Why are so few MBA applicants admitted to both Harvard and Stanford? How have Wharton and Chicago Booth adapted to an MBA job market post-Lehman Brothers? What are INSEAD and the London Business School looking for in the global mindset of applicants? Which are the three qualities that McKinsey finds in Kellogg MBAs?
A successful MBA applicant has gone beyond business school websites and media rankings to compare MBA programs. They’ve identified the characteristics that really motivate them, and demonstrate a fit with their own personalities and career goals.
Choose from the list of MBA profiles below to find out more about the world’s top MBA schools, the admissions deadlines, and application essay for the year ahead:
The Harvard Business School has a brand like no other business school in the world. It is one of the top MBA programs in the world, boasting former heads of state, a staggering number of Fortune 500 CEOs, and a global network that is second to none. This conservative symbol of success, with its stately Cambridge campus and highest admissions yield, nevertheless faces a challenge to win the hearts and minds of the tech industry.
A place in Wharton’s incoming class is more competitive than ever. But that’s no surprise. The evolutions the school has advanced in recent years signal a new era for Wharton, from the debut of its Tangen Hall entrepreneurial center to the succession of Dean Erika James. It’s all evidence of the exciting ways the business school continues to evolve beyond its roots in finance to drive innovation.
Stanford Graduate School of Business is the most selective in the world. It has maintained the highest ratio of applicants to available seats among US programs for the last decade. This means a great number of people who apply don’t make the cut. The MBA class size at Stanford GSB is less than half of Harvard’s. And with Silicon Valley in its backyard, a growing number of applicants are choosing GSB over HBS.
INSEAD positions itself as “The Business School for the World,” living up to the promise with 80+ nationalities in its MBA program. It pioneered the one-year MBA and is now the world’s largest MBA program. INSEAD’s incoming class is spread across two intakes (January and September) and two campuses (Fontainebleau, a small town 70km from Paris, and in Singapore). MBAs can also take electives on the school’s Abu Dhabi campus, and exchange to top US schools.
The University of Chicago Booth School of Business thrives on a culture of inquiry and innovation. The MBA program sets itself apart from other top tier schools by having full flexibility in its curriculum, and is an integral part of a university that’s focused on research. Chicago Booth seeks individuals who like to challenge conventional wisdom, and thrive in events where they take the lead in solving problems.
Aiming to change the way the world does business, London Business School touts itself as a place where ‘Minds are truly brought to life.’ London’s culture and economy are central to the LBS experience, and its student body reflects more than 60 nationalities in the MBA classroom alone. Focusing on academic excellence, a strong track record of achievement and a global outlook, the LBS admissions team recruits a diverse but balanced class, with no dominant culture.
Located in New York City, Columbia Business School lauds that it is at the “center of business.” Its NYC location attracts more than 100 real-world practitioners as faculty (adjunct) in the business school, while giving students exclusive access to the business world. While fortifying Columbia’s strength in finance, CBS Dean Glenn Hubbard has made experiential learning, entrepreneurial thinking and global perspectives the cornerstones of the program.
The surging increase in MBA applications over time means MIT Sloan may be as difficult to get into as Harvard. Several well-known financial and managerial theories were developed through MIT Sloan, and there’s a strong analytical and data-driven focus. Its smaller class size fuels the collaborative and energetic culture of innovation.
The Kellogg School of Management is part of Northwestern University, located in Evanston just north of downtown Chicago. The beautiful lakeside location in a thriving student town is a big part of the Northwestern Kellogg culture, and it’s known for fostering a close-knit community. So why does McKinsey recruit more Kellogg MBAs than any other U.S. school? Because they have humility, sharp analytical skills and the people skills to be client-facing from day one in their jobs. These are skills many top recruiters search for.
NYU Stern is the business school of Wall Street (rival Columbia Business School may disagree), though its main campus is now in Greenwich Village – home to Silicon Alley with the second highest concentration of internet startups in the US after Silicon Valley. Stern also has strong ties with the fashion industry, luxury brands and the world of entertainment and media.
The mission of University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business is “to develop leaders who redefine how we do business.” Anchored in a rigorous general management curriculum, its culture is framed by four principles, including “challenge the status quo.” Leveraging the energy in the innovative business ecosystem of the San Francisco Bay Area, Haas emphasizes how to seize opportunities, challenge conventional wisdom and act creatively, making it one of the top MBA schools in the country.
UCLA Anderson defines its community by three core qualities: share success, think fearlessly and drive change. It’s lauded for pioneering the nation’s first field-study program nearly 50 years ago—the Applied Management Research Program—and establishing the Easton Technology Management Center. Anderson’s motto, “Think in the Next,” speaks to a penchant for bold thinkers who are unafraid to chart new pathways and effect change.
HEC Paris is one of the leading MBA programs in Europe, offering a 16-month program of study with two intakes (January and September). It occupies a unique space between the one-year programs like INSEAD and traditional two-year programs, allowing students to pursue an internship or fieldwork project for one of the four-month segments. The program’s reputation and international scope have grown in recent years – its regularly ranked amongst the top three European business schools by the Financial Times.
Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon is one of the smallest among the top 20 business schools, boasting a close-knit culture and pioneering approach to management curriculum (a “management science” model over the case method, that’s now integrated within all the leading business schools). Tepper’s central location within the Carnegie Mellon campus provides MBA candidates with access to the university’s most sought after assets and networks.
Cornell Johnson puts a premium on small class size, engaged professors and its close-knit community. It combines business fundamentals with a strong emphasis on applied learning, individually focused study, leadership development, and intense collaboration. Yet the class is also wrapped in the academic universe of Cornell University, the largest Ivy League in the US, located in upstate New York.
Cambridge Judge Business School is located in the heart of the historic Cambridge University and offers students the chance to be a part of the 800-year-old, world-renowned academic community. Located just over 50 miles north of London, Judge offers a vibrant, innovative environment within a quintessentially English county town setting.
Based in Durham, North Carolina, Duke is part of the world-renowned Research Triangle Park (RTP), one of the oldest and largest science parks in the US with over 200 companies ranging from startups to multinationals. Fuqua’s mission is to transform its students into leaders who are equipped to inspire organizations in a way that leads to positive impact on the bottom line, but also positive impact on the world.
IE was founded in 1973 by a young entrepreneur with a vision to create a unique learning experience, focused on innovation and humanities, two core elements of the school values and culture that continue to thrive. Its flagship International MBA is an accelerated 11-month program open only to those who have three or more years of work experience. Students join an extremely diverse student body and are challenged in entrepreneurial thinking and sustainability to reimagine business and to create a better world.
IESE was founded in 1958 and is part of the University of Navarra. The philosophy of the school is based on a people-centered, integrative, and socially responsible approach to business, building on their values of professional excellence, integrity, and spirit of service. The main campus of IESE is in Barcelona, Spain, with additional campuses in New York, Sao Paolo, Shanghai, and Nairobi.
The Ross MBA is rooted in action-based learning, with a guiding mantra: learning business by doing business. It’s flagship MAP program offers students an array of opportunities to start, advise, and lead real-world businesses. Ross is well-known for its close-knit, team-oriented community, and its strong social innovation and impact initiatives.
Known as the “Harvard of Texas,” UT Austin is a world-class public university with a 40-acre campus nestled in the 11th largest city in the United States. With strengths in technology and entrepreneurship, the McCombs School of Business leverages its Austin location, a city increasingly known for being a technology center with increasing number of ex-Silicon Valley transplants. Austin is also routinely ranked among the best cities in the US for business, education, and the arts.
Over the past 10 years, Yale SOM has become one of the most sought-after MBA programs. Yale SOM also benefits from strong connections with Yale University, with an international network and brand recognition rivalled by only a handful of institutions on earth. Few MBA students turn down the opportunity to engage with other departments and take advantage of the rich learning environment around campus. It’s a place for people who are intrigued by complex, dynamic problems that will require big ideas and multi-disciplinary solutions.