Harvard Business School
Harvard Business School is synonymous with the MBA degree. It's hard to beat the cache of the HBS degree which is one reason the school receives more applications to its MBA program than any other in the U.S. More chief executives and presidents have had their MBAs issued by Harvard than any other school. And Harvard has become a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity as well.
Stanford Graduate School of Business
With its blessed location in the heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford remains a hot destination for all kinds of would-be entrepreneurs. Indeed, the school sees what it calls "a generational shift toward entrepreneurship." An all-time high of 16% of the class of 2011 chose to start their own companies at graduation. The school said the percentage of MBA students who shunned traditional MBA jobs in favor of the start-up world reflects a three-fold increase from only 5% in the early 1990s and is a third higher than the 12% peak during the dot-com bubble.
Univ. of Chicago - Booth
The mantra of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business is it's all about the idea. Students focus on generating, analyzing, comparing, and refining ideas. It suits the more analytical and intellectual nature of the University of Chicago. The flagship of Booth's program is its flexible curriculum. Unlike many other top schools with lockstep first-year MBA programs, Booth pretty much requires MBAs to go through only one course together -- its series of leadership exercises called LEAD (Leadership Effectiveness and Development).
U. Penn - Wharton
Wharton is to finance what Harvard is to general management or Northwestern is to marketing. There's an impressive variety of financial electives here taught by some of the best finance faculty in the world. Even with Wall Street in decline, some 41% of Wharton's Class of 2012 headed into the financial services industry, up from 38.5% a year earlier. Yet, Wharton is much more than a school of finance. The strength of the finance program may overshadow other departments, but the school is strong in marketing, real estate, and entrepreneurship, and is growing its social impact focus.
Northwestern - Kellogg
When you think about the Kellogg School of Management, two distinctive aspects of the MBA experience immediately spring to mind. First off, the school's environment is the ultimate in collaboration and teamwork. Secondly, there is no other school in the world with a stronger reputation in the field of marketing. Those attributes can often obscure the fact that as one of the world's best schools of general management, Kellogg has become a favorite hunting ground for the world's most prestigious consulting firms. This year, for example, a record 39% of the graduating class landed jobs in consulting at such firms as McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain & Co. The reason: they've come to expect especially bright, thoughtful people who are especially good working with others.
MIT Sloan's two-year MBA program is comprised of a combination of case studies, team projects, lectures, live case discussions, interactions with industry leaders, and hands-on lab classes. The first-semester core serves as a foundation for the rest of the program. Working with a team of five or six classmates, MIT students take courses in economics, accounting, managerial communication, business statistics, and organizational processes (as well as an elective in either strategic marketing or finance).
Columbia Business School
As Wall Street goes, so does Columbia Business School. Its fortunes are so closely aligned with the financial sector, that a prolonged downturn inevitably has a big impact on the uptown school. Roughly half of all the students go into finance after graduating with their MBAs. So with the bloom off Wall Street, which continues to lay off large numbers of people, the impact on Columbia has been obvious. For the incoming class of MBAs in 2012, applications plunged 19%, vastly exceeding the decline at any other big brand school in the world. The drop in applications pushed the school's acceptance rate up five full percentage points to 21% in 2012, from 16% a year earlier.
Dartmouth - Tuck
Dartmouth's Tuck is a super rich concoction of an MBA education, a picture-perfect business school solely dedicated to providing students with the ultimate MBA experience. There are no business undergraduates sharing the halls, nor are there part-time MBAs in evening classes, or executive MBAs who come in on Friday nights. All this allows Tuck to focus virtually all of its resources and energy on one thing: a full-time MBA program. In a day and age when most business schools are juggling all kinds of programs that siphon off the best faculty from the full-time students, Tuck stays true to its mission of guaranteeing every student an intimate MBA experience in a small New England setting.
UC Berkeley - Haas
Two years ago, Haas went through significant curriculum changes to focus more on innovative leadership. In the overhaul, a pair of existing core courses, Leading People and Leadership Communications, were restructured to offer additional leadership skills, such as the ability to influence others. Haas also added a new course called "Problem Finding, Problem Solving" to address what the school considers "underlying skill sets that are missing in a typical MBA education." The Problem Finding course is a prerequisite to Haas' required experiential learning module. MBAs can choose one or more of these experiential courses from among 10 programs, including Haas@Work, which assigns student teams to innovation challenges at a select group of companies that have included Cisco (csco), Disney (dis), Visa (v), Virgin America, and Yahoo (yhoo).
Duke - Fuqua
Duke can lay claim to providing an MBA education to one of the most famous executives in the world: Apple (aapl) Chief Executive Tim Cook, late founder Steve Jobs' handpicked successor. Very few schools could get a better living advertisement for itself. In recent years, the school has had great success at matching its MBA graduates with world-class companies seeking the best and brightest.