10 Undergraduate Business Schools To Watch In 2020

Wharton students. Courtesy photo

The Wharton School At The University of Pennsylvania

It’s a three-peat!

That was the big news from the 2020 P&Q Undergraduate Business School Ranking. Wharton ranked #1 in both Admissions and Employment measures. At the same time, the school climbed from 14th to 9th in Academic Experience survey results to notch a perfect index score.

What does that mean in real terms? For starters, Wharton business majors joined the program with a 1,505 average SAT score. That was five points better than its closest peer schools (Washington Olin, SMU Cox, and Michigan Ross). 1505 also represents a 19-point improvement over the past three years. High average SAT scores aren’t the only measures of just how selective the Wharton School is. For one, 100% of the newest class graduated in the top 10% of their class. For another, the program accepted just 6.65% of all applicants. To put that number into context, the Stanford Graduate School of Business accepts just 6.1% of applicants. That number is 14.5% at the MBA level for Wharton.

That’s elite – and that’s why employers pay a premium for Wharton talent. Between base and bonus, employers shelled out $91,353 – on average – for a Wharton grad. Over the previous year, base pay increased by 2.7% to $82,494 – far higher than the average undergraduate salary of $51,349 in 2019. Employers were so smitten with Wharton grads that they tacked on a signing bonus for 84% of them. Overall, 97.7% of Wharton grads landed a job within three months of graduation, a number eerily similar to their 98% internship rate. Not surprisingly, the biggest consumers of Wharton talent tend to be the business elite: McKinsey, JP Morgan Chase, Boston Consulting Group, and Google.

Even less surprising: In P&Q’s alumni survey, Wharton graduates gave Alumni Network and Alumni Help in Job Hunting the 3rd-highest scores of any school (and the 2nd-best score for Extracurricular Activities). With alumni numbering 99,000 – and hailing from nearly every industry, role, and region imaginable – Wharton exerts profound influence while offering an array of opportunities.

Yes, the Wharton School remains the toast of the BBA space, even sitting atop U.S. News’ more reputation-driven undergraduate ranking. With success comes stereotypes – particularly the one of large, urban schools being cold and cutthroat. That was Ana Singhal’s worry. Graduating this spring, Singhal fretted that Wharton’s demands would be “unforgiving” and her classmates “highly competitive.” Instead, she found the environment – and her peers – to be “collaborative, supportive, and constructive” from day one. At the same time, Singhal took comfort in the “pay it forward” mentality that permeated Huntsman Hall.

“At the beginning of my freshman year, I was paired with upperclassmen mentors through some of my clubs. These upperclassmen were always there to answer my questions and help me while I was getting acclimated to Penn and Wharton, whether that was by simply offering to grab lunch with me or helping me pick my classes. Despite my initial fears about Wharton’s environment, I can now happily say I have never felt anything other than supported, motivated, and encouraged by my peers.”

Diane Robertson. Wharton photo

The support doesn’t come just from the students. Wharton is a school that is always on the go, never resting on its laurels. Next fall, for example, the school is opening its $46 million dollar Tangen Hall. Rising seven stories, Tangen Hall will bring together the university’s entire entrepreneurship and innovation community under roof. Along with lab, meeting, and workspaces, it’ll even include a pop-up retail center to test new concepts on real customers. Tangen Hall should also complement the newly-opened Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance, a Fintech platform that connects faculty, students, researchers, and companies.

“[Wharton] is constantly engaging with faculty and alumni to determine what a business school should be considering or acting on in emerging areas such as alternative investments, fintech, and AI,” explains Diane Robertson, the Vice Dean and Director of Wharton’s undergraduate program, in a 2019 interview with P&Q. “We are teaching students who will work in firms and even industries that do not exist today. We need to prepare them to navigate an ever-changing business landscape.”

That’s one reason why the school revamped its curriculum three years ago. The programming includes the signature Leadership Journey, an interlocking set of courses that cover everything from business writing to interpersonal influence over four years. While The Leadership Journey snags the headlines, the overall curriculum is geared to a forward-thinking application of business fundamentals.

“[The] curriculum was designed to increase flexibility for students to explore and pursue areas of individual interest, double leadership content, and increase emphasis on innovation and technology, ethics and social values, and the global economy,” Robertson explains.

The changes, however, have only amplified Wharton’s tradition of experience-based learning. For example, the program offers a Wharton Industry Exploration Program (WIEP), half-credit courses focused on industry-based site visits, networking, extracurricular activities, and projects.

“I enjoy the experiential aspect of business school,” writes Adedotun R. Adejare, a 2019 Wharton grad and P&Q Best & Brightest Business Major. “The course concepts feel more real when I simultaneously test it out in a club setting or meet with business professionals who are directly in that industry.”

The content is unquestionably world-class. Echoing Ana Singhal, Dipak Kumar – another 2019 P&Q Best & Brightest Business Major – attributes the effectiveness of Wharton’s experiential bent to the caliber of classmates around him.

“At Wharton, I love that in more than 50% of our classes, we are required to work on teams. Learning individually is an important skill, but at Wharton, I learned with and from my brilliant peers whose perspectives and abilities made me better.”

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