Best MBA Programs in the U.S.: Top 10 Rank
Each year in the late spring and early summer, ambitious MBA applicants ask themselves what the best business schools in the U.S. are—and boy are there a lot of news organizations trying to give an answer! However, despite all the noise, many applicants ultimately turn to the number one player: U.S. News and World Report, which for years has released a reputable, data-driven list of the best MBA programs in the US and around the world.
This year’s U.S. News rankings came out early in the year (around the same time we were all locking ourselves away in our homes to contain the spread of COVID-19), and contained a few surprises.
Reshuffle in the top 10
By far the biggest surprise was HBS’ fall in the rankings from third to sixth, an unfamiliar spot for Harvard, which is used to being firmly in the top five. The report cites the renowned program as having fallen in several of the categories, including employment rate upon graduation as well as three months later, application rates, and a trailing pay rate and sign-on bonus for HBS grads.
In contrast, Northwestern Kellogg has climbed to share third with Chicago Booth, and Stanford has gained a spot to share first place with Wharton. Despite all this excitement, the top 10 is largely intact, simply in a different order.
Do MBA Program Rankings Matter?
While the rankings themselves can provide an interesting insight into the jostling among MBA programs for top spots, any good MBA admissions consultant can tell you that the rankings aren’t everything. We suspect you can make a pretty good guess at who’s in the top 10, and there isn’t a program among them that doesn’t offer an excellent education. More important, though, is getting to know what each program is looking for. Below, we’ll take a closer look at the rankings of the most life-changing MBA programs, as well as why they have earned the distinction of being among the best business schools in the U.S.
Best MBA Programs in the USA
1. Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business
Moving up from second to share the top spot with Wharton, Stanford GSB requires the highest GMAT scores and average GPA rankings among the top 10. Unsurprisingly, they also have the lowest acceptance rate, at only 6.9%.
The lucky few who do gain acceptance to Stanford’s elite MBA program can expect a heavy focus on innovation and entrepreneurship in addition to an excellent core curriculum with a global focus. Given its proximity to Silicon Valley, it should come as no surprise that Stanford boasts an exceptionally strong entrepreneurship program, and for those whose goals are centered on tech, innovation, or launching a bold new venture, Stanford GSB is a great choice.
2. University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business
Wharton has maintained a top spot in the rankings year after year, and their graduates live up to its gold-standard reputation. For those seeking a quant-focused, finance-oriented MBA, Wharton is an excellent choice. Wharton also boasts an exceptional healthcare management program, and global connections that should not be overlooked.
3. Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management
Ranked in the top 10 for decades now, Kellogg’s top-tier program has a unique twist. Specifically, if you expect to sit in lectures, listen, and absorb knowledge for the next two years, then Kellogg is not for you. Kellogg is all about student involvement.
With exceptional programs in entrepreneurship and marketing, Kellogg demands that its students be involved in their education, taking the lead through programs like the Kellogg Board Fellows and Venture Labs. If you are all about getting your hands dirty and collaborating with your peers to get the job done, then Kellogg might be a great fit for you.
4. University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Tied for third with Kellogg, Booth advertises its program as a bold and analytically-focused—and that pretty much gets to the heart of who they are. If Booth is on your list, then you better be up to speed on “the Chicago Approach,” the educational philosophy at the center of Booth’s MBA program.
Beyond equipping you with a powerful and widely applicable framework for problem-solving through the Chicago Approach, Booth offers a level of flexibility that exceeds what you will find at most programs. They are also known for their economics (home of the famous Chicago School) and finance programs, as well as for being an excellent school for aspiring consultants!
5. MIT Sloan School of Management
MIT is about more than just engineering, as evidenced by their top five spot. Sloan offers an almost European-style international experience, a concentrated core curriculum that you knock out in one semester, a small cohort you can expect to get tight with, and access to the world-renowned MIT scientific community.
The program also boasts an exceptionally high proportion of career changers—folks come to Sloan to strike out on an exciting new career path, and Sloan’s entrepreneurial focus and strong finance program help them do that.
6. Harvard Business School
Better known simply as HBS, it is surprising to find what is probably the most famous business school in the U.S. this far down the list. However, while this year didn’t go perfectly for the HBS adcom, HBS grads, students and prospective students have no reason to doubt it’s a long-established stellar reputation. The smart money says HBS gets back up the list next year, latest.
Known for inventing and rigorously implementing the highly effective “case method,” you won’t leave HBS without a well-rounded management skillset and some serious leadership skills. That’s leadership with a capital “L,” and it’s what HBS is all about. Oh, and the global and influential HBS network is nothing to sniff at either.
7. UC Berkeley Haas School of Business
Haas holds the distinction of having the smallest class size of any top 10 MBA program, so if you’re looking for intimacy and a community feel, look no further. Like Stanford they benefit from their proximity to Silicon Valley and have strong programs in both tech and entrepreneurship, as well as above average connections to the Asian business community. They also have an excellent real estate program.
If you’re looking for a West Coast lifestyle, an intimate but top-notch program, and a good startup launch pad, Haas is your program.
8. Columbia Business School
An undeniable benefit of CBS is its New York location and connections. With deep roots in NYC-centric industries including real estate, retail, finance, entertainment, fashion and more, CBS is a great gateway to a career in the city or more widely in the Northeast. If, to paraphrase Jay-Z, the concrete jungle is where your dreams are, then CBS is where you should start.
The program is more than its location and connections, of course. CBS excels in finance education, has an excellent entrepreneurship center, and will expose you to a diverse set of peers through learning clusters of 65-70 students.
9. Yale School of Management
If Yale SOM is about one thing, it’s social impact. Baked right into the application, Yale is looking for ambitious MBA students who want to change the world, not just the world of business. If you have an impact angle to your career goals, are looking to rise in the world of non-profit management, or have a venture idea that just might save humanity (or maybe just a few bucks), then Yale would love to hear it.
With a relatively small class size compared to many MBA programs, you’ll get a tighter community, but with access to the heft of Yale University. The program also boasts an excellent finance education, and many graduates pursue traditional careers in consulting and finance.
10. NYU Stern School of Business
Like Columbia students, Stern MBAs benefit from being in New York, though NYU’s downtown location has a very different vibe from Columbia’s uptown campus (and the two rivals will thank you to remember that).
The similarities may outnumber the differences, however: Stern has an excellent finance program, attracting many aspiring investment bankers, venture capitalists, and other high-powered, NYC finance types. Stern also boasts one of the most diverse classes, including more women and underrepresented minorities than any of the other programs on this list.
You can get a good education from all of these schools, but each also has its own distinct character. Let the rankings guide you toward a tier of school appropriate for your profile, but do your research into the programs you are interested in—learn about their unique strengths, what sets them apart, and what they offer their students and alumni. Seeking out an admissions consulting service can go a long way in helping you figure out where your perfect fit is, as well as making sure you put together a competitive application for a top-notch program.