Best Undergrad Programs: Academics

Wake Forest University's Farrell Hall

Wake Forest University’s Farrell Hall

“Ten years from now, no one will care what your grade point was.”

That’s a joke, right? You can read whole textbooks, deliver flawless presentations, and ace your exams and it won’t matter in the end?

Yeah, that covers it.

You see, work is governed by very different rules than academia. Being brainy and conscientious will help, no doubt.  In business, you don’t follow a curriculum – you create one.  You’re graded on a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” curve, predicated on the revenue you produce. Here, quantity often takes priority over quality. At some point, you’re bound to report to some college washout with more political capital than you have.



So if academic merit doesn’t matter, why bother studying at all?

For starters, you need to get your foot in the door. To some employers, academic success ultimately translates into workplace success. In a rigorous program, high grades reflect commitment and discipline as much as aptitude.  They can help you connect with potential mentors and internships. Even after you purge a GPA from your resume, the name of your alma mater – and how it’s perceived by employers – reverberates through your career.

Not to mention, academia simulates work in some key areas. As a student, managing heavy workloads and meeting high expectations prepares you for increasingly lean employers with big goals and few hands. If you study alongside other top students, you’ll find their abilities naturally rub off and raise your own. One more thing: Grades matter when it comes time to enroll in graduate school.


So how can you measure academic quality? Each year, Bloomberg Businessweek conducts its annual undergraduate business school rankings, which measure programs based on quantitative data (median starting salaries, SAT scores, faculty-to-student ratios) and qualitative data (recruiter and student surveys).

As part of its rankings, Bloomberg Businessweek calculates an academic quality rank. Here, they use five metrics to evaluate academic performance. Each school supplies three of these metrics: average SAT score (most recent class), the ratio of full-time students to full-time faculty, and the average class sizes in core courses.


Through surveys, students provide the remaining data: Percentage of students with business-related internships, and average weekly hours that students spend preparing for class. The survey was sent to 91,603 graduating seniors at 152 institutions (with nearly a third responding).

To calculate the academic ranking, Bloomberg Businessweek uses the following formula: “For each of the five metrics, schools were awarded points based on their quintile on a scale of five points for being in the top quintile down to one point for being in the bottom. The final AQ score is the sum of each of the five scores.”


So which program scored the highest? That would be Wake Forest University, which recently ended its full-time MBA program. Despite ranking No. 11 overall (and No. 27 among recruiters), Wake Forest came out on top academically. What separates Wake Forest? For starters, they maintain an 8.3-to-1 full-time student-to-full-time-faculty ratio, the second lowest among all schools surveyed. Their students also enter with a respectable 1344 SAT and give faculty an A+ grade during the program.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.