The Leading Independent
Resource for Top-tier MBA
Home » Blog » MBA Feature » Wharton Tops the U.S. News 2020 MBA Ranking And More

Wharton Tops the U.S. News 2020 MBA Ranking And More

Image for Wharton Tops the U.S. News 2020 MBA Ranking And More

As reported here this morning, the Wharton School has claimed the number one spot—for the first time on its own—of the U.S. News and World Report 2020 rankings of full-time MBA programs.

Before we get to other noteworthy shifts and positions, here’s a quick rundown of this year’s top 10, in order of their 2020 rank (2019 rank in parentheses):

University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School (3)

Stanford Graduate School of Business (4)

Harvard Business School (1, tied)
MIT Sloan School of Management (5)
University of Chicago Booth School of Business (1, tied)

Columbia Business School (9)
Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management (6)
UC Berkeley Haas School of Business (7, tied)

9  Yale School of Management (11, tied)

10 University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business (7, tied)
10 Duke Fuqua School of Business (11, tied)

You can see the full U.S. News 2020 MBA ranking here.

Analysis of the U.S. News 2020 Full-time MBA Rankings

1) Wharton’s First First-Place Finish

Wharton jumped two spots from third last year to claim the number one slot in the U.S. News rankings. While Wharton has tied for first place before, it has never held the position on its own.  “Harvard Business School has dominated that spot in recent years, so it’s quite a change to see Wharton at the top,” commented Clear Admit Consultant, Alex Brown.

2) Stanford and Wharton Leap Frog

Last year, HBS and Chicago Booth tied for first while Wharton and Stanford landed at third and fourth, respectively.  “We are privy to tons of data on how applicants behave.  Harvard wins the head-to-head matchup on MBA DecisionWire time and time again. U.S. News has mentioned that part of the reason for Wharton and Stanford’s ascent is related to career placement data and salary information, so those schools are just doing a great job placing their candidates. Wharton, in particular, shined in that dimension this year,” says Clear Admit co-founder Graham Richmond.  Now, in the 2020 rankings, HBS and Chicago Booth are tied for third with MIT / Sloan.

3) Speaking of DecisionWire Data…

Based on the DecisionWire data we have here at Clear Admit—candidates reporting where they are applying, where they choose to attend, their academic histories and career goals, etc.—this is an accurate ranking of full-time MBA programs.  Brown explains, “I’m a big believer that, of all the major rankings of U.S. programs, this is the most accurate. If you look at the top seven programs [in the ranking], they include all of the M7 schools.  And the top 16 does include what I would consider the top 16 programs and that’s reflected in the DecisionWire data.”

4) Course Correction for Stanford GSB and Yale School of Management?

While the group of top 16 programs makes sense, there are a few tweaks in the specific order of them this year. Brown reflected, “Some of this ranking feels a bit corrective. Was Stanford being punished [last year] because of students going into entrepreneurship?  Was Yale being punished because a greater number of their candidates look into non-profit related jobs?”  The latter would certainly affect the strength of post-MBA salary data in the methodology*.  More specifically, Brown commented, “Yale is an interesting school because it was at ninth two years ago and it has returned to that spot this year, having dropped a few points in the year in between.  The folks at Yale are probably pretty happy about that. To me, they’re right in the mix with Haas at Berkeley.”

5) Top 25 Lists the Same Schools, with Two Exceptions

The same schools as last year appear in the top 25 with only two exceptions: This year, we see the University of Florida in at number 25 and Indiana Kelley moving up from 26 to 21. Last year, we had Washington/Olin St. Louis and Rice Jones tied for 23rd.  Richmond called this “great news” for the University of Florida, as he had not seen them in the top 25 in recent years.

6) Could Location be a Factor for Tuck’s Descent?

Tuck slid out of the top 10 this year and Richmond expanded on this: “When I worked in admissions at Wharton, Tuck was a kind of honorary member of the M7—if it was an ‘M8,’ Tuck was going to be in the group. Is it geography? Is it, on the margin, harder to convince a spouse to go to a school that’s in a non-urban location?  There are a lot of possible factors here.  I do wonder to what extent location is making it challenging, for some of these schools that are not in or around big geographic hot spots for jobs.”

7) USC / Marshall Continues to Gain Ground

Coming up from the twentieth position last year (tied with Emory Goizueta), USC / Marshall landed at 17 in the 2020 rankings (tied with CMU / Tepper).  Just as location may have influenced Tuck’s ranking, it may have helped bolster USC / Marshall’s.  Richmond commented, “L.A. is the second largest city in America and…There’s been this collision course between Silicon Valley and media/entertainment domain.  Hollywood is digital now. There’s a lot of opportunity.”   Beyond this, Richmond and Brown couldn’t help but observe that Marshall is “nipping at the heels” of crosstown competitor, UCLA / Anderson, which claimed spot 16 this year.  Richmond cites success with career placement out of Marshall as an influential factor.

8) Another Case for Tiered Rankings

It is quite evident that the rankings are very close, with very little distinction between closely ranked schools on the list. “There are a lot of tied numbers: Three schools for third, three for sixth, a couple for tenth, three for twelfth. Clearly, they’re very clustered in terms of their ordinal ranking and we’ve said for a number of years now, candidates are much smarter looking at rankings from a tiered perspective rather than a simple ordinal perspective, as are produced by the liked of U.S. News, Financial Times and Businessweek.”

9) How should you use these rankings?

Listen to our podcast to find out!  You can also hear additional insights from Brown and Richmond.

*A quick reminder about the methodology U.S. News uses to compile its annual ranking of best U.S. business schools: Largely unchanged in recent years, its rankings are based on a weighted average of three groups of criteria. Quality assessment, weighted at 0.40, includes a combination of peer and recruiter assessments. Placement success, weighted at 0.35, takes into account mean starting salary and bonus and employment rates for full-time MBA graduates. Lastly, student selectivity, weighted at 0.25, looks at measures like average GMAT/GRE score and GPA and acceptance rate.  

To compile this year’s rankings, U.S. News surveyed all 475 MBA programs accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International in fall 2018 and early 2019. Of the 367 who responded, 131 provided enough required data to be included in the ranking.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.