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Importance of Geography

The leading MBA programs are generally based in three important business locations, or “centers-of-gravity” for business that comprise MBA recruiters, MBA alumni and leading MBA programs. These locations are New York City and the surrounding North East corridor (Harvard, Wharton, Sloan, Columbia, Yale, Tuck and Cornell), Silicon Valley (Stanford and Haas) and Chicago and the mid-west (Booth, Kellogg and Ross.)

The location of a business school is key for a variety of reasons, but the most critical is its impact on post-MBA recruiting (large percentages of MBA classes tend to work in close proximity of a business school) and its alumni base, which is generally strongest within its region.

The emergence of the tech sector, which now competes for top MBA talent with the consulting and finance sectors, has seen the increasing importance of Silicon Valley as an MBA center-of-gravity. This benefits Stanford and Haas.

New York City and the north east corridor remains a strong center-of-gravity with its variety of industries, and strengths in consulting and finance. Leading schools in this area are also developing better links to the Silicon Valley area, whether through campuses on the west coast (Wharton for example), exchange programs (Columbia with Haas) or career trecks, which are common across all leading programs outside of Silicon Valley. Many of the leading tech firms also have east coast hubs.

The Chicago and mid-west center-of-gravity, the home of Booth, Kellogg and Ross, is weakening (probably need to use better wording). Its attraction for top MBA candidates was for large consumer goods firms and industrial firms, headquartered in the region. While this remains attractive to some top MBA candidates, candidates are typically more interested in service related industries of consulting and finance, and the emerging tech sector. Because Booth and Kellogg have been leading MBA programs for many years, and have built strong recruiter networks, and have large alumni bases (they are both relatively large programs, graduating large numbers of alumni each year) they remain leading MBA programs, and are able to send numbers of students to both Silicon Valley and the north east; but their presence in both Silicon Valley and the north east is weaker than the leading schools that are based in those regions.

Example, McKinsey founded in Chicago, now headquartered in NYC.

The majority of other leading MBA programs, in tiers 3 and 4, are in smaller cities outside the three main centers-of-gravity. The exception to this is Anderson and Marshall, which are based in Los Angeles, the second largest city in the United States. That said, Los Angeles is not a strong center-of-gravity for business that’s attractive to top MBA candidates. Its main industry is media and entertainment, which less than 5% of top MBA candidates pursue. And those interested in media and entertainment increasingly have additional options in New York City and Silicon Valley.

Other leading programs, outside of the main centers-of-gravity for MBAs, are able to have significant impact in their own region, in terms of placing students and cultivating their alumni networks, but their influence elsewhere is going to be weaker than their influence in their own region. For candidates who know where they want to establish their careers, after the MBA, this may be an opportunity, if a candidate’s preferences are for placement in another part of the United States or around the world.