At Poets&Quants, we believe an undergraduate business experience is measured by three broad components: the quality and diversity of students enrolling in a program, the ability of a B-school to nurture, challenge, and grow those young minds, and how the market and world’s top employers respond to those graduates when leaving the business school. In other words, admissions standards, student experience, and career outcomes.
For five straight years, no school has done that better than the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. P&Q has been ranking undergraduate business schools for six years now, and the past five of those years have seen The Wharton School surge to the top of our proprietary ranking, which includes both school and alumni surveys. The main reason? Wharton has continuously aced the admissions and employment outcomes categories while holding its own in the alumni experience area to top all other schools.
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MARSHALL SCHOOL OF BUSINESS DEBUTS IN TOP-THREE
The Wharton School isn’t the only B-school doing a lot of things right, to be sure. Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business jumped three spots from fifth last year into second this year to earn its highest spot in our ranking. Akin to Wharton, Georgetown’s undergraduate business program had a very balanced approach, placing fourth in admissions, second in career outcomes, and first in the alumni experience category.
And for the first time ever, the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business submitted a school survey and met the minimum alumni survey response rate of 10%, and debuted at No. 3. USC placed second in the admissions category, eighth in alumni experience, and 11th in career outcomes. Following USC, at No. 4, is Washington University in St. Louis. The Olin Business School is the only other school besides Wharton to have placed first in our ranking when it did just that in the inaugural ranking six years ago. WashU surged eight spots this year thanks to finishing third in the admissions category and fourth in career outcomes. WashU was held back by its 29th-place finish in the alumni survey section.
Rounding out the top five was the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce, which tumbled a few spots to No. 5. Besides Wharton, UVA has been the most consistent school in the top five in the six-year history of our ranking. McIntire scored very consistently across categories, placing sixth in admissions, and seventh in both career outcomes and alumni experience.
LIKE USC MARSHALL, VILLANOVA MAKES TOP TEN FOR THE FIRST TIME
Coming in at No. 6 this year was the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, which dropped two spots from last year’s fourth-place finish. Michigan also had a balanced approach, placing in the top ten in all three methodological categories. New York University’s Stern School of Business dropped from third-place last year to No. 7 this year. While NYU placed well in admissions (No. 5) and career outcomes (No. 6), it was dropped by finishing No. 26 in the alumni survey portion of the methodology. Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business dropped one spot from its seventh-place finish last year to No. 8 this year.
Meanwhile, Villanova University zoomed four spots last year from No. 13 to No. 9 this year. It’s the highest the Philadelphia-based university has placed in our rankings and makes the Philadelphia metro area the only one to have two top ten undergraduate business schools this year. Following Villanova is Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business, which placed at No. 10 for the second year in a row.
These ten undergraduate business programs lead an exceptional group of 94 schools ranked by Poets&Quants this year. All of them are at the leading edge of business education, delivering a learning experience that transforms students’ sense of who they are and what they can do in the world. In fact, the ranked schools in this report reflect the top 12% of the more than 840 business schools accredited by AACSB International, the main accrediting body for business education.
A FIRST: SLIGHT METHODOLOGICAL CHANGES
For the first time in six years, we altered the methodology of the ranking slightly to accommodate for universities going standardized-testing optional because of the pandemic or dropping standardized tests altogether. But first, a step back. Each methodological category (admissions standards, alumni experience, and career outcomes) is equally weighted. Within admissions standards, like previous years, 30% of the weight went to the acceptance rates for business majors entering in Fall 2021. This year, we dropped the weight of the percentage of 2019 alumni that completed our alumni survey and reported finishing in the top 10% of their graduating high school classes from 35% to 30%. And we significantly reduced the average SAT for the most recent entering class (Fall 2021) from 35% to 10%. With the remaining 30%, we added two new categories — the average high school GPA of the entering Fall 2021 class (15%) and the percentage of 2019 graduates reporting being National Merit Scholar finalists or semifinalists (15%).
Both alumni experience and career outcomes categories remained unchanged from previous years. Some 80% of the weight in the alumni experience category came from the average score each school earned from 16 ten-point scaled questions. The remaining 20% comes from four yes/no questions. For alumni data to be included, schools must reach a minimum 10% response rate. This year, we surveyed the Class of 2019 (graduates between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019). Surveys were sent to alumni between June and December of 2021. Of the 94 schools to be ranked, 84 met the minimum response rate. Some major top schools, like the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business and Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, did not meet the minimum response rate and saw their ranking plummet as a result.
Lastly, career outcomes is based on the percentage of 2020 graduates that had a business-specific internship before graduation (20%), the percentage of 2020 graduates earning full-time employment within three months of graduating (50%), and the average starting salary of 2020 graduates (30%).
RANKINGS INCLUDE DATA NOT FOUND ANYWHERE ELSE
More than a ranking, this project reveals and holds data not found in one place anywhere else. What makes this data unique is its all specific to the business school and business majors — not the entire university. One such data point on the mind of many future college students and their parents is acceptance rates. How tough is it to get accepted to a dream school? The acceptance rates included this year — for students entering during the Fall of 2021 — were borderline ridiculous. Ten schools reported acceptance rates of less than 12%. Last year, only three schools reported acceptance rates of less than 12% — Wharton (7.62%), Cornell’s Dyson SC Johnson College (7.96%), and the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School (11.51%).
This year, Cornell’s acceptance rate for business majors dropped to 5.44%. Wharton’s rate dropped 6.03%. NYU’s Stern School had an acceptance rate of 7.16%. Other schools with acceptance rates of less than 10% were WashU’s Olin Business School (8.36%) and USC Marshall (9.94%).
At the other end of the college experience, both the University of Richmond and Marian University reported placing 100% of their 2021 graduates seeking employment into full-time positions. Miami University’s Farmer School and the University of Miami’s Herbert College all reported employment rates higher than 99% for its graduating 2021 class.
Wharton led when it comes to the average starting salary reported by 2020 graduates. Graduates of Wharton reported earning an average of $85,345. Georgetown graduates also reported earning an impressive $85,213 in their first jobs after graduating last year. NYU’s Stern School was the only other school with graduates reporting an average above $80,000 in their first jobs, with an average of $81,669.
Editor’s Note: Since the original publication of this ranking, we’ve had to remove one school that misreported key employment data. Despite a fact check round to confirm the data, one particular data point was missed. After the publication of the ranking, the school realized its error and self-reported it.