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Kayser (as usual) has added valuable information. In general, there is a strong correlation between the quality of the accounting program and the quality of the finance program at the top cluster schools.
If you have not already looked at it, you might want to see PR's Business School guidebook which ranks schools in terms of "competitiveness" which is often a euphemism for "unfriendly" (albeit this is often an unfair characterization). As usual, different people from the same institution can have widely divergent opinions of the level of friendliness competitiveness of a given institution.
I feel the best method by far is to visit the school and spend some time on your own interacting with students and professors.
Over the past few months I have received a number of messages from students who have needlessly excluded Columbia from their portfolios. Accordingly, I think it is important to come to the defense of this school.
Some advantages of Columbia:
1) It is in the most important commercial city in North America and arguably the most important in the world. No other ultra elite can match this level of access to the culture and business of New York City.
2) Columbia is a superlative finance school. While candidates often view Penn and Chicago as vying for the top in finance, it is unconscionable to ignore Columbia. After all, on a per capita basis Columbia has repeatedly been the single strongest school in the United States, exceeding Chicago and easily exceeding Penn for many important firms.
3) Columbia offers far more than outstanding access to finance- it is often viewed as one of the top schools in general management and international business as well.
4) While Columbia is not one of the strongest ultra elites in consulting, it is still worth remembering that it is stronger than virtually every school in the elite cluster and below.
Aside from being strong in Finance, how strong is Columbia's marketing and international business emphasis? Do you think it's hard for younger students to get admitted even with 2 years of work experience?
Columbia has put considerable effort into International Business so I would rate it as relatively stronger in Intl. Business than Marketing. However, it is very well regarded in both fields. Considering the importance of New York in advertising and as a center for global business this makes a lot of sense.
MBAorBUST presented the interesting question of why students exclude Columbia.
Three explanations I have come across:
1) Columbia has a relatively pronounced boom and bust cycle for an ultra elite school that scares off the best candidates
2) Columbia has not been a leader in the same way that other ultra elites have been and thus is not as attractive to the best candidates
3) CBS at times has lived off the brand name of the university rather than address shortcomings in the quality of the business school
1) Boom and Bust Business School
There is no denying that CBS has suffered through some low points. As mentioned above, Columbia in the late 1980s was one nadir:
"At that point the school was very demoralized. We had fallen to 14th in the Business Week rankings. The students were very unhappy; they felt the curriculum was out of date and out of touch."
"The alumni felt very alienated and disenchanted. There were many alumni who had no contacts with the school. "
This was certainly not the first low point for the school. Dean Courtney C. Brown's played a crucial role in the 1950s and 1960s by elevating the business school from its lowly status as a cash producing vocational school to a serious academic unit of a major university. At the time of his arrival the business school had a largely undistinguished faculty, substantial morale problems, and a curriculum that was better suited to teaching undergraduates than MBA level professionals.
Since reputations tend to form over a long period of time, current impressions of Columbia are affected to some extent by weak moments in its past. Accordingly, some students might bypass Columbia in favor of schools with less variance.
2) Follow that School
A related weakness is that Columbia has rarely appeared to be a leader in the same way as Penn, Chicago, or Harvard have been. Wharton was instrumental in the creation of serious post-secondary training in business, Chicago in finding a rigorous academic core for business education in economics and the related social sciences, and Harvard in making business school a graduate level discipline. While its emphasis on International Business has been important, Columbia has rarely been a leader in business education.
3) Image Cross-subsidization
At times, CBS has seemed to rely on the image of its parent university and the fact that the parent is a member of the Ivy League to justify relatively weak offerings. This certainly seemed to have been the case when Dean Brown took over the business school in 1954. To this day, CBS uses an implicit â€œQuality by Associationâ€