There are two especially well-known and definitive sources for graduate school rankings. One is the U.S. News and World Reports list. You can access their rankings online. The other is Business Week. You can access their rankings online too. Both of these magazines use very similar criteria to judge how "good" a B-school is. The essential features they examine are:

  • What other B-school professors think of the school
  • How interested employers are in hiring graduates of the school
  • The average undergraduate GPA of accepted students
  • The average GMAT scores of accepted students
  • The percentage of applicants it accepts
  • The average starting salary for graduates
  • The percentages of students who are employed after graduation
  • The tuition rates

Schools with the highest overall scores are considered to be the most prestigious. Prestigious schools also, expectedly enough, fulfill the most important criterion: getting you a job with a high salary. Schools that show up in the top 10 on both lists include:

  • Harvard
  • Stanford
  • Columbia
  • Duke
  • University of Chicago
  • Wharton (at the University of Pennsylvania)
  • Kellogg (at Northwestern)
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology

So that's who they are. If you want to get into one of them, or one like them, you've got a lot of work and planning ahead of you.

We realize that listing these top programs seems incredibly elitist of us. Please, don't call us names. We're just telling you that these programs are all generally referred to as "top" programs. There are many, many other respectable B-schools out there, and to see side-by-side comparisons of rankings, check out this table. You'll see that there are plenty of good schools in your area.