Best Undergraduate Business Schools for 2014

Earlier this week, Bloomberg Businessweek released its 2014 undergraduate business school rankings. And, for the fifth straight year, Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business claimed the top spot in Businessweek’s rankings. In fact, the top three spots are unchanged since last year, with U. of Virginia and Cornell taking the second and third spots behind Notre Dame, respectively.

Without further ado, here are Bloomberg Businessweek’s top 25 undergraduate business schools in the United States. Each school’s 2013 (last year) ranking follows in brackets:

1. University of Notre Dame (Mendoza) [1]
2. University of Virginia (McIntire) [2]
3. Cornell University (Dyson) [3]
4. Boston College (Carroll) [6]
5. Washington University, St. Louis (Olin) [4]
6. University of Texas, Austin (McCombs) [9]
7. University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) [5]
8. Indiana University (Kelley) [13]
9. Emory University (Goizueta) [7]
10. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler) [10]
11. Wake Forest University [18]
12. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Ross) [8]
13. Brigham Young University (Marriott) [12]
14. New York University (Stern) [14]
15. University of California, Berkeley (Haas) [11]
16. University of Richmond (Robins) [17]
17. Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper) [24]
18. Georgetown University (McDonough) [16]
19. Northeastern University (D’Amore-McKim) [25]
20. Bentley University [20]
21. Southern Methodist University (Cox) [30]
22. The College of William & Mary (Mason) [27]
23. Miami University (Farmer) [22]
24. Villanova University [15]
25. Boston University [23]

What changed? Not too much in the top ten, actually. While the individual schools in the top ten bounced around a bit, only Ross (#8 last year) fell out of the top ten in 2014, with Kelley (#13 last year) taking over the 8th spot.

It is interesting to note how these rankings don’t strongly correlate with Businessweek’s (or U.S. News’s) MBA rankings; only Wharton is in the top ten of both Businessweek’s undergraduate and graduate business school rankings. Of course, one can’t ignore the fact that many universities with top-ranked MBA programs actually don’t offer undergraduate business programs. In an article that accompanied the new rankings, Businessweek hinted that this might change as more universities move to meet the growing demand for undergraduate business education.

Are you considering applying to one of the top-ranked MBA programs in the country? Be sure to pick up a copy of our industry-leading book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

3 Things You Can Do to Get off the MBA Waitlist

Although the bulk of the action for the 2013-2014 business school admissions season is already over, for a select group of applicants, the drama may stretch on for another couple of months. Who are these unlucky souls? Those who were waitlisted by their MBA programs.

Waitlisted applicants can get into school as late as August, but in reality business schools have 99% of their classes fully set by June. Beyond that time, spots absolutely do open up every year as admitted students decide to skip business school, get into another program and decide to forego their deposit, or contact their schools with a really god reason to defer until next year. But, if you’re not admitted by early June, the writing is on the wall: Your odds of getting in off of the MBA waitlist are quickly approaching zero.

But, before business school admissions officers admit the last of Round 3 applicants and fine tune their classes with a final handful of waitlisted applicants, sitting patiently and invisibly is not your best bet for getting in. Here are three things to consider:

Be politely persistent
Many top schools will tell you not to contact them at all when you are on the MBA waitlist, or only if there are “substantial” or “material” changes to your application. While pestering them into submission is a surefire way to get yourself removed from the waitlist (i.e., rejected), being a complete wallflower is not the smartest approach, either. Checking in every few weeks with a short message helps admissions officers know you’re still interested. Don’t suggest that you expect a reply; just send the message in (email is normally sufficient) and have confidence that a real person will read it.

Emphasize that you WILL attend if admitted
One reason business schools utilize waitlists is to protect their yield — the percentage of admitted applicants who matriculate. If the admissions team can offer four waitlisted candidates admission, whom do you think they will admit? The applicant who’s been silent and who has probably already paid his deposit to another MBA program, or the applicant who has offered to pay his deposit the same day he gets the call?

Be flexible
We know waitlisted applicants who have been called in August, and asked if they could move to the other side of the country within days. These applicants didn’t just randomly get these phone calls; in addition to underscoring their sincere interest, they also let admissions officers know that they were dedicated (or crazy?) enough to drop everything and move thousands of miles on just a few days’ notice. When those one or two spots open up at a top MBA program, admissions officers like knowing that they have someone to call… If you can do it, why not be that someone? You know what they say about the very last guy admitted to Harvard Business School… He’s a student at HBS!

Want to avoid the waitlist and get admitted to one of the world’s top business schools? Grab a copy of our MBA admissions book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Harvard Business School Inches into the Online Education Market

Harvard Business School, which last year signaled that it was ready to officially move into online management education, has officially launched HBX.

Surprisingly, HBX doesn’t run on the edX platform jointly run by MIT and Harvard. HBS built its own online learning platform for this endeavor. Also, HBX differs from most of the online courses offered by MIT and Harvard in that it will deliver fee-based courses, which could potentially open up significant new revenue streams for the school.

According to Harvard Magazine, HBX will debut with three core offerings:

  • Credential of Readiness (also known as “CORe”), comprising three fundamental courses especially designed for students and recent grads coming from non-business backgrounds.
  • More advanced executive-level courses devoted to subjects such as strategy, entrepreneurship, and the microeconomics of competitiveness. (Don’t forget that many business schools, including HBS, bring in tons of revenue from their existing executive education programs.)
  • An “HBX Live” virtual classroom, built in partnership with Boston-based public television station WGBH. This online classroom can host up to 60 students at a time, facilitating discussions that the school claims can be as rich as those that happen in the school’s own classrooms.

What’s most interested here is how hard Harvard Business School is going after the group in that first bullet: Young professionals and college students who aren’t on the traditional business track. Just as it has done with the HBS 2+2 Program, the school continues to look beyond the traditional feeder schools and industries to try to find the next generation of leaders who can benefit from business training (if not full MBAs).

And, make no mistake: Clearly the school smells a financial opportunity here, too. While settle for enrolling less than 1,000 full-time MBA students each year, when there are potentially millions around the globe who would pay for some sort of certification from the one and only Harvard Business School? There naturally comes a point where such an approach can dilute the school’s brand, but we expect that HBS will guard against that risk by never granting complete MBA degrees to the students who participate in its online programs.

Think you have what it takes to earn a full MBA from Harvard Business School? Find out by picking up a copy of our MBA admissions book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Wharton Imports New Dean from Australia

This week The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School named Geoffrey Garrett as the 13th dean in the school’s history, effective July 1. Garrett, who used to serve on the Wharton faculty, currently serves as the dean of the Australian School of Business at the University of South Wales.

Garrett has made a name for himself around the globe as a passionate supporter of online education. In a recent editorial published by Financial Times, Garrett argued that the rise of massively open online courses (also known as “MOOCs”) is inevitable, and that this irresistible force will force MBA programs to change for the better. Wharton is the perfect landing spot for Garrett, since the school already makes its first-year curriculum available to everyone for free through Coursera. It’s safe to assume that this trend will only accelerate under Garrett.

Before he was the dean of Australian Business School, Garrett was the dean of the University of Sydney Business School, and also served as the founder and CEO of the United States Center at the U. of Sydney. Before that he held various roles at Yale, UCLA, USC, Wharton, Oxford, and Stanford. Garrett earned his BA with honors from the Australian National University, and earned his MBA and PhD from Duke University.

Garrett will replace Thomas Robertson, ending a seven-year term in which he raised more than $600 million for the school. Under Robertson, Wharton also grew its faculty ranks and introduced a new MBA curriculum. Despite some recent noise about Wharton’s application volume, the school recently moved into a three-way tie with Harvard and Stanford for #1 in the 2015 U.S. News business school rankings. He came into a good situation to begin with, for sure, but Robertson seems to have left the school in an even stronger position compared to when he took charge in 2007.

If you want to improve your chances for getting into Wharton and other top business schools, get yourself a copy of our MBA admissions book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

2015 U.S. News Business School Rankings

It’s that time of year again. Earlier this week U.S. News & World Report released its 2015 business school rankings (you can read the announcement here.) You can bet that there are a lot of smiling faces in Philadelphia right now: Wharton has edged into a three-way tie with Harvard and Stanford for the #1 spot in the newest business school rankings.

We’d like to take a moment right now to point out that five months ago we predicted that 2014 would bring a slew of “Wharton Is Back!” articles. And now here they come. In all seriousness, all of this is noise in the grand scheme of things: Wharton was not horrible five months ago, and it’s not now suddenly way better than it was last year. Still, business school rankings are fun! Let’s continue.

Looking at other big moves in the top ten, Chicago Booth managed to overtake MIT Sloan and Kellogg to take sole possession of the #4 spot. Beyond that, there was some movement, but the same “top ten” schools from last year carry over into this year’s rankings.

Looking a bit lower on the list, Michigan’s Ross School of Business climbed three spots to be just on the outside of the top ten, moving up to #11 (switching places with Duke). Notre Dame and Vanderbilt climbed four spots and five spots, respectively, to break into the top 25.

Without further ado, here are the top 25 business schools in America, according to U.S. News. Each school’s 2014 ranking (published in 2013) follows in brackets:

2015 U.S. News MBA Rankings
1. Harvard [1]
1. Stanford [1]
1. Penn (Wharton) [3]
4. U. of Chicago (Booth) [6]
5. MIT (Sloan) [4]
6. Northwestern (Kellogg) [4]
7. UC Berkeley (Haas) [7]
8. Columbia [8]
9. Dartmouth (Tuck) [9]
10. NYU (Stern) [10]
11. U. of Michigan (Ross) [14]
11. U. of Virginia (Darden) [12]
13. Yale [13]
14. Duke (Fuqua) [11]
15. U. of Texas (McCombs) [17]
16. UCLA (Anderson) [14]
17. Cornell (Johnson) [16]
18. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) [19]
19. U. of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler) [20]
20. Emory (Goizueta) [18]
21. Indiana (Kelley) [22]
22. Washington U. in St. Louis (Olin) [21]
23. Georgetown (McDonough) [25]
23. Notre Dame (Mendoza) [27]
25. U. of Washington (Foster) [24]
25. Vanderbilt (Owen) [30]

If you want to improve your chances for getting into one of these MBA programs, pick up a copy of our MBA admissions book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

When You Are Granted Conditional Admission to Business School

Conventional wisdom holds that there are three possible outcomes when you apply to business school: admissions, rejection, or waitlist. There is a fourth possible outcome, however, that comes up every year: the conditional admission. Also known as a “provisional admission,” this happens when a business school likes your application, but sees one weakness that admissions officers want you to improve upon before you can enroll.

First of all, this is not a bad thing. The school wants you, so much so that it’s willing to admit you despite a pretty big weakness. Keep in mind that the acceptance rate at most top business schools is at or below 20%, and you can appreciate how good this feels. Instead of saying, “Never mind” and moving on to the next application in the pile, admissions officers said, “We like this applicant so much that we are willing to admit him if he can just take care of this one thing.”

That “one thing” is typically one of the following:

  • A Low GMAT Score — This is especially common among MBA programs outside of the top ten. Even though business schools will seldom admit it publicly, they do care about the average GMAT scores of their incoming classes, and if they really want an applicant who would otherwise bring down their average, they will ask him to retake the GMAT. Every year we hear from at least one applicant who says something like, “I was told that if I can just get a 650, I’m in.”
  • A Lack of Quantitative/Analytical Background — Business schools will sometimes grant conditional admission to a candidate whom they know can do the MBA coursework, but who doesn’t quite have enough experience in this area. Admissions officers know that the applicant is bright, but want her to be able to hit the ground running, rather than risk spending the better part of the first year getting ramped up on quantitative subjects. The solution here is normally to require the student to take (and earn at least a “B” grade) in a course such as accounting or business statistics.
  • Weak English Skills — At American MBA programs, a frequent reason for offering conditional admission is mild concern about an applicant’s English skills. Wharton even calls this out as a common reason for granting conditional admission on its website. In this case, the school may require the student to complete additional coursework in English, with an emphasis on speaking and understanding speech. Many business schools even offer these programs themselves, or through their parent universities.

Again, conditional admissions is not a bad thing. Being provisionally admitted means that you’re 99% of the way there, and you just need to confirm that admissions officers made the right decision in betting on you. Now prove them right and check off that last requirement for admission!

To get into one of the top MBA programs in the world, pick up a copy of our MBA admissions book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

What You May Not Learn in an MBA Admissions Rejection Feedback Sessions

It’s that time of year when we hear from business school applicants who have had their applications rejected from top MBA programs. Once the disappointment and (sometimes) shock wear off, the first question that comes to mind for these applicants is, “Why didn’t I get in?” It’s only natural that they want to know why they didn’t get in, whether it was something i n their application that hurt their chances — such as a low GMAT score — or if it was something that wasn’t in their application but should have been — such as compelling community involvement. In the cases, why not go straight to the source and ask?

Not many top-ranked MBA programs offer feedback to rejected candidates. Take a quick look at the numbers, and it’s not hard to see why: Last year HBS received more than 9,300 applications, and admitted only 12% of those applicants. That means the HBS admissions team would be on the hook for as many as 8,200 feedback sessions if it offered rejection feedback to all candidates who might want it. If each one lasted just 15 minutes, that would be more than 2,000 hours of feedback sessions. Ask any admissions officer if he or she has time to spare, and the answer will be a resounding no! There’s simply not enough bandwidth for MBA admissions officers to provide any significant level of feedback to most candidates.

A few top business schools do provide rejection feedback, such as Darden and Haas (the latter only offers feedback who were invited to interview). Given the quick math we did above, it’s commendable that these programs offer any sort of feedback to rejected applicants. But here’s the rub: Many of the applicants who go through these feedback sessions come away feeling as though they didn’t quite get the level of feedback they were looking for. (This applies to all MBA programs that give rejected candidates feedback, not just Haas or Darden.) Complaints include:

  • “The rejection feedback was very generic. I wish she had pointed to the one or two things I really need to fix before applying again.”
  • “The admissions officer didn’t really tell me much I didn’t already know about my application.”
  • “When I asked specific questions, the admissions officer tended to be pretty noncommittal in his responses.”

One problem here is that, in many cases, when an applicant doesn’t make the cut, there isn’t a single smoking gun to point to. The applicant understandably hopes to hear something like, “Just get that GMAT score up a little more,” or “If you get promoted and get some experience as a direct manager, we’d love to admit you,” but it doesn’t work like that. Applicants are usually rejected not because of one glaring problem, but because there was simply nothing in their applications that made admissions officers say, “This person is an easy admit. We want this person in our class!” It’s normally a case of admissions officers saying, “This is good, that’s okay, this part is all right… Nothing wrong here, but hard to pick this application over the hundreds of stronger ones we’ve seen this week.

So, you end up with rejection feedback sessions in which a business school admissions officer, who is trying her hardest to be helpful, providing some general advice on what would make the candidate stronger, but not being able to give the applicant one or two concrete clues about what would take him from a “no” to a “yes.” It’s hard to tell someone, “You’re just pretty underwhelming overall. Sorry kid.”

Also, while schools try to have the primary application reader be the one to conduct the feedback session, this isn’t always possible. (Remember what we said about how much time these feedback sessions can take up!) The result is that the admissions representative who does the review may be reading off of notes in the applicant’s file in real time. Still very helpful for an applicant, for sure, but not the same as getting a personal, in-depth explanation from THE person who had to make the final call and reject the candidate.

Ultimately, getting one-on-one advice from an MBA admissions officer is always a good thing. At worst, it won’t be particularly helpful as you plan your reapplication strategy, but it certainly can’t hurt. Just be realistic about how much specific, actionable feedback you will receive.

For more advice on getting into top business schools (and hopefully avoiding the rejection feedback session!), copy of our MBA admissions book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

What Is a Good GMAT Score?

“What is a good GMAT score when applying to business school? Is my GMAT score good enough to get me into School X?” Those are questions that we hear all the time. The truth is that no GMAT score is good enough to get you into business school by itself, but a score can be bad enough to keep you out. The slightly longer answer is that — just like with every other aspect of your application — you want to make sure that your GMAT score does not stand out as a weakness when an admissions officer reviews your application.

So, then the question becomes, “What GMAT score would stand out as a weakness?” You can start with the average GMAT scores at the top business schools (U.S. News has a list of the ten business schools with the highest average GMAT scores). If your GMAT score is at or above your target school’s average, then you can stop reading this article right now… You have a good GMAT score! Note that we don’t mean your GMAT score will easily get you in, but rather that it’s clearly good enough that, your GMAT score will NOT be the reason you get rejected, if you have that unfortunate outcome.

Normally, we tell applicants to focus on a different statistic: The middle-80% range of GMAT scores for each school. Take Stanford GSB, for example: The average GMAT score for its students is 729, but its middle-80% range is 680 to 770. That means that 10% of Stanford students have GMAT scores below 680,and 10% have scores above 770. If you’re below 680, you are definitely fighting an uphill battle if you’re trying to get into Stanford, no matter what anyone says. Stanford simply has so many strong applicants that they don’t have a big reason to take a chance on you. Yes, there are applicants (such as this guy) who will get in with sub-680 GMAT scores — they make up 10% of the class, after all — but we are wiling to bet large sums of money that those applicants had terrific, memorable attributes in their applications that made Stanford’s admissions officers take a chance on them despite those lower-than-average GMAT scores.

(Also, this is a great example of how statistics can be misleading. Yes, 10% of Stanford’s incoming class had GMAT scores below 680, but how do we know that 80% of those people didn’t have 670 scores? The number of first-year Stanford GSB students with scores below 650 may very well be in the single digits!)

Just how willing MBA admissions officers will be to take a chance on you will depend on your whole application. If you earned terrific grades in a tough major at a prestigious university, then they may be much more open-minded about a 650 GMAT score. If you also have terrific work experience, glowing recommendations, and amazing essays, then they will be that much more willing to consider you despite that low GMAT score. If, however, you have a ho-hum undergrad transcript, forgettable work experience, lukewarm recommendations, and boring essays, then it will be all too easy for admissions officers to move on to the next application in the pile.

So, to sum up: You want your GMAT score to at least be above the lower end of your target business school’s middle-80% range. If it’s not, then we strongly recommend that you take another shot at the GMAT before you apply. If you’re at or above your target school’s average score, then you’re all set as far as the GMAT goes; you already have a good GMAT score. If you’re in between those two scores, you’re fully in “it depends” territory, and you may want to take another shot at the GMAT while you still have time. Beyond that, whether you get in will come down to how strong the rest of your application is.

Are you thinking of applying to the MBA programs at the top of the rankings? Get yourself a copy of our MBA admissions book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

How Applying to Business School Is Like Competing in the Olympics

The 2014 Winter Olympics are underway, and for these two weeks we’ll hopefully be treated to hours of amazing competition, the thrill of victory, and even the agony of defeat. We will also hear hundreds of stories about athlete’s struggles to get to the Games, how hard they worked to get where they are today, and their dreams and aspirations for the future. It’s not a stretch to say that a lot of what we see during the Olympics is a metaphor for life itself.

It’s all of those athletes’ backstories that you should consider as you think about applying to business school. As exciting as the moment of competition is, the Olympics are really a snapshot of where each athlete is at the time of the competition. You probably never heard of that Austrian ski jumper until this week, but he has actually been training for this moment for more than 10 years. What you see on TV will be him doing what he’s trained his body to do over, and over, and over, leading up to this huge moment.

This really is just like you and your business school application: How well you perform in your MBA admissions interview has a huge impact on your chances of getting in, but that performance depends on the (hopefully) weeks of preparation you put in before you walked into the interview. How strong your essays are is a reflection of how many drafts you did, how many editing passes you made, how much input you got from trusted advisors, and so on. How great your letters of recommendation are largely depends on when you started preparing your recommenders, how much information you gave them, how well that info matches with your overall applications story, etc.

Just as no Olympic athlete wins gold merely by having a good day on the slopes or the ice, no applicant gets into a top-tier MBA program just by having a hot streak wit his application essays or in the interview room. The results you get will be a direct reflection of all of the planning and hard work you have put in over the entire process of applying to business school.

Think you’ve got the spirit and stamina it takes to get into a world-class MBA program? Pick up a copy of our book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

HBS Dean: “Sorry for the Sexism”

Speaking at a “50 Years of Women at HBS” event in San Francisco last week, Dean Nitin Nohria apologized for how women have been treated at HBS over the past half decade, and pledged that the school will work harder to create a more inclusive environment for women going forward. His remarks come four months after an in-depth New York Times article describing the challenges the school has faced in performing a gender equality makeover.

Among the changes that Nohria promised:

  • Double the percentage of HBS case studies written that feature female protagonists, to 20% of cases produced each year
  • Provide more assistance to alumnae who want to land board roles with companies and non-profit organizations
  • Foster more networking between students and female graduates

Perhaps most important is the tone coming from the HBS dean’s office. While this isn’t exactly an about-face for leadership at the school, it is a signal that Harvard is getting more serious in this area. The fact that Nohria has attached his name to these public goals makes it extremely likely that HBS will hit them over the next few years. Over the past decade HBS has made public commitments to increasing its international classroom content and how much it supports its students and grads in pursuing entrepreneurship, and it has delivered on both of those promises.

Even if the school does hit these specific goals, there is also the challenge of more generally changing the tenor in the student body, moving it away from an “old boy’s club” and more toward gender-blind community of learning. This will take years, and the goal may never be 100% achieved, but it’s commendable that the school has committed itself to changing for the better.

If you’re getting ready to apply to business school, pick up a copy of our MBA admissions book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!