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Rankings of Best Undergraduate Business Schools

Many people associate the term “B-School” with Masters of Business Administration programs, especially those at the more prestigious universities. Needless to say, it’s the qualitative difference between undergraduate B-Schools that’s of more immediate importance to high school seniors planning to pursue business as their major and career.

For those interested in reviewing rankings of undergraduate business schools developed by information providers, there are only two sources that are established and reputable. The first is the U.S. News and World Report’s annual college rankings. The second is a ranking that’s only in its second year of publication by Poets & Quants for Undergraduates, an online resource for students seeking to concentrate on business as a field of study.

The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia finishes first on both lists. However, below Wharton, the rankings show significant variation due to the different methodologies used by the two sources.

The U.S. News & World Reports long-established ranking is based solely on the judgments of deans and senior faculty members at undergraduate business peer institutions accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. These deans and faculty members — two at each school — are asked to rate the quality of all other programs with which they are familiar on a scale from 1 (marginal) to 5 (distinguished). Last year, 38% of those surveyed responded. U.S. News & World Reports uses the two most recent year’s responses to calculate the scores of undergraduate business programs and to rank them.

The Poets & Quants methodology is more data-driven. Their ranking is meant to identify the degree of balance among what they consider to be the three core components of a high-quality undergraduate business experience, as noted below:

  1. Business-school specific admissions data, including average SAT/ACT scores for incoming students, the percentage of incoming students who finished in the top 10% of their high school classes, and the school’s acceptance rate for applicants.
  2. Alumni satisfaction on important dimensions of the educational experience, with answers to survey questions meant to gain meaningful information into the undergraduate years.
  3. Specific data on employment outcomes, such as the percentage of graduates who obtained a job soon after graduation, average total compensation in first jobs, and the percentage of students to complete full-time paying internships prior to their senior year.

The results of the two methodologies are compared in the table below, which lists the top 10 institutions from each source. It should be noted that, among the eight Ivy League schools, only two, Cornell and Penn, offer business as an undergraduate major. State universities on the list indicate the main campus of their state’s system.

Table A: The Top 10 Undergraduate Business Schools

U.S. News &; World Reports Poets & Quants
1 University of Pennsylvania – Wharton University of Pennsylvania – Wharton
2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Sloan Washington University in St. Louis – Olin
3 University of California at Berkeley – Haas University of Virginia – McIntyre
4 University of Michigan – Ross University of Notre Dame – Mendoza
5 New York University – Stern (tied at 5) Georgetown University – McDonough
6 University of Texas – McCombs (tied at 5) University of Indiana – Kelley
7 Cornell University – Dyson (tied at 7) University of North Carolina – Kenan Flagler
8 North Carolina – Kenan Flagler (tied at 7) New York University – Stern
9 University of Virginia – McIntyre (tied at 7) Cornell University – Dyson
10 Carnegie Mellon Univ. – Tepper (tied at 7) University of California Berkeley – Haas

Poets & Quants ranked 82 schools this year— an increase of 32 schools from the 50 in last year’s debut ranking. These schools represent the top 16% of accredited undergraduate business schools in the U.S. Several of the schools on the list have acceptance rates lower than Harvard Business School’s full-time MBA program.

Poets & Quants is compiling an invaluable database in the process of conducting their annual rankings. For example, last year’s data reveal that more than 50%of the schools on the list reported that at least 90% of their 2017 graduates secured full-time job offers within three months of graduation. The average salaries reported continue to reflect a strong market for freshly minted business graduates. Wharton reported an average starting salary of $80,000+ for first jobs after graduation. This is the highest salary level ever reported by an undergraduate school. In all, 9 schools reported average salaries of $70,000+, up from last year’s 8 schools. Another 25 schools reported average salaries of $60,000+, meaning that over 40% of the ranked schools have graduates making an average of at least $60,000 in their first jobs after graduation. This is considerably higher than the $49,785 average for under graduates in all majors at the same institutions who were able to find a job in the initial three-month period.

IvySelect is a college admissions consulting firm specializing in admissions to top-tier schools. We work with you to develop an admissions strategy that is focused solely on you as an individual. We devote time to understand you as a person — your academic record, preferences, strengths, weaknesses, experiences, and educational goals. This knowledge enables us to assist you in pursuing your desire to concentrate on business or any other major at the top-tier institution that’s right for you.

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