2012 U.S. News MBA Rankings

Recently U.S. News & Word Report released its annual business school rankings for 2012. While it’s easy for applicants to get too caught up in the rankings and obsess over every little change in the rankings, ignoring the rankings as you research business schools would be silly. Yes, you should pay attention to the rankings, but using them as any more than a useful starting point can only lead to trouble.

Still, it’s human nature: When someone ranks something — anything — we can’t help but take notice and pick apart the rankings at least a little. Without further ado, here’s a look at the top 20 U.S. programs as defined by U.S. News. Each school’s previous rankings follows in parentheses:

2012 Business School Rankings from U.S. News

1. Stanford (1)
2. Harvard (1)
3. MIT (Sloan) (3)
3. U. of Pennsylvania (Wharton) (5)
5. Northwestern (Kellogg) (4)
5. U. of Chicago (Booth) (5)
7. Dartmouth (Tuck) (7)
7. UC Berkeley (Haas) (7)
9. Columbia (9)
10. NYU (Stern) (9)
10. Yale (11)
12. Duke (Fuqua) (14)
13. U. of Virginia (Darden) (13)
14. UCLA (Anderson) (15)
14. U. of Michigan (Ross) (12)
16. Cornell (Johnson) (18)
17. U. of Texas (McCombs) (16)
18. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) (16)
19. U. of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler) (21)
20. Washington U. in St. Louis (Olin) (19)

What Changed This Year?
The big headline is that Stanford edged out HBS to take sole possession of the top spot this year, gaining an advantage in most of the categories that U.S. News measures, including acceptance rate, average GMAT score, recruiter assessment scores, and undergraduate GPAs. All of these differences are quite small, however. After that, Wharton jumped two spots from #5 to #3, pushing down Kellogg to a tie with fellow Chicago-based school Booth. Yale crept into the top ten, Fuqua made a nice jump from #14 to #12 (trading places with Ross), and Johnson also rose two spots, to #16. Rounding out the list, Kenan-Flagler administrators must be very happy, as that school climbed back into the top 20, and Olin managed to just hang on to “Top 20 status” (for whatever that’s worth), while Marshall just missed making the Top 20 again, landing at #21.

GMAT Scores Keep Rising
Just a few years ago, only several schools boasted average GMAT scores at or above 710. Now, the top 11 schools (and 12 of the top 15 programs) boast average scores of 710 or higher. We’ll use this opportunity to once again issue the advice that we always give to business school applicants: A great GMAT score won’t get you into business school, but a bad one will indeed keep you out. Keep that in mind, especially at this time of year, when you have months before you need to start working on your applications in earnest.

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