An Insider’s Guide to America’s Top Business Schools

Business 2.0
September 2004
by Michael V. Copeland
with reporting by Marc B. Zawel

Quit worrying. If you’re choosing among the 25 schools in this guide, you’re going to get a great education. These schools attract the best of the best: The professors are top-notch, and the students are superachievers. The academic programs are rigorous, and the classrooms, with few exceptions, are the glitziest around. Arming yourself with an MBA from any one of these schools will open doors for you. So let’s not fret about which of these business schools is the “best” by some objective standard. Miles of bookstore shelves are filled with guides that rank the schools by various data points and reputation. Rather than doing another ranking, our aim is to evaluate the student experience at the top schools. This guide will help you figure out which one will work best for you-which one fits your interests, your lifestyle, your personality. After all, you’re probably going to shell out at least 70 grand to earn your MBA — you might as well enjoy the experience.

The main thing that sets Cornell apart from the pack is its location. Ithaca, in central New York, is off the beaten path for practically everyone. That cuts both ways, say Johnson students. The isolation promotes a close-knit community. But it also makes it difficult to attract recruiters.

Most Johnson students take part in the “immersion semester,” attacking real-world cases presented by investment banks, financial services companies, and consumer product makers, with the students as an unpaid brain trust. Cornell students tend to split into two groups, focusing on either finance or brand management, two of the school’s strengths.

Sage Hall, Johnson’s home, wins universal praise for its Wi-Fi access, breakout room, cafeteria — even the couches, available for quick power naps. That’s more important than you might think, given the amount of time you’ll spend there during Ithaca’s interminable winters.

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