The University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce is the best undergraduate business school in the country not named Wharton — and has been, or close to it, for some time — consistently placing in the top 5 among all ranked undergraduate business schools. Virginia McIntire placed No. 5 in the 2022 Poets&Quants‘ annual ranking, three places behind last year’s No. 2, and still down from 2020’s 3rd place and 2019’s 2nd place.
One of only a handful of elite two-year programs, students at Virginia begin with two years of liberal arts before applying to the McIntire School for entry in their junior year. Only about one-tenth of McIntire applicants are accepted, meaning even if you get into the University of Virginia — which only about a quarter of applicants do — you’re not guaranteed a spot in the School of Commerce.
This past year, the average SAT score of that class was 1430, up one point from last year’s 1429 and the acceptance rate was a mere 11.76% for the Class of 2021.
Employment rates for McIntire were impressive, with 89.70% of the Class of 2021 securing full-time employment right after graduation — landing the B-school in the top 10 undergraduate business schools with the highest employment rates this year. As for internships, a solid 87% of the Class of 2021 had at least one business-focused internship by the time of graduation.
ICE SETS McINTIRE EXPERIENCE ABOVE THE REST
In surveying the McIntire Class of 2019, we get a clear reflection of the program’s impact on its graduates. On a scale of 1-10, alumni responded with a 9.6 when asked if the degree was worth its cost in time and resources, and some 90.80% reported that their first job out of college was in a desired industry.
What makes Virginia McIntire a cut above most of its peers? A significant differentiator is in its curriculum, which is integrated across both traditional academic areas — accounting, IT, finance, management, and marketing — and supporting areas like global business, communication, analytics, and quantitative analysis. “This integration is operationalized in two key ways,” the school tells P&Q. “First, all students enroll in our unique Integrated Core Experience (ICE) during their first year in the program. ICE involves 12 credit hours in the fall and 9 credit hours in the spring. Throughout both semesters, a team of seven faculty members teach business fundamentals and students gain hands-on experience as they tackle real-world problems with our corporate partners.
“Second, in addition to the traditional concentrations (i.e., accounting, IT, finance, management, and marketing) each student has the opportunity in their second year in the program to enroll in a variety of interdisciplinary tracks, ranging from business analytics to real estate to global commerce.
“In sum, our students not only learn critical technical skills required for their first job, they also learn interdisciplinary skills that will be crucial as they advance in their respective organizations.”
Of ICE, one respondent from McIntire’s Class of 2018 writes: “The first semester ICE project (and final exam) does an exceptional job of unifying various aspects of an undergraduate degree that simulate a real-world business/project environment. It also emphasizes the level of independent, critical thinking that is crucial to career development and on-the-job learning.”
INNOVATION AS GUIDING PRINCIPLE
Virginia McIntire is constantly assessing and adapting. The school conducted an end-to-end assessment of curriculum and student experience in 2017-18 with a focus on “ensuring a coherent and consistent flow of content from end-to-end,” and subsequently, during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years, carried out a number of important curricular revisions; more are planned for next academic year as well. Among its biggest recent innovations: The school “significantly enhanced” its focus on business analytics throughout the curriculum and through the creation of an interdisciplinary Business Analytics Track, and relaunched its leadership minor, repositioning it to focus on strategic leadership within a student’s chosen field of study. The school also launched an Innovation in Business concentration in the entrepreneurship minor.
The McIntire School continues to place a premium on digital innovation and globalization; in the former, it has recently introduced a number of new courses focused on contemporary topics, such as Big Data, Cloud Computing, Machine Learning, Cybersecurity, Digital Innovation, and a Digital Safari to Silicon Valley.
In the latter, McIntire “places a strong emphasis on global learning and offers students curricular options both on campus and abroad to pursue global business studies, including an interdisciplinary Global Commerce Track, a research-driven Global Commerce Scholars Program, a full range of semester abroad options, and a host of faculty-led study abroad courses.”
At McIntire, continuous improvement is a source of pride. “Over the last three years, we have leveraged student projects as a means for evaluating and improving processes to which they are directly connected (e.g., admissions, academic requirements advising, and career advising),” the school says in P&Q‘s survey. “As part of our ICE program, students work in teams to create process models and utilize design thinking principles (e.g., empathy interviews) as the basis for making recommendations for improvement going forward. While students benefit from the hands-on learning experience, the school benefits from the results (i.e., recommendations that we can put into practice).”
What alumni say:
“Our capstone course involved evaluating and presenting asset allocation recommendations for the university endowment to the university President and endowment CEO. Our small class (<10 kids) had extraordinary access to high level decision makers, who mentored and guided our development. Not only did we diverge from traditional no-arbitrage pricing theory to understand the investment process from a practitioner’s perspective, but we formulated our own investment outlooks based upon research and current geopolitical environments to inform our recommendations. We came away from the experience with knowledge of the industry’s landscape, the players, the benefits (and risks) of various strategies, and the ability to articulate investment outlooks to an informed audience.”
“In the first year in the McIntire program, all students work towards a big final project in which we solve a business problem and present it to the Company’s executives on the final day of the project. Not only did the project expose me to different aspects of business (marketing, valuation, advisory, etc.), communicating and coordinating with team members, we presented the case to the executives which taught me communications and public speaking skills.”
“I wrote my Global Commerce Scholars thesis in my fourth year on using machine learning methods to investigate segmentation between equity and bond markets. I would not have been able to tackle this topic without the mentorship and guidance of the faculty at McIntire.”
“They’ve done a great job in creating an academic environment that closely mimics the professional work environment. Since I’ve began my career, there is no task/situation I’ve felt unprepared for because I always have an experience from McIntire I can call back on.”
“Worked with a McIntire professor to develop a case study on several Charlottesville area craft breweries. The study applied the Material Flow Cost Accounting (MFCA) method onto their beer development processes to identify areas for cost and environmental savings. This experience prepared me incredibly well for my current Product Manager role — research, influencing without authority, developing a concept/models from scratch, etc.”
“I participated in the global scholars program. I had the opportunity to develop a thesis with one of McIntire’s top professors. He guided me and provided me with the resources I needed to pursue my intellectual interests.”
WHERE THE CLASS OF 2020 WENT TO WORK:
- Deloitte – 22
- Bain & Company – 14
- EY – 12
- JPMorgan – 12
- Capitol One – 11
- PricewaterhouseCoopers – 11
- Credit Suisse – 8
- Bank of America – 7
- Jefferies LLC – 7
- KPMG – 6