are asked if they finished in the top 10% of high school class). But, you have to remember that around one-third of the Haas class each year comes from outside UC-Berkeley (transferring in from mainly two-year junior colleges in California). They are not required to report SAT scores or many other high school stats. So while UC-Berkeley could be enrolling 98% freshmen in the top 10% (we question that as well), that’s not the exact population actually enrolling in and graduating from Haas.

  • Wait, who me?

    Kudos to us at Providence. We never get our respect. But when you only have 4,000 students you can see why.

  • Enrique Seir

    When you have so many historical well known and ranked business schools missing from this list is hard to read too much into these rankings. I can name so many schools that are missing from this list. Whether some information is missing or not, I think it is unfair to not even mention Boston College, USC, Ohio State, Mizzou, UF, etc In addition you have schools such as last year’s darling (Minnesota) falling to 22… As much as i hate the US News rankings, they tend to be more consistent from year to year. Hard to believe business schools would fluctuate so much in such a short period of time. Going forward you should probably mention schools that would have made the list but not enough data to provided in order to be ranked.

    • Nathan Allen

      Hi Enrique,

      Let me clear up a few things. First, this list is nothing like U.S. News. The U.S. News sends surveys to senior faculty and administrators at schools and asks them to rank other schools on a one-to-five scale. It’s consistent because most admins aren’t going to suddenly rank a school at a three when they’ve been giving it a five year after year, and vice versa.

      Ours takes yearly data that usually changes year after year and so it will fluctuate. It’s important to look beyond the actual ranking and into how schools perform in each category.

      As for schools left of this year’s ranking, we built their school profiles, which you can find on the site, but I get your point about mentioning schools that fell off the list.


      • Enrique Seir

        Gotcha!!! Being that this is fairly new way of qualifying Business schools it would be a good idea to include those that would probably be on the list but for whatever reason they are not longer on it.

        Keep in mind that a lot students and parents alike put a lot of weight on these rankings. Obviously, it should not be the deciding factor, but you can understand how powerful rankings can be…

        • Nathan Allen

          Understood. While we believe this list does the best job at portraying which schools are doing the best at this point in time, this is very much just a starting point for students and their parents. All of the data should be carefully examined in the other articles and then schools should be visited and alumni should be spoken with. And, just because a school finishes 82nd, it is still an incredibly elite school. These are the best of the very best.