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. Virginia McIntire, third in Poets&Quants‘ annual ranking last year, rises to return to second place this year, displacing the University of Michigan, which falls to fourth. Virginia McIntire was our second-place school in 2019.
One of only a handful of elite two-year programs, students at Virginia begin with two years of liberal arts before applying to McIntire School for entry their junior year. Only about half of applicants to McIntire 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 application cycle, 767 applied and 396 were admitted. The average SAT score of that class was 1429 and average high school GPA was 4.25 — among the highest marks of any of our ranked schools.
McIntire is in the middle of the ranking in one key way: cost. Four years of tuition and fees for an in-state UVA student is $90,302, with additional expenses adding another estimated $63,000 over four years. Out-of-state students should expect to pay more than double in tuition and fees at $217,418, and a slightly higher living expenses totaling $66,000.
Paying for school is a less painful prospect with the salaries McIntire grads pull down after graduation. According to information submitted by the school, students in the Class of 2019 received an average starting pay of $78,315, with average signing bonuses of $10,859. The Class of 2020 had a starting pay of $81,930 — an increase of 4.6% — with nearly identical average signing bonuses of $10,896.
ICE SETS McINTIRE EXPERIENCE ABOVE THE REST
In surveying the McIntire Class of 2018, we get a clear reflection of the program’s impact on its graduates. Eighty-seven percent say that they would recommend their business program to a friend or colleague, and 81% said the degree was worth its cost in time and resources. Some 94% reported that their first job out of college was in a desired industry, and 75% said their degree prepared them for the work entailed in that first job.
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 last year it 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.” In the last four years, the number of students completing a McIntire semester abroad program doubled to 20-25% of the third-year class. McIntire sends nearly 200 students abroad per year on nine to 10 different project-based (consulting) courses, industry-specific courses, and regionally-focused “Doing Business In” survey courses. Overall nearly 60% of McIntire students complete a for-credit study abroad experience before graduation.
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:
“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 mentor ship 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 begun 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; currently under review for publication by Darden Business School. This experience prepared me incredibly well for my current Product Manager role — research, influencing without authority, developing a concept/models from scratch, etc.”
WHERE THE CLASS OF 2020 WENT TO WORK:
- Deloitte – 18
- Capital One – 18
- EY – 10
- Bain & Company – 10
- JPMorgan – 10
- Guggenheim – 8
- Goldman Sachs – 8
- PwC – 7
- Accenture – 7
- Wells Fargo – 6