Hockey great Wayne Gretzky once quipped, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” You could apply the same advice to choosing a business school. Sometimes, the decision comes down to more than cultural fit and professional interests. It may also require you to look at the long-term and ask yourself, ‘How will an MBA from this school be viewed in 10 or 20 years?’
In 2004, Washington University (Olin) finished 39th in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings. Since then, it has climbed 20 spots. If Gretzky were picking an MBA program back then, he would’ve undoubtedly picked up on Olin’s rising incoming GMAT scores and outgoing placement rates. And he would’ve known to give it a second look. So which schools are poised to make big moves? Here is Poets&Quants’ list of the ten programs to keep an eye on in 2016.
(Editor’s Note: These schools are not ranked in any order.)
Yale School of Management: Yale is sometimes caricatured as a refuge for romantics, where the socially-conscious view business as a means to solve social ills. If that’s true, it may be the recipe for the future. This year, Yale trended upwards in nearly every ranking metric. For starters, it cracked the Top 10 (for the first time) in Poets&Quants’ 2015 annual MBA ranking – a remarkable seven spot leap from two years ago. Not surprisingly, recruiters have taken notice. The school ranked #1 in diversity of recruiters drawn to campus according to The Economist. It also placed 9th among recruiters in the September Bloomberg Businessweek survey, along with notching a 4.3 score from recruiters in U.S. News and World Report – beating out Columbia, Haas, and Tuck.
But it’s not just recruiters singing the SOM’s praises. In the same Economist survey, students and alumni ranked Yale 4th in both quality of classmates and personal development and education experience. And alumni further showed their support with a 51.2% participation rate in the school’s 2014-2015 fund raising campaign – a nearly 10% jump in two years. That is second only to Tuck – and the school generated an additional $961K from alumni over the previous year to boot. Such momentum has also paid off in recruiting. Bruce DelMonico, the school’s assistant dean for admissions, describes the Class of 2017 as the strongest he has seen in 10 years. And the school enjoyed a 25% increase in applications in 2014-2015, boosting both the percentage of both women and international students to 40%.
Now, the stars are aligned. In 2014, the school moved into its 250,000 square foot Edward P. Evans Hall. And Dean Ted Snyder – the architecture of the University of Chicago’s rise to being a Top 5 MBA program – is now into his fifth year at the helm. With strong funding and a stellar faculty, expect Yale to climb a few more rungs in the coming years.
Vanderbilt University (Owen): If you can’t beat them, hire them. That was Vanderbilt’s thinking behind recruiting M. Eric Johnson, associate dean of the Tuck School of Business, to be its dean in 2013. A former Owen faculty member for eight years, Johnson has been tasked with importing Tuck’s intimate, upbeat, student-centric culture to Nashville. Already known for its southern friendliness and strengths in leadership and ethics education, Owen has seen a rise in incoming student GMAT scores and undergraduate GPAs during Johnson’s tenure – not to mention a jump in placement rates (90.8% to 93%), starting base salaries ($100,513 to $108,255), and starting bonuses ($20,138 to $22,484) between the 2014 and 2015 graduating classes.
However, Owen’s biggest selling point may be its location. Nashville is often called the “Silicon Valley of Healthcare,” boasting a booming metro area that’s flush with Fortune 500 companies. And coupling a Tuck-inspired small school culture with a vibrant business scene may just be the ticket to long and lucrative careers for Owen grads.
Rice University (Jones): I dare you to find anyone who has something negative to say about Jones. This year, Rice made headlines in the Bloomberg Businessweek rankings, finishing 3rd in the alumni survey and 2nd in the student satisfaction survey. In fact, Jones was one of only three schools (Haas and Anderson being the others) to finish in the Top 10 in both categories. Oh, and it ranked #3 in terms of alumni career satisfaction in a 2014 Forbes survey. Talk about a happy customer base!
Like Owen, Rice is a relatively small program that benefits from being based in a thriving business community. The Houston area boasts 26 Fortune 500 companies – the third-largest concentration in the United States. Plus, Rice is home to the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, ranked by UBI Index as the top university-managed business incubator in 2014. And the program is a steal financially, with 94% of full-time MBA students receiving grants averaging $33,320 per year! That said, the school’s biggest plus remains its people. “Fantastic experience,” writes “Jesus” about his time in the MBA program in Forbes. “I remain very close to the school and I consistently see how hard and effectively the staff work to make the school an even better place.”