Wharton Again Tops P&Q’s Best Undergraduate B-Schools Of 2020

It’s officially a three-peat.

For three years in a row now, The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania has topped Poets&Quants ranking of the Best Undergraduate Business Schools. But this year was the school’s most dominant performance yet. For the second straight year, Wharton has placed first in the rankings admissions and employment outcomes categories. This year, however, Wharton surged five spots from 14th to ninth in the alumni survey category which led to Wharton beating the rest of the schools by more than 10 index points.

No doubt, getting into Wharton is an experience in itself. This past fall, Wharton only accepted 6.65% of its applicants, a level of selectivity that is nearly half of the acceptance rate for Harvard Business School’s MBA program.  Of those lucky few who gain an admit and enroll, the average SAT for the latest incoming class was 1,505 out of a possible 1,600. According to our survey of the graduating Class of 2017, 100% of respondents from that class graduated in the top-10% of their high school class.

And when it comes to employment outcomes, Wharton is also as good as it gets in many categories. For the Class of 2019, 98% of graduates had at least one business-related internship before graduating. Some 97.7% of the graduates seeking employment secured full-time positions within three months of graduation. And the average salary of those with jobs was a whopping $82,494,  a new school record, up 2.7% from $80,354 a year earlier. Add to this total the fact that 84% of those with jobs landed average signing bonuses of $10,597. The bottom line: The average total starting pay for a Wharton undergrad this year was $91,395 once sign-on bonuses are adjusted for the percentage of graduates reporting a bonus.


The jump in alumni satisfaction with the Wharton experience helped the school extend the gap between it and rivals compared to last year. Overall, schools can score a total of 300 points and last year Wharton scored 284.27 compared to the University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce’s score of 282.01. This year, however, Wharton surged to 298.46. The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business leap-frogged McIntire this year to earn second with 289.41 points. Michigan placed eighth in admissions, second in alumni experience and sixth in employment outcomes. Virginia finished third this year with a total of 289.20 points.

Michigan Ross’s climb in the rankings has been impressive. Two years ago, Ross finished 13th. Last year it finished fourth. And this year, the school in Ann Arbor had its best finish yet. Over the past few years, Michigan Ross has changed its program from a two-year to a four-year direct admit program. The majority of students now enter as freshmen and are accepted as high school students. A smaller number can transfer into the school as sophomores. Michigan Ross’s freshman acceptance rate is around 12% — about the same as the full-time MBA program at Harvard Business School. Of those accepted in 2019, the average SAT score was 1,500. Graduates from 2019 averaged $75,575 in salary in their first jobs.

While Michigan Ross has climbed into the top-three, Virginia’s McIntire School has been a mainstay in the top-three over the past three years. Two years ago the school finished in third and last year it climbed to second before being just barely edged-out of the runner-up spot this year by Michigan. McIntire is a two-year program where students first have to get accepted into the University of Virginia and then have to apply and gain acceptance into the McIntire School during their sophomore year. Similar to Ross, McIntire’s acceptance rate is 12.9% and students entering this fall reported an average SAT score of 1,465. McIntire’s 2019 graduates reported earning an average of $78,315 in base salary in their first jobs after graduation.


New York University’s Stern School of Business continued its three-year rise in the rankings, finishing in fourth this year behind Virginia’s McIntire School. Stern finished in eighth two years ago and sixth last year. Rounding out the top five was Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. McDonough also finished fifth two years ago but flubbed a data point last year that dropped it to 16th. The University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business slipped one spot from fifth last year to sixth this year. Washington University in St. Louis’s Olin Business School dropped the most spots for any school remaining in the top-10, going from third last year to seventh. Cornell University’s Dyson School also slipped one spot from seventh last year to eighth this year. Two schools crashing into this year’s top-10 were the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, which climbed from 14th last year to ninth this year. And Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School catapulted from 22nd to 10th this year.

Over the coming days, we’ll be publishing all the data used to calculate the rankings and we suggest readers take the time to dive into the hundreds of data points used to build this year’s list. Many different schools excel in different areas and it’s important to learn which schools are doing well in certain areas. For example, some 100% of 2019 graduates at the University of Missouri’s Trulaske School, Rochester Institute of Technology’s Saunders School, and Syracuse University’s Whitman School had at least one business-related internship before graduation. At the University of Evansville, 100% of its 2019 graduates found full-time employment within three months of graduation. At Brigham Young University’s Marriott School, the rate was 98.4% and at Villanova University’s School of Business, the rate was 98.2%.

No doubt, business graduates are making a lot of money as soon as they walk off-campus. Of the 97 schools included in this year’s ranking, 16 reported average starting salaries of $70,000 or more for their students. When you consider average signing bonuses and the percentage of graduates reporting that extra perk, graduates of 21 schools earned an average of more than $70,000 in their first jobs after graduation. More than half of schools (57) reported graduates earning on average more than $60,000 in starting base salaries.


This year, as in the three previous years, our methodology was balanced equally across the three categories of admissions standards, the academic and co-curricular experience as measured by alumni, and employment outcomes. All of the data used to calculate the rankings is either gathered from the schools or from alumni through extensive surveys. Each February and March we open our methodology and surveys to participating schools to comment and make suggestions. We then consider those comments and suggestions before making any changes or updates to the documents. After changes are made, we send the surveys back to the schools during the summer and survey alums between August and November.

Schools have a chance to earn 100 points in each category. A weighted calculation scale is used to award schools points based on how they compare with each other. In the admissions category, for example, acceptance rate is given a 30% weight, average SAT gets a 35% weight, and the percentage of students from the Class of 2017 that were in the top-10% of their high school class is also given a 35% weight.

The University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business has the toughest acceptance rate at 5.1%. Cornell University followed with an acceptance rate of 6.4% and Wharton followed its 6.7% admit rate. For average SAT scores, Wharton topped the category with its 1,505. The University of Michigan’s Ross School, Washington University in St. Louis, and Southern Methodist University all tied for second with averages of 1,500. For the percentage of students finishing high school in the top-10% of their high school classes, 2017 graduates from Wharton and Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business reported having 100% in the top-10% of their high school classes. All of the data collected for the methodology is business-school specific.

In measuring the quality of a student’s academic experience, questions range from how likely the alums would be to recommend their business schools to close friends and family to how accessible faculty and alumni were to students. how helpful advising and career services staff were. Alumni also were asked to rate their satisfaction with career services and advising and if they were able to land not just any job, but the job, industry, and company they targeted for employment. Schools must meet a minimum 10% alumni response rate to have their alumni scores count towards the final ranking. This year, some 5,958 alumni responded to the survey sent to 49,215, for an overall response rate of 12.1%.


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