In September, The New York Times published a major feature on Harvard Business School's highly successful efforts to erase gender inequality from its campus. But the overall impression left by the lengthy article was that Harvard had some deep-seated problems that it was still struggling to resolve.
In fact, the school has made impressive strides to address what is a broader societal issue that plays out to some degree on all business school campuses. In the class of 2013, the percentage of women receiving Baker Scholar honors, the top 5% of the class, hit a new record. Out of 47 Baker Scholars, 38% were women. Only a few years ago, women were routinely underrepresented among this elite cohort. Though women account for 36% of Harvard's class of 2009, only 11% of Baker Scholars were female.
This year's entering class, meantime, boasts the highest percentage of women to ever enter Harvard Business School. Some 41% of the incoming 941 students were women, up from 40% last year and the previous year's 39%.
A record 18% of this year's graduating class at Stanford started their own companies, solidifying this business school's position as the leading incubator for MBA startups. Its location in the heart of Silicon Valley, not far from Sand Hill Rd., the epicenter of the venture capital world, has made Stanford startups the most generously funded of all new ventures coming out of business school.
This year's entering class at Stanford is among the most distinguished its ever had. The average grade point average of the first-year MBAs crept ever higher, to an impressive 3.73, the highest of any U.S. business school and up from Stanford's 3.69 average last year. The average score on the Graduate Management Admission Test is also a new record: 732, up from 729 last year.
Univ. of Chicago - Booth
Chicago Booth ranked third on Poets&Quants' list for the fourth consecutive year and continued to build on its formidable momentum. Among the top 10 U.S. business schools, Booth reported the largest increase in applications this year: a near 10% increase. The increased volume allowed the school to be quite selective, admitting only 21% of its applicant pool. The median GMAT score for the incoming class this year was 730, matching Harvard Business School for the very first time.
When grads from the class of 2008 were surveyed for a return-on-investment ranking of MBA programs, Booth turned up second, behind only Stanford University's Graduate School of Business. It was a surprising showing, particularly given Booth's reputation for its educational offerings in finance, which was among the most damaged sectors during the Great Recession and was particularly punishing to class of 2008 grads. Yet, Chicago alumni reported five-year gains in average salary of $92,600, well above Harvard's $79,600 or Wharton's $74,400.
Univ. of Pennsylvania - Wharton
What's wrong with Wharton? Not very much, to tell the truth. Yet a Wall Street Journal story two months ago suggested that Wharton has fallen behind rivals in recent years, pointing out that applications have dropped 12% in the past four years along with a years-long decline in business school rankings. Several MBA admissions consultants reinforced the story line, saying that Wharton's luster had faded as the market has shifted away from the school's core strength in finance toward technology and entrepreneurship.
Yet MBA graduates from Wharton this year had one of the best placement records in the school's history. Some 97.8% of the class had job offers three months after graduation, up from 95.5% a year earlier, and median base salaries rose to $125,000, up $5,000 from 2012.
This year's entering class at Wharton, moreover, is arguably its best ever -- at least as judged by average GMAT scores. The 725 average GMAT score for the class of 2015 is a record and seven points higher than the previous year. And unlike many other business schools, Wharton has led the way by enrolling record percentages of women, higher than either Harvard or Stanford. This year, 42% of the entering class is made up of women.
Under Dean Sally Blount, who was recruited from New York University's Stern School, where she led the undergraduate business program, Kellogg is pushing forward in remarkably positive ways. The school recently broke ground on a new ultra-modern home with dramatic vistas of Lake Michigan and Chicago's skyline. Kellogg expects to move into the 410,000 square foot global hub in late 2016.
It's the latest in a series of changes at Kellogg under Blount, including a greater emphasis on its one-year MBA program for business undergraduates, dramatic improvements in the way the school is teaching entrepreneurship, and a new marketing campaign that challenges Kellogg's grads to "think bravely." To fund the improvements, Blount is half way toward reaching the finish line of a $350 million capital campaign.
This year, for the first time ever, the school added a video component to its admissions process, requiring applicants to answer random questions on webcam.
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. Throughout the first-semester core curriculum, students build the foundation of their MIT Sloan education. Working with a team of five or six classmates, they gain skills through required course work in economics, accounting, managerial communication, business statistics, and organizational processes (as well as an elective in either strategic marketing or finance).
Leadership. Innovation. Entrepreneurship. All popular buzzwords in MBA programs, for sure, and three of the key ingredients in a newly redesigned core curriculum Columbia has rolled out this fall for its incoming class of 2015.
The school's curriculum was last redesigned in 2009 to respond to the changing business environment wrought by the financial crisis. The new core comes on top of a highly successful fundraising campaign that has raised $500 million toward the $600 million cost of a new campus for the school, which is expected to open in early 2018.
Among the latest changes, Columbia will now teach some technical components of courses online to free up more classroom time for deeper discussion. The school will also increase the number of electives students can take in the first year to allow them to make a stronger impression on employers during their summer internships.
Dartmouth - Tuck
Small. Intimate. Cozy and collaborative. That is how students describe the MBA experience at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business in rural Hanover, N.H., where students and professors get to know each other remarkably well. The school announced that for the third consecutive year, more than 70% of its alumni have contributed money to the school. That's quite an achievement, considering the average alumni giving rate for a top 20 business school is about 20%.
The participation rate is often considered the best and most visible sign of the alumni network's loyalty to the school and its willingness to help current students. The generosity of Tuck's alumni reflects, in part, the strong bonds MBA students make with each other and the school during their two-year MBA experience. But it's also a reflection of a world-class fundraising operation that heavily involves alumni and makes giving something of a competition. "Tuck alums feel as strongly about the school as people do to their first-born children," says Dawna Clarke, director of admissions.
Duke - Fuqua
Duke can lay claim to providing the MBA education for one of the most famous executives in the world: Apple CEO Tim Cook, the late Steve Jobs' handpicked successor. No school 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. The breadth and diversity of recruiters coming to Fuqua is a testament to the quality of its students and what the school does with them. That helps explain how Fuqua moved up one spot on this year's ranking.
UC Berkeley - Haas
The insiders joke that Berkeley's Haas School is the business school for hippies. That's never been the case, but it's a quaint way to refer to one of the hardest schools in the world to get into. If you're interested in tech, entrepreneurship, and innovation, Haas is one of the best schools in the world to get an MBA.
The highly selective program, which enrolls a small class of 240 full-time MBAs each fall, is anchored by 12 required courses that promote a general management perspective and provide a framework for the more specific courses that follow. The first year of the program is divided into four quarters. The core curriculum is rooted in business fundamentals, including marketing, finance, and accounting.
Two years ago, the school made significant curriculum changes to focus more on leadership. In the overhaul, a pair of existing core courses, Leading People and Leadership Communications, had been restructured to offer additional leadership skills, such as the ability to influence others. And a new course called "Problem Finding, Problem Solving" was added to the core to address what the school considers "underlying skill sets that are missing in a typical MBA education."