B-Schools With The Best College Experience

Jessica Christian, a professor at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School works with students. Photo courtesy of Kenan-Flagler

It’s an often-forgotten ideal. College should be a time of personal growth, new experiences, and if done right, enlightenment. For the past two years, we’ve sought to measure which elite business schools provide the most opportunities to do just that. And more importantly, which schools do just that, according to their alums. As part of our Best Undergraduate Business Schools ranking, we poll the alums of participating schools two years after graduation. This year it was the Class of 2015. Of the 82 participating schools, we received more than 6,000 responses. Alums answer “yes or no” questions, scaled questions, and have the opportunity to leave open-ended feedback.

This year, we included 15 1-to-10 scaled questions (See: 2017 Rankings Report Card: How Alums Grade Their Business Schools) and four “yes or no” questions. The scaled questions asked alums how likely they are to recommend their business schools to a close friend or colleague, if the degree was worth their time and tuition, and if the business school experience was life-changing, among many other things. Two of the yes or no questions asked alums if their first jobs were in their desired industries and companies. The other two asked if they had a “global immersion” or “signature experience.”

Combining all three averages, no school scored better than the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce. McIntire scored a 9.37 average on the scaled questions — besting The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, which scored a 9.32. Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business tied at 9.31. Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business rounded out the top five with a 9.16. All told, 19 schools scored an average of 9.0 or higher.

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For Virginia McIntire, Dean Carl Zeithaml says the high alumni experience rankings come down to what the school has been focused on for nearly two decades. “Although constant innovation is essential, the McIntire School consistently emphasizes creating the best end-to-end student experience, and we believe that a great program is built on enduring values and strong fundamentals,” Zeithaml says.

The curricular sweetheart for Virginia McIntire is the Integrated Core Experience (ICE), and pretty much single-handedly lifted the school to the top of the alumni experience category. Zeithaml calls it the “centerpiece” of the program. “Although we are constantly innovating and improving, the basic format has been in place for 19 years,” Zeithaml continues. While other schools might be constantly adding flashy study abroad and experiential learning options, McIntire continues to rely on that same basic format that has clearly worked for alums. ICE starts when third-year students enroll in McIntire, which is a two-year business program. “ICE balances the development of a broad and integrated business perspective with required functional skills. We also emphasize the so-called soft skills such as communication and teamwork throughout the third year, as well as applied projects for our corporate sponsors.”

“The coupling of case-based courses with real-life strategic projects for Rolls Royce taught me more in one semester than I had learned in my previous two years,” one Virginia McIntire Class of 2015 graduate told us in the Poets&Quants alumni survey. “Unlike my past courses, ICE placed an emphasis on truly original ideas and creative thinking. Regurgitating quotes from the reading or rephrasing the ideas of others were no longer accepted as productive participation. The high standard our professors held us to helped me to become confident in expressing and supporting my ideas and opinions, which has helped me a great deal in my career.”