The 10 Business Schools Most Endorsed by Students

The pure, unfiltered opinions of current students mean a lot to MBAs choosing a program

When choosing a business school, most people rely on the professionals. Official rankings are the most influential source of information for people eyeing business school, according to a survey released this month by the Graduate Management Admission Council.

The second most popular source includes different groups of professionals: current students and alumni at graduate business programs. As part of Bloomberg’s 2014 ranking of MBA programs, we asked almost 10,000 graduating MBAs to rate, on a scale of 1 to 5, how strongly they agreed with the statement, “I would encourage those looking for an MBA to enroll in my MBA program.”

Our official rankings take into account lots of other factors, such as employer opinions and academic quality. But when you measure schools on the unfiltered opinions of their students, Cinderellas emerge, like Maryland’s Smith School, which ranked 17th on our list, beating Harvard and coming in second for reputation among its student body.

Keep in mind, most students give their own program rave reviews when filling out a survey they know will contribute to its ranking. Scores on this measure range from 4.99 at the high end to 4.01, meaning everyone either “strongly agreed” or “somewhat agreed” that they’d recommend their school to others. That makes the tiny differences between numbers more meaningful.

Below, the 10 MBA programs students were most likely to recommend:

1. Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business

Photographer: Tony Avelar/Bloomberg

Student rating on how strongly they’d recommend Stanford GSB: 4.993 out of 5

Overall 2014 rank: 4

What students say: Students loved “the small, intimate, class size” and their proximity “spiritually and physically to Silicon Valley and the tech industry.”

2. The University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business

Source: University of Maryland

Student rating: 4.986

Overall rank: 17

What students say: Students repeatedly mentioned the intimacy of Smith’s campus community and said the school boasted “hands down, far and away, the nicest, friendliest MBA program in the country. None of this ‘tear down your classmates so you look good’ crap. We are family, and we are each other’s biggest fans.”

3. Harvard Business School

Photographer: Tony Avelar/Bloomberg

Student rating: 4.974

Overall rank: 8

What students say: The East Coast institution won points for its “top-notch faculty, brightest classmates, and incredible alumni network.” One student, who called the HBS network “jaw-droppingly powerful,” gushed: “I feel there’s nothing I couldn’t achieve with a few well-placed e-mails to my cohort.”

4. The University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business

Photographer: Wane Hsieh/Flickr

Student rating: 4.965

Overall rank: 19

What students say: People lauded the program for pushing its students to take risks, and for explicitly asking students to develop “confidence without attitude.”

5. Brigham Young University’s Marriott School

Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg

Student rating: 4.964

Overall rank: 27

What students say: In the words of one MBA, the program offers a “lifelong return on investment.” That take squares with our analysis last year showing that Marriott had the ninth-highest ROI among 40 of the top schools.

6. The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business

Photographer: aa440/Flickr

Student rating: 4.961

Overall rank: 3

What students say: Students like “the focus on the quantitative aspects of problem solving,” as well as the “superstar faculty including Nobel laureates, Fed board members, etc.”

7. The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School

Source: The Wharton School

Student rating: 4.960

Overall rank: 2

What students say: The Wharton School released a survey last month showing its MBAs were more likely than their peers at HBS to promote their respective schools. In our poll, Wharton got beaten badly by Harvard but still put up a strong number. “The Wharton brand has proved very powerful,” said one student, echoing a broader respect among Wharton MBAs for the school’s marketable reputation.

8. The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business

Source: Darden School of Business

Student rating: 4.953

Overall rank: 20

What students say: MBA opinions of Darden don’t jibe with its 10-place tumble in our rankings last year. People cited the uncompromising academic standards and persistently engaged faculty for their good feelings about the program. One student said the first year at Darden “is rigorous to the point that you’ll be overprepared for your summer internship experience, especially relative to Darden’s ‘peer’ schools. I had a military background and would easily say that I was in the top quartile of summer interns at my bank in terms of the knowledge required to perform my job.”

9. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School

Photographer: Mike WIllis/Flickr

Student rating: 4.950

Overall rank: 7

What students say: Kellogg, a top-10 school on our list, did well among students because of its “outstanding career management center” and the “collegial culture, which enhanced the experience, since most assignments were group-based.” Known for its strong marketing curriculum, Kellogg also won points for communications strategy courses.

10. The University of California at Los Angeles’s Anderson School

Source: UCLA Anderson

Student rating: 4.940

Overall rank: 11

What students say: People had a soft spot for UCLA’s Anderson in part because the school returned the love. The “administration listens to student concerns and takes action to address them,” commented one student in our survey. “I never felt like I didn’t know what to do next or that a complaint would fall on deaf ears,” said another. Anderson rose from 18th to 11th in our ranking last year.

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