MBA Insider's Guide
By Michael V. Copeland Reported by: William Lee Adams, Emily Almas, Paritosh Bansal, Kate Davidson, Telis Demos, Laureen Ellison, Kay M. Fukunaga, Cynthia Furey, Olga Gorodetsky, Rebecca Isenberg, Beorn Kjeldsen, Daniel Liebermann, Michael Martinez, Kenny McCanless, Rachel Metz, Christian Mignot, Adam Milch, Kimberly Rieck, Elizabeth Robertson, Rachel Rosmarin, Benjamin Volin, Kathryn Wallace, Dawn Wotapka, and Marc B. Zawel

(Business 2.0) – University of California at Berkeley Haas School of Business Berkeley, CA

AVERAGE GMAT: 700 TUITION (RESIDENT/NON): $21,512/$33,758 ENROLLMENT: 1,046

ENTREPRENEURS DO-GOODERS REGIONAL POWER DIVERSE

Like their Stanford neighbors to the south, Haas students enjoy easy access to Silicon Valley, but without the wallet-busting private-school tuition--for in-staters, at least. Haas students have earned their rep as entrepreneurs-in-training, gravitating toward tech, health care, and nonprofits--no surprise, given the school's emphasis on social responsibility. Haas's recruiting focus is more regional than Stanford's. Bay Area fixtures like Clorox, Hewlett-Packard, and Wells Fargo hire a lot of Haas MBAs.

Haas students--an extraordinarily diverse group--spend their free time skiing at Tahoe, kayaking on Tomales Bay, or just hitting the bars in downtown Berkeley for a beer.

There have been hefty tuition hikes in the past two years, but students say UC's wobbly finances haven't hurt much. The classes are still small, although facilities could be more wired. And if you're a state resident, it's hard to beat the value.

University of California at Davis Graduate School of Management Davis, CA

AVERAGE GMAT: 679 TUITION (RESIDENT/NON): $16,660/$28,905 ENROLLMENT: 401

PART-TIMERS

Of all the first-class B-schools in Northern California, this is the least well-known. Yet it has carved out a fine reputation for itself by zigging when Haas and Stanford zag. Davis isn't a school for generalists. Rather, recruiters come after Davis grads for their agribusiness chops, particularly when it comes to the business of wine.

Unlike its neighbors, Davis is a commuter school. Students admit it's not as high-powered as other Bay Area schools, but it isn't as high-pressure either. "There are a handful of schools everyone knows that high achievers go to--these highfalutin schools," says student Chris Welsh. "Some students are interested in leading a little more balanced life. Those are the ones that should come to Davis."

University of California at Irvine Graduate School of Management Irvine, CA

AVERAGE GMAT: 670 TUITION (RESIDENT/NON): $21,635/$33,880 ENROLLMENT: 668

TECHIES ENTREPRENEURS

It's warm, the beaches are nearby, and you can do your work in the sun on a lawn while tapping into the school's wireless network. Sandwiched between Los Angeles and San Diego, Orange County has emerged as a vibrant pocket of technology businesses, especially IT and biotech. That's a great advantage for Irvine's graduates.

UC Irvine doesn't boast the prestige or reach of its Southland peers, UCLA and USC, but it offers smaller classes and a techie experience the larger schools can't match. All students are trained to use commercial software to design logistics, distribution, marketing, and sales programs. The other great draw is the school's concentration in entrepreneurship.

University of California at Los Angeles Anderson School of Management, Los Angeles, CA

AVERAGE GMAT: 705 TUITION (RESIDENT/NON): $20,653/$32,898 ENROLLMENT: 1,226

ENTREPRENEURS REGIONAL POWER PART-TIMERS

If you're interested in a career in the biz side of showbiz, UCLA is the place for you. The school has strong ties to the industry, and its courses in entertainment management and communications policy are practically requirements for budding studio execs. (It's also strong in the other L.A. passion--real estate.)

Entrepreneurship is becoming an Anderson specialty, though it's less focused on IT than it is at Stanford or Berkeley. There's a large network of alumni in the L.A. area, but it virtually disappears as you move away from Southern California.

It's sometimes hard to remember that UCLA is a state school, given its 90210-esque setting in sunny Westwood. But students, nearly half of whom attend part-time, say recent cutbacks in state funding have taken a toll. "The number of professors is limited, and the ones who are there are overworked," says recent grad Laura Vowell.

Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business Pittsburgh, PA

AVERAGE GMAT: 680 TUITION: $37,000 ENROLLMENT: 786

TECHIES QUANT JOCKS

If you're into numbers, this may be the place for you. Tepper students seem to be hardwired for the analytical and technical sides of business, and it's those skills that recruiters expect to find at Tepper. (They don't expect to find many women, who are noticeably lacking, students say.)

Current attendees whine about the workload but rave about the faculty, giving shout-outs to professors Jeff Williams ("Business Strategy") and Bryan Routledge ("Corporate Finance"). They also say the school's small size is great while you're a student, but the resulting alumni network is too tiny to be much help in the job hunt.

Pittsburgh is a model of urban renewal, and students fan out at night into its pleasant neighborhoods. The school's facilities are a bit cozy, but a general upgrade is in the works.

University of Chicago Graduate School of Business Chicago, IL

AVERAGE GMAT: 690 TUITION: $36,520 ENROLLMENT: 2,967

QUANT JOCKS

Chicago has a reputation as a den of analytical nerds. But if it isn't exactly a party school, that's largely because of the student housing situation. Most live nearby in the genteel enclave of Hyde Park, while the rest live a half-hour drive from campus in upscale Lincoln Park. "It's safe to say the campus here is a bit less social than other schools," says student Steven Fechheimer.

The school is housed in cramped Gothic quarters, but the situation will improve in November with the opening of a spacious new building outfitted with all the latest technological accoutrements.

Still, it's not the social life or the facilities that draw people to Chicago: It's the first-class education and the Nobel-laureate-laden faculty. Not to be missed is "Financial Accounting," taught by Roman Weil.

Columbia University Business School New York, NY

AVERAGE GMAT: 709 TUITION: $34,404 ENROLLMENT: 1,178

QUANT JOCKS DO-GOODERS DIVERSE

Columbia is more than just a training ground for future financiers, though if you choose the uptown Manhattan school for that purpose, you can't go wrong. It's also among the best B-schools at training social entrepreneurs who know how to save the world while making a buck.

Competition at Columbia is brutal. "If you'd like a little more hand-holding, then maybe you should go to Ann Arbor or Tuck," says student Carl Petersen.

Columbia is highly successful at attracting women. Typically more than a third of the class is female, and students say diversity extends to race and nationality. "When I think of my classmates, it is hard for me to even think of a straight white guy off the top of my head," says student Rosanna Coveyou.

Cornell University Johnson Graduate School of Management Ithaca, NY

AVERAGE GMAT: 672 TUITION: $34,400 ENROLLMENT: 549

QUANT JOCKS MARKETERS

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, which use 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 rooms, 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.

Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business Hanover, NH

AVERAGE GMAT: 696 TUITION: $34,500 ENROLLMENT: 482

QUANT JOCKS

Canoeing to class along the Connecticut River, playing ice hockey on Occum Pond--such is the life of a Tuckie. If that sounds like a sort of preppy hell, well, Dartmouth is not for you. But if sharpening your slap shot while honing your finance skills sounds good, then Tuck is the perfect place.

Tuck is all about teamwork. Its small size and its location in the boonies on the Vermont-New Hampshire border force students to get to know one another. Students tackle most projects in a group, which fosters the people skills that recruiters like and the strong bonds that the school's alums are known for. But Tuckies aren't immune to the downside of all that camaraderie: Hands down, the most frequently recommended class is Judith White's "Negotiation," which teaches you how to stand your ground.

Duke University Fuqua School of Business Durham, NC

AVERAGE GMAT: 703 TUITION: $33,500 ENROLLMENT: 744

TECHIES QUANT JOCKS

To get the most out of Duke, you have to like basketball, which is the central social activity. If you can't stand another word about hoops, there's always golf, another beloved--if secondary--Fuqua pastime.

While Duke is a generalist's school, stressing a broad-based management education, it does offer one increasingly popular area of concentration--health-care management. Tech and finance, however, are the sectors in which Duke students most often find jobs.

Fuqua students seem to specialize in balancing their considerable workload with pleasure. Durham is a small town with few distractions, which forces students to create their own fun. In the spring (when basketball is over, of course), Fuqua hosts the Duke MBA Games, a fund-raiser that features events like the briefcase toss.

Emory University Goizueta Business School Atlanta, GA

AVERAGE GMAT: 676 TUITION: $32,096 ENROLLMENT: 639

MARKETERS

Though it's decades old, Goizueta is nonetheless viewed as an up-and-comer. The school is strongest in marketing but does a pretty fair job in all core subjects.

Students love the intimacy of Goizueta's small classes and the esprit de corps. But they complain that course offerings are narrow and the alumni network lacks muscle. The Goizueta name opens doors throughout the Southeast, but its mojo begins to fade the farther you get from Atlanta.

Georgia Institute of Technology Dupree College of Management Atlanta, GA

AVERAGE GMAT: 668 TUITION (RESIDENT/NON): $5,248/$20,992 ENROLLMENT: 217

TECHIES REGIONAL POWER

If Emory is for generalists, neighboring Georgia Tech is for wonks. The majority of students here have backgrounds in engineering, science, or math. So it's no surprise that Dupree is focused on becoming the business school for technologists. Still, Georgia Tech is in Atlanta, not exactly a hotbed of tech, and recruiting by big companies outside the Southeast is anemic.

Georgia Tech is one of the great values in the top tier of B-schools. It just moved into a glitzy new complex. And tuition, especially for Georgians, is a downright bargain. "Georgia Tech offered me the greatest return on my investment of any of the schools I looked at," says student Jeff Morton.

Harvard Business School Cambridge, MA

AVERAGE GMAT: 708 TUITION: $33,650 ENROLLMENT: 1,770

ENTREPRENEURS CEO FACTORY DIVERSE

Let's see: The most gilded name in all MBA-dom. Job offers thrown at you like Frisbees. Facilities that would make most boardroom jocks cry. And a network of alumni second to none. Why wouldn't you go to Harvard? Well, for starters, it's one of the largest programs among the top B-schools. The curriculum is on the general side, so you won't be happy if you're a specialist. And the winters! But you can suck those up for two years. Wear an extra pair of mittens if you have to.

Students say HBS doesn't deserve its reputation as a snake pit. "People are very generous," says recent grad Eliza Woolston. "Because there is no grade disclosure, there is no competition with your classmates." And one of the less obvious upsides to Harvard is the student diversity: The school has done a superb job of attracting women and minorities.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management Cambridge, MA

AVERAGE GMAT: 710 TUITION: $34,580 ENROLLMENT: 776

TECHIES QUANT JOCKS ENTREPRENEURS

Academically, Sloan holds its own against nearby Harvard. But compared with its neighbor's facilities, Sloan's are pitiful. Buildings are crowded and timeworn.

Sloan students also can't escape their reputation as geeky engineering geniuses. At times, though, this comes in handy. Information technology companies drool over Sloan grads. But when looking for people with the softer skills--general management or marketing--recruiters don't often beat a path to their door.

Like Stanford and Haas, Sloan fosters entrepreneurialism, especially in technology. One popular competition pairs Sloan students with propellerheads from other MIT schools to create new companies in the hopes of getting venture capital funding.

University of Michigan Business School Ann Arbor, MI

AVERAGE GMAT: 692 TUITION (RESIDENT/NON): $29,500/$34,500 ENROLLMENT: 1,801

DO-GOODERS REGIONAL POWER

Midwestern unpretentiousness rules the MBA experience at Michigan. Like Harvard, this school turns out extremely well-rounded students, but with less attitude. "We are a top-10 business school without a top-10 business school personality," says Shailabh Atal, who came to Michigan from India.

Michigan attracts recruiters from across the nation, but given its proximity to Detroit, it's a particularly good launch-pad for a career in the automotive field. It has also become an alternative to Berkeley, Columbia, and Yale for building expertise in nonprofit and social entrepreneurialism.

New York University Stern School of Business New York, NY

AVERAGE GMAT: 700 TUITION: $32,400 ENROLLMENT: 2,505

QUANT JOCKS PART-TIMERS

NYU doesn't have the panache of Columbia, but it has many of the same advantages. First off, you're in New York. If Wall Street is your thing, you can't beat the access to the world's biggest banks and investment firms. This also means that working on Wall Street while getting your MBA is a real option. In fact, NYU is perhaps the best place to be a part-time MBA student.

Naturally, that aspect colors social life at Stern. What group entertainment there is revolves around the Thursday evening "beer blasts" in the school's lounge. Pony up $5 and unlimited trips to the keg are yours. It's probably the cheapest buzz in the city.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School Chapel Hill, NC

AVERAGE GMAT: 668 TUITION (RESIDENT/NON): $13,384/$28,749 ENROLLMENT: 546

DO-GOODERS REGIONAL POWER

When it comes down to it, UNC and its bigger neighbor 11 miles down the road, Duke, have similar profiles: great small-town vibe enhanced by good weather and easy access to golf and other outdoor activities, an obsessive basketball culture, and a recruiting base that tends to be regionally focused.

UNC has set itself apart with its growing emphasis on social and environmental responsibility. One popular concentration, Sustainable Enterprise, focuses on how to grow businesses that benefit the community and the environment. Students also pack any class taught by Gerry Bell, a management professor who coauthored a book on leadership with former men's basketball coach and Carolina demigod Dean Smith.

Northwestern University Kellogg Graduate School of Management Evanston, IL

AVERAGE GMAT: 703 TUITION: $34,314 ENROLLMENT: 2,328

MARKETERS DIVERSE

Kellogg students are "soft"--and proud of it. Kellogg, after all, is the nation's perennial top school in marketing. "Sure, we don't have the hard-core quantitative jocks that other schools turn out," says recent grad Scott Cohen. "If you're really looking for that, you go to Chicago or MIT."

Ugly buildings and ice storms off Lake Michigan do little to dampen the fun at Kellogg, which has earned its rep as a party school. It also boasts a highly diverse student body. "It's not only the size and percentages of the minority groups on campus. It's the visibility level and the support we get," says recent grad Andrew Sofield. "I am a white guy, I am gay, and Kellogg is the best business school if you're a minority."

Ohio State University Fisher College of Business Columbus, OH

AVERAGE GMAT: 666 TUITION (RESIDENT/NON): $13,365/$24,846 ENROLLMENT: 588

REGIONAL POWER PART-TIMERS

Fisher doesn't get the respect it deserves. It has state-of-the-art facilities, its academic program is well-rounded and rigorous, and its students get ample one-on-one attention from the faculty. The student-alumni mentoring program is a model of its kind. Still, recruiters often ignore Fisher students, in part because there just aren't very many of them.

The school is a tiny enclave within a huge university, so its students can enjoy the best of both worlds. Columbus is kind of sleepy, but the university hops, especially when the Buckeyes are playing.

Fisher's students come largely from the Midwest, and most stick around after graduation. The school's specialties are logistics and operations--strengths that attract recruiters from nearby industrial heavyweights like Ashland Chemical and Ford Motor.

At least half of the students are part-timers, juggling work and school. That's another reason national recruiters don't often come calling. "Fisher is on the way up," says recent grad Mike Brown. "But it's Midwestern, so it has a harder time selling itself."

University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business Philadelphia, PA

AVERAGE GMAT: 714 TUITION: $37,323 ENROLLMENT: 1,702

QUANT JOCKS DIVERSE

Wharton ain't for wimps. Students here embrace the notion that they can crush all comers with the best background in finance on the planet. All the top recruiters in investment banking and management consulting shop at Wharton; that fact, along with the school's powerful alumni network, virtually guarantees that a good job will be waiting for you. If you want to be a banker, and you don't mind intense competition with your fellow students, Wharton can't be beat.

The school's facilities got a much-needed face-lift in 2002, and it now offers every high-tech amenity imaginable. Philadelphia is a hearty, neighborhoody little city, with plenty to occupy the diverse student body during its limited time off.

University of Southern California Marshall School of Business Los Angeles, CA

AVERAGE GMAT: 688 TUITION: $32,630 ENROLLMENT: 1,514

REGIONAL POWER

Marshall is a gateway to the Southern California good life. Like its crosstown rival, UCLA, Marshall maintains strong links to the entertainment industry, and its real estate courses are fine. Unlike UCLA, USC focuses on international business, and all students are required to study abroad.

One big downside is that USC is stuck in one of the dreariest parts of Los Angeles, far from the movie stars and beaches. The campus itself is pretty, though it's a fortress, and the facilities are first-rate. Marshall students are forced to live off-campus, and the commute from parts of the far-flung metropolis can be a real drag.

For those who want to stay in Southern California, though, the upside is unbeatable: Going to Marshall is like being tapped by a secret society--ties are tight, and the Trojan network works overtime for its members.

Stanford University Graduate School of Business Palo Alto, CA

AVERAGE GMAT: 713 TUITION: $37,998 ENROLLMENT: 761

TECHIES ENTREPRENEURS CEO FACTORY

It's impossible to talk about Stanford without comparing it with its closest rival, Harvard. So here goes: Stanford is smaller and harder to get into. It's about as prestigious as Harvard on the West Coast, not quite so on the East. Like Harvard, it's a generalist's haven and a CEO factory. The facilities at both schools are first-rate. "The question for someone considering which one to apply to is simply, 'Do you want to belong to a big club or a small club?'" says recent grad Carlos Filgueiras.

Stanford is inseparable from Silicon Valley. It sired the tech industry and now supplies it with a steady stream of leaders. Its students are entrepreneurs-in-training, especially in technology (one favorite class: Haim Mendelson's course in e-commerce).

Students say the atmosphere is collegial and the pressure, while occasionally intense, is manageable. To blow off steam, they hike in the nearby hills, swim in the Pacific, or enjoy a round of golf at the university course, open year-round. Now that's something you can't do at Harvard.

University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business Austin, TX

AVERAGE GMAT: 676 TUITION (RESIDENT/NON): $4,140/$18,300 ENROLLMENT: 795

REGIONAL POWER

UT is a large public school with the same faculty serving both undergraduate and graduate students. Resources are strained, students say, and you shouldn't expect a lot of one-on-one contact with instructors. "If you want a small class where a teacher might dote on you, you're not going to get that at Texas," says recent grad Marissa Henderson. That doesn't mean the faculty isn't strong; it's just spread a bit thin. Favorite courses are John Doggett's "Managing and Marketing in the Global Arena" and Jim Nolen's "Harvest, Finance and Negotiations."

Austin, a music mecca, is a seductive place. If you need to see the blue sky, go mountain biking, hiking, or boating on one of the gorgeous nearby lakes. You may find you don't want to leave Austin when your two years are up, and that's a frustration for some recruiters, who have difficulty persuading students to relocate. But if you're up for a career at Dell, or any of the other companies based nearby, you're set.

University of Washington Business School Seattle, WA

AVERAGE GMAT: 669 TUITION (RESIDENT/NON): $10,110/$19,855 ENROLLMENT: 387

TECHIES ENTREPRENEURS REGIONAL POWER

The University of Washington is like an earthier, more regional Stanford. Its curriculum is geared toward technology and entrepreneurialism. So are the job opportunities that come at graduation. (Recruiters from Amazon, Microsoft, and Starbucks are campus fixtures.) "But if you want to work outside of this area, you have to do a lot of the legwork yourself," says student Andrew Temer.

The program, while rigorous, is relaxed. "The faculty drives home the point that grades don't matter," says student Meredith Brown.

If you do attend UW, you'll have to get past the wet, dark winters and the subpar facilities. Classrooms are "cramped" and "decrepit." But hey, you're in the Pacific Northwest. It's not about the lousy indoors; it's about the glorious outdoors.

Yale University School of Management New Haven, CT

AVERAGE GMAT: 703 TUITION: $33,400 ENROLLMENT: 483

DO-GOODERS

Yale is the anti-Wharton. It's not about quant; it's barely even about numbers. For the most part, its students aren't interested in landing in a Fortune 100 executive suite. Many of its students supplement their business curriculum with courses at the university's world-class drama, architecture, and law schools. The School of Management is renowned for its focus on nonprofit and public-sector management.

The once-blighted city of New Haven is no longer a huge drawback for Yale. Redevelopment has attracted plenty of restaurants, clubs, and bars to the area. "I was pleasantly surprised by New Haven," says student Lee Green. "It has a small-city feel."