Wharton Repeats As Top-Ranked P&Q Undergraduate Business School

The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business recently switched to a direct admit program


Of course, like most rankings, there were some big changes among a few schools. But unlike most rankings, the data–which we made wholly transparent–explains the big leaps and drops. Michigan Ross and Villanova, for example, both climbed nine spots into the top ten (Michigan Ross from 13th to fourth and Villanova from 17th to eighth). For both schools, the big changes came from higher scores in alumni satisfaction. Last year, Michigan placed 32nd in the alumni survey last year and 11th this year. Villanova went from 22nd last year to ninth this year. Last year, Michigan notched an 8.83 average on the one-to-ten scale questions while this year it had 9.23. Similarly, Villanova climbed from 8.96 last year to an impressive 9.31 this year.

Another big mover this year is William & Mary, which leapt 20 spots to 12th. However, this has more to do with the school mis-reporting employment rates last year as well as higher satisfaction rates from alums.  On the one-to-ten scaled question section, William & Mary went from a 9.01 average last year to 9.49 this year.

To be sure, it went the other way as well. Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler, and Georgetown’s McDonough School all fell out of the top ten this year. Kelley declined seven spots to 13th, largely because of the alumni survey and last year’s average salary included Cody Zeller, an NBA lottery pick, who completed the school’s career outcomes survey with a $14 million yearly salary. Meanwhile, Kenan-Flagler’s drop can be pinned directly to the alumni survey, where the school dropped from sixth last year to 19th this year. Last year, the school had a one-to-ten average of 9.09 and this year it dropped to 8.8.

For Georgetown, the issue was both employment rates and alumni satisfaction with the academic experience. Georgetown’s full-time employment rate fell to below 90% this year, from nearly 96% in 2017. The decline dropped the school a ways in the career outcomes category. Similarly, the school went from a 9.16 alumni survey average last year to 8.74 this year.


Regardless of how schools perform from year-to-year, rankings should be used as a launching place for a thoughtful and informed college search. High school students and their parents should do their due-diligence to find the best fit regardless of a school’s annual rank. A ranking should be little more than a first step for further exploration.

“It’s really about getting in and reading materials carefully, and then visiting the schools if you’re able to and seeing if your personalities and interests fit the orientation of the school,” says Carl Zeithaml, dean of Virginia’s McIntire School.

A helpful starting place are the school profiles for schools included in the P&Q rankings as well as the various data-driven articles that will be published over the coming days and weeks. Those stories make use of the incredible wealth of data, much of it not accessible anywhere else, collected by P&Q to create its annual ranking.

“Students need to understand why a program is a two-year program, or three-year or four-year program, and figure out what would be the right fit for them,” adds Zeithaml, who is in his fifth term as dean at McIntire.

Ethan Sullivan, senior associate dean of the undergraduate program at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management concurs. “Ultimately, it’s about the fit,” he says. “And sometimes the fit isn’t the highest ranked school. You might get accepted into a highly ranked school, but it might not fit with who you are as a person or what you want to study.” Or, for that matter, where you ultimately want to start your career.


Both Virginia and Boston College — despite being very different is size and structure — are both examples of schools providing top-shelf experiences to their students. And both have signature programs that highlight the undergraduate experience. At Virginia, which is a two-year program and has about 350 students in each class, the integrated core curriculum (ICE) is the highlight. In our alumni survey, recent graduates rave about the curriculum and the co-curricular experience, which places students in blocks of 40 to 45 and includes 21 hours of courses along with a real-world consulting project during the third year. Because of the program’s modular structure, Ziethaml says the school is able to make changes swiftly and in-between years.

“It’s not like the old days where every five years you sit down and look at your curriculum,” Zeithaml says. “It is an ongoing process that really requires constant attention.” Recent changes, for example, include adding courses in business analytics and big data decision making, two of the most demand areas of expertise by corporate recruiters.

“What we try to do is think about the entire experience from end-to-end for our students, starting with the prerequisites and then moving into the fall and spring in ICE and constantly refreshing it and constantly thinking about what we’re hearing from the recruiters and what they need. We’re thinking about what our students report back after their internships. We want to know the things that worked well or things they need more of in the third year,” Zeithaml says.

McIntire currently partners with such companies as Anheuser-Busch InBev, CarMax, Hilton Worldwide, and Rolls-Royce for its real-world partnerships. “McIntire’s ICE program included a signature project sponsored by major companies in the U.S. and abroad,” one Class of 2016 graduate told us. “The Rolls Royce-sponsored project really drove hands-on business analytics, financial analysis and strategic thinking, and provided an incredible opportunity to apply in-class teachings to real-world problems.”


At Boston College’s Carroll School, Portico is a first-year three-credit course required of all business students that focuses on “global, multidisciplinary, ethical, and social perspectives,” according to the school’s site. Sullivan says the course sets the tone for the global and conscientious capital-focus the school adopts.

“We nurture them from the start in terms of living in a community with high reaching goals,” Sullivan says. “We’re not afraid to talk to them about capitalism as a change for social good.” The course averages 18 students in each class, which helps make the school that has around 2,300 students a bit smaller and more like a community, Sullivan explains.

The experience gets rave reviews from students. “I was a Portico TA which allowed me to not only teach and mentor freshmen business students but also revisit the business ethics and philosophy topics in the senior Portico TA capstone class that brought a new lens and meaning to topics we learned in our first year,” one alum told us in the alumni survey.


To be sure, across all schools ranked, this isn’t your grandparent’s version of undergraduate business education. Students are demanding more from their schools, and schools are being forced to respond and adapt or risk becoming irrelevant to current and future students and employers alike. From data analytics to coding to studying abroad, to viewing business as a means for social good, schools and students are evolving in profound ways.

“The demand for international course trips and full study abroad trips is the highest we’ve ever seen among our students,” Zeithaml says. “Our students are very excited about business in other parts of the world. It seems a little contrarian to what’s going on in the world today, but our students are very interested in taking advantage of those opportunities.”

Students are also increasingly learning how to speak software engineer vernacular. “We are mindful that now knowledge in Python and R is almost required for a successful business professional,” Zeithaml says. “And so we’re building that very specifically in either our prerequisites or core curriculum so that our students are prepared for that.”

Similarly, Georgetown University has also introduced a slew of data visualization and analytics-focused courses, focusing on Python and Tableau and the connections between those two compute languages. At Babson College, recent innovations have focused on including diversity and inclusion training into the first-year curriculum as well as enhancing and expanding the information technology management concentration.

At the University of Utah’s Eccles School of Business a new core will be introduced next fall and will feature a year-long first year course on Frameworks for Business Problems, which will incorporate critical thinking, data analytics, data collection, and statistics. At Villanova’s School of Business, a deep dive in business analytics with a course dedicated to combing big data sets to help make better management decisions is one of the newest additions. “Students gain an understanding of how managers use analytics to formulate and solve business problems to support managerial decision making, and learn how to use and apply selected business analytics software,” according to the school.

Be sure to take the time to fully read and digest the full rankings and data published on the following pages as well as the data-driven articles and school profiles. And don’t get too caught up on whether a school ranks 10th or 15th or 32nd or 40th. As Zeithaml points out, there is not much difference among the top schools in terms of the quality of education. Truth is, even in our ranking, 1oth through 16th place was separated by just 1.06 composite points.

“We are very pleased and honored,” he says of his school’s second-place finish. The difference between one, two, and three is relatively minor, but I’m thrilled particularly that the alumni survey, once again, came out strong. We don’t have as much control over things like admissions, but obviously the experience our students and alumni have is something we control directly.”