There’s a first time for everything. And for the first time in seven years, the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business tops Poets&Quants’ Ranking of Best Undergraduate Business Schools.
The Los Angeles-based school ends a five-year streak of wins by The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and becomes just the third school ever to top our undergraduate B-school ranking. The Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis won in 2016, the inaugural year of this ranking.
At Poets&Quants, we believe three components best measure the undergraduate business school experience: 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 school. In other words, admissions standards, student experience, and career outcomes.
In 2023, though USC Marshall did not outright win any of the three categories, it displayed a truly balanced approach, placing second in admissions standards and ninth in both academic experience and career outcomes, leading to its placement atop the overall ranking.
WHARTON SLIPS TO THIRD BECAUSE OF THE ALUMNI SURVEY
Following USC is Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, which placed second for the second year in a row. Georgetown finished fifth two years ago. The McDonough School topped our career outcomes category and placed third in academic experience and fourth in admissions. Wharton, which placed first in admissions and third in career outcomes, was sunk this year for not meeting the 10% minimum response rate in our alumni survey. But the fact that Wharton was able to finish third even with incomplete data only reinforces how great a school it is, and how dominant it continues to be in our data-based ranking.
The University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce placed fourth, up one spot from last year’s fifth-place finish. Besides Wharton, no other school has been more consistent in our top five than Virginia McIntire, which continues to be the top public university in our ranking. Once again, Virginia’s top-five placement was buoyed by stellar scores in the alumni survey, placing the school second in our academic experience category. It also placed seventh in both admissions standards and career outcomes.
Rounding out the top five in 2023 is the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza School of Business. Mendoza climbed three spots from last year, thanks to stellar admissions standards, where it placed third. The South Bend, Indiana school also placed 10th in academic experience and 11th in career outcomes.
CORNELL SURGES INTO THE TOP TEN
Cornell University’s Dyson SC Johnson School catapulted 10 spots from last year into the top 10 of the 2023 ranking. The main reason? Cornell reported its standardized test scores this year when it hasn’t in previous years. That helped Cornell finish fifth in the academic standards category, which was its best placement across the three categories. It placed eighth in career outcomes and 12th in academic experience.
New York University’s Stern School of Business remained in seventh place, where it finished last year. The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business slipped a couple of spots from sixth last year to eighth this year. Washington University’s Olin Business School had the biggest tumble in the top ten, falling five spots into ninth. And the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School surged four spots to round out the top ten in t10th place.
These ten undergraduate business programs lead an exceptional group of 93 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.
SOME MORE METHODOLOGICAL CHANGES THIS YEAR
We made no changes to the methodology in the first five years of this ranking. But we've made changes in the past two years based on feedback from the schools we rank and changes in admissions practices, mainly the removal of standardized tests at many schools. But before getting into the nitty-gritty of our methodological changes, a step back. We believe generally, the quality of business education comes down to three core issues: the quality and backgrounds of the raw talent coming through the door, what a school does with that talent over four years, and finally how the marketplace responds to the graduates. In other words, what’s the quality of the incoming students, what is their view of the academic experience, and what career outcomes are achieved by the graduating class.
The admissions and career data comes from a school survey that each school completed between June and December of 2022. The academic experience data comes from an alumni survey also administered between June and December of 2022. This year we surveyed students graduating between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020, or the Class of 2020.
Like last year, only 10% of weight within the admissions category was given to average SAT scores. Also like last year, acceptance weight was given a weight of 30%. But here's where significant changes were made this year. After including the average high school GPA of the latest enrolling class and giving it a 15% weight, we removed it — based on feedback from school administrators and deans — and replaced it with diversity data from the entering Class of 2022. We averaged the percentage of first-generation college students, underrepresented minorities, international students, and women to create an overall diversity average and weighted it 15%. The average percentage of 2020 graduates reporting to be a National Merit Scholar finalist or semifinalist in our alumni survey was given 15% weight like last year. And the remaining 30% was given to the percentage of 2020 graduates that reported finishing in the top 10% of their high school class.
Our survey asked 17 core questions of graduates, each rated on a one-to-ten scale of satisfaction (weighted 80%). For the full list of questions and the graded results, see “Report Card Article.” We also asked alumni whether they had a “significant experience,” defined as a major consulting project, thesis, or other program feature instrumental to their professional development, or a meaningful global immersion (weighted 10%). Lastly, we asked if their first jobs after graduation were in their desired industries and companies (weighted 10%).
Again, the main difference in this year's methodology compared to the previous six is we included two years' worth of alumni data (this year and last year), and we awarded schools their alumni data based on a sliding scale reflecting their alumni response rates. For example, a 10% or higher response rate earned 100% of alumni data, a 9.43% response rate earned 94.3% of the total alumni data, a response rate of 7.36% earned 73.6%, and so on.
Students who go to business school expect to get a job not long after graduating. Summer internships are a key way to open the door to a full-time job opportunity. Again, this year we included the average of the past two years of data from graduating students. So our employment outcomes category is based on three metrics: the percentage of the latest graduating class (the Class of 2021 and 2022) to gain jobs within 90 days of graduating, weighted 50%; the average salary and bonus for the latest 2021 and 2022 graduating classes, adjusted by the percentage of graduates awarded a bonus, weighted 30%, and finally, the percentage of the Class of 2021 and 2022 that had internships before their senior year, weighted at 20%.
A TROVE OF DATA ONLY FOUND HERE
This has always been more than a ranking for us at Poets&Quants. It's been a major data reporting project that includes thousands of data points from school and alumni surveys. And this year, like all previous years, we gathered loads of interesting data reflecting the state of undergraduate business education in the U.S. For example, it's still very difficult to get into a top business school. Nine schools had an acceptance rate of 10% or lower for students entering in the Fall of 2022. Cornell's Dyson SC Johnson School had the lowest rate at 4.17%. And five schools admitted classes that had an average SAT score of at least 1500, with New York University's Stern School of Business leading the way with an average of 1542.
Business schools are also getting their graduates very good internships and jobs immediately after graduation. Some 20 schools had an internship rate of 95% or better for students graduating in 2021 and 2022, with four schools having a perfect 100% rate. More impressively, a whopping 41 out of 93 ranked schools reported average employment rates of at least 95% within three months of graduation. Across all schools, the average employment rate for 2022 graduates was 90.17% three months after graduation, up slightly from 89.84% in 2021. The average starting salary across all ranked schools was over $68,000 for 2022 graduates. That's up significantly compared to 2021 graduates, who reported an average starting base salary of just under $62,000. And for the first time ever, we had a school report a six-figure average starting salary. Wharton reported its 2022 graduates earned an average base starting salary of $100,655 and 85% of those reporting salary data also reported earning a signing bonus of $13,247.
See the following pages for the full rankings results for Admission Standards, Academic Experience, Career Outcomes, and the overall rankings.
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