Columbia vs wharton

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Just Starting the MBA Application Process?

In recent years, Wharton has slowly but steadily inched away from Columbia, and many consultants don’t consider them as peer schools. Despite the trends in post-MBA salaries that drive the definition of peer schools, the curriculum and the placement trends have several striking resemblances.

We compare the two programs on 7 comparison factors: location, ranking, cost, incoming class, acceptance trend, curriculum, and post-MBA opportunities.


Columbia Business School is located in Manhattan, New York City(NYC). The City is number 1 in the US and the world in terms of GMP and attracts professionals in Banking & Finance, real estate, advertising, media, and retail.

Wharton School is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Although Philadelphia is 7th in the US, and 15th in the world, in terms of cities by GDP, traditional industries – Agriculture, Manufacturing, Mining, and Tourism still hold a considerable hold over the GDP of the State. The City, however, is not a microcosm of the state as Healthcare and Education continue to be the top two industries, contributing one-third of all the jobs in the city. Since the majority of graduates in the City are entering the Life Science (28%), Technology (20%), and Business (19%), the migration to other cities for post-graduation opportunities has slowed down. The $1.09B in health funding in 2019 is only third to Boston and New York, according to the latest National Institutes of Health funding data. Gene therapy is a specialty in the City only strengthened by the $4.3 B acquisition of Spark Therapeutics.

Living in Philadelphia means cheaper rent, restaurant, and consumer goods. Despite the cost advantages, the purchasing power of New York is 10% higher than Philly - a hint of the higher pay scale an NYC-based MBA candidate earns and the influence of the Finance and Technology industries.

Cost:New York > Philadelphia

Purchasing Power:  New York > Philadelphia


According to the US News Business School ranking, Wharton is #1, while Columbia is placed at a distant #8. Columbia couldn’t balance the deficit in the Economist Full-time MBA rankings (#11th vs. Wharton’s #5) as well that is known to rely on data more than peer review. The 3-year salary data and holistic ranking factors that influence FT rankings could also not save Columbia (#8th vs. Wharton’s #2) from closing the gap as the average rank between the schools remained separated at 6 points.

Ranking: Wharton > Columbia


The recommended budget for one year at Wharton is $111,695 and at Columbia is $117,633. The total cost includes tuition and other fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, health insurance, and personal expenses. Although Columbia’s total cost for 2-years is higher than Wharton at $2,30,480 against the former’s $2,23,800, note that the school has not shared the transportation cost, personal expenses, and other fees (global experiential learning and related) in the budget estimator. If we consider those costs too, the total cost for Wharton’s 2-year program will be just above $2,30,000.

Cost: Columbia Full-time MBA ~ Wharton Full-time MBA

Incoming Class

Enrollment, GMAT and GPA

The enrollment rates are similar at both Wharton and Columbia, with Wharton attracting 150 more applicants last year. The competitions to get into the programs are high; the former attracting candidates with GMAT Score (middle 80%) in the range of 700-770 while the latter received applicants who scored in the 690 to 760 range.

3.6 is the safe GPA score as both the school’s average touched the magic number.

International and Women Candidates

The international candidate representation is traditionally 10% higher at Columbia. The pandemic plummeted Wharton’s international representation to 19% from 30+% last year.  However, Columbia attracted 44% of international citizens.

The largest number of deferrals from international students was from women candidates as their percentage representation fell close to 40% despite an impressive march towards 45% last year.

Age: Both the MBA program attracts applicants in the 27-28 age group with 5 years of experience.

GMAT: Columbia > Wharton

GPA: Columbia = Wharton

Women: Wharton ~ Columbia

International: Columbia > Wharton

Acceptance Trend (2020)

Educational and Work Experience Comparison

Although both the programs attract candidates with similar ambitions, the variations of the two classes are primarily attributed to the educational background and work experience of the applicants. Columbia has a strong bias toward accepting candidates with Business and Economics background – adding close to half of the class while the humanities & social science had the least representation behind Technology, Science, and Engineering.

Wharton, like Stanford, values the cross-functional thinking that a candidate with a humanities background brings to the solution. The 38% representation is proof of the belief. Business and STEM background find the 2nd and 3rd representation, respectively.

Columbia MBA Undergraduate Major

Business 29% ; Economics 20%;  Engineering 17%;  Social Science 14%;  Humanities 8% ; Sciences 7% Technology 3%; Other 2%

Wharton MBA undergraduate Major

Humanities 38%; Business 34%; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math: 28%

Previous Industry Experience

For Wharton, the advantage of choosing candidates with a Humanities background is that the previous industry experience would be much more diverse than Columbia.

Wharton Previous Industry Experience: Consulting 24%; PE/VC 12%; other 11%; Technology 10% ; Non-profit/Govt 10%; Financial Services 8%; Investment Banking 7%; Health Care 5%; Investment Management 5%; CPG/Retail 5%; Energy 2%;Media/Entertainment 1%

True to the trend of picking candidates from the Finance/Economic undergraduate degree, the largest representation of the industry experience is in Financial Services (30%), followed by Consulting (23%). Taking advantage of New York is the theme that Columbia has leveraged for its class.

The Marketing/media representation of 14% and Financial services are evidence of this approach.

Columbia Previous Industry Experience: Financial Services 30%; Consulting 23%; Marketing/Media 14%; Technology 8%; Other 7%; Non-Profit 5%; Real Estate 4%; Healthcare 4%; Military/Govt 2%; Energy 2%; Manufacturing 1%

Wharton has not left behind its Finance school tag as the overall industry representation in Financial services is 32% - higher than Columbia. The other industry (11%) and Non-profit/Govt (10%) is where Wharton stands out compared to Columbia in accepting candidates from non-traditional backgrounds.

Traditional Industries (Acceptance): Columbia > Wharton

Finance (Acceptance): Columbia ~ Wharton

Media/Marketing/Entertainment Background: Columbia > Wharton MBA

Non-Traditional Industries (including Non-profit/Govt): Wharton > Columbia

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Columbia MBA will be a better choice if you are planning to leverage NYC. See how to map NYC to your narrative with

F1GMAT’s Columbia MBA Essay Guide (14 Sample Essays for Inspiration)


Wharton vs. Columbia MBA Core

Wharton offers flexibility in their core courses through a fixed and flexible core. The fixed core captures the foundation of management education – leadership, microeconomics, management communication, statistics, and marketing, whereas the flexible core dives deep into functional topics around accounting, corporate finance, and Operations, with Management, Marketing, Macroeconomics, and Legal studies also brought to the mix.

Wharton’s flexible core can be taken at any time with the option to choose one of the 8 themes.

Columbia MBA program follows a traditional approach where the core is required to be completed first, with the themes almost identical to Wharton. Business Analytics and Global Economic Environment are additions different from Wharton that offers a broader framework to lead in a global enterprise.  

Wharton vs. Columbia MBA - Year Two

Majors and Electives

Wharton has structured its 200+ electives around 19 majors with 9 majors outside traditional post-MBA career paths in functions as diverse as Multinational Management, Real Estate, Insurance, Strategy, Statistics, and Organizational Effectiveness.

Columbia MBA has continued with a traditional approach where the primary focus is on balancing functional skills with industry exposure while encouraging applicants to think like an Entrepreneur. On soft skills, the school develops the foundation in decision making, accounting, finance, marketing, and general management while on industry exposure, Healthcare, Media & Technology, and Private Equity are the three focus areas.

STEM-Certified MBA: For international students who want to take advantage of converting OPT visa to H1B, Wharton has introduced two STEM certified MBA majors – Marketing, and Business, Energy, Environment & Sustainability. Opting for one of the majors will extend the stay in the US by 36 months. Columbia also joined the list of M7 schools by allowing students to choose Technology and data analytics themed electives to qualify for the STEM program.

Penn University

Those who come from Law, Engineering or Medicine, or plan to enter the function can choose to take up to four courses from Penn’s 11 schools: Annenberg School for Communication, Graduate School of Education, Law School, School of Arts and Sciences, School of Dental Medicine, School of Design, School of Engineering and Applied Science, School of Medicine, School of Nursing, School of Social Policy & Practice and School of Veterinary Medicine.

Global Experiential Learning vs. New York City

Wharton has two tracks to offer students with Global experiential learning – GMC (Global Modular Courses) – a 3-7-day engagement in partnership with partner schools in India, China, Brazil, Italy, Israel, the UK, and South Africa, and GIP (Global Immersion Program) where students familiarize with the geopolitical and cultural environment through interactions with the locals, business leaders, and the government officials.

Columbia MBA program takes advantage of New York city through NYC Immersion Seminars, where students learn about the city’s legacy in Media, Finance, Luxury, and Technology from practitioners in a seminar format.  For 2nd year students, Master Classes is the equivalent of GMC and GIP, where sponsors define the background information on the project and create teams of 3-6 MBA students for a semester-long engagement on real-world problems. Depending on the sponsors, the students could be offering their consulting services in New York or internationally in consulting or in assisting a growth company with Strategy, Investment, Marketing, or resolving the industry-specific problem in real-estate.

Flexibility (Core): Wharton > Columbia

Breadth of Electives: Wharton > Columbia

Access to University courses: Wharton MBA > Columbia

Global Immersion Program (Value): Columbia MBA > Wharton MBA

Diversity of Experiential Learning: Columbia MBA > Wharton MBA

STEM-certified MBA: Columbia MBA (yes); Wharton MBA (yes)

Post-MBA Opportunities

Wharton continues to be a powerhouse in Financial Services, with the majority (35.9%) opting for the industry. Within the sector - 11.8% and 11% opted to enter the Investment Banking and Private Equity (PE) industries, respectively.

Read:Wharton vs. Columbia MBA (Post-MBA Salary by Industry and Function)

Related Services

F1GMAT’s Wharton MBA Application All in One Service

F1GMAT’s Columbia MBA Application All in One Service


Columbia Business School vs Wharton School

Columbia Business School


49 facts in comparison

Columbia Business School

Wharton School

Why is Columbia Business School better than Wharton School?

  • 6.31$ billion bigger amount of endowment obtained?
    7.6$ billionvs1.289$ billion
  • 3.19$ lower tuition required?
  • 1 higher position in U.S. News World's Best Universities ranking?
  • 6 higher position in Forbes US colleges ranking?
  • 7 higher position in ARWU universities ranking?
  • 0.41% lower crime rate in campus?
  • 8 more double degree programs?
  • 15 more Academy Awards winners?

Why is Wharton School better than Columbia Business School?

  • 2502 more undergraduate students?
  • 76 more academic staff?
  • Has a museum?
  • 2800 more enrolled students?
  • 35 more years since its establishment?
  • 14 830.00$ lower tuition required from international full-time students?
    45 890.00$vs60720$
  • 18 more highly cited researchers?
  • 5 higher average SAT score in math?

General info

Percentage of the most recent graduating class who had found employment or accepted a job offer within three months of graduation. Source: university's official statistics, 2021.

Number of academic staff. Data is obtained from national agencies such as National Ministry of Education, National Bureau of Statistics, National Association of Universities and Colleges, National Rector's Conference.

The university's long history can indicate excellent traditions and more resources. Source: university's official website, 2021.

A financial endowment is a transfer of money and/or property donated to an institution. In the United States, the endowment is often integral to the financial health of educational institutions. Alumni or friends of institution sometimes contribute capital to the endowment. Source: Wikipedia, 2021.

Compiled yearly by Clarivate Analytics, the number indicates how many researchers affiliated with a university are among the top 1% most cited scholars in their fields. Source: Clarivate Analytics, 2021.


Undergraduate education is an education level taken in order to gain one's first tertiary degree. When you're studying at bigger university you have better possibilities of networking and usually an access to better resources. Source: university's official statistics, 2021.

Enrolled students include both undergraduate and graduate students. Source: university's official statistics, 2021.

A high number of Masters and PhD students can indicate that the university has a research focus. Source: university's official statistics, 2021.

An admission rate shows the percentage of applicants that was accepted by university. Low acceptance rate makes it difficult to get a place, but also can indicate the prestige and high education level. Source: university's official statistics, 2021.

The ACT (American College Testing) is a standardized test for high school achievement and college admissions in the United States. The ACT score indicates how hard it is to get into a univeristy and can also indicate the level of educational requirements. Source: university's official statistics, 2021.



The Ivy League is an athletic conference composed of sports teams from eight private institutions of higher education in the Northeastern United States. The conference name is also commonly used to refer to those eight schools as a group. The term Ivy League also has connotations of academic excellence, selectivity in admissions, and social elitism. Source: university's official website, 2021.

The ACM A.M. Turing Award is an annual prize given by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) to an individual selected for contributions of a technical nature made to the computing community. The Turing Award is recognized as the highest distinction in Computer science and Nobel Prize of computing. Source: ACM A.M. Turing's website, 2021.

The Rhodes Scholarship, named after Cecil John Rhodes, is an international postgraduate award for selected foreign students to study at the University of Oxford.[1] It was the first large-scale programme of international scholarships, and is widely considered the world's most prestigious scholarship. Source: university's official website, 2021.

A patent application is a request pending at a patent office for the grant of a patent for the invention described and claimed by that application. Number of applications shows how creative and inventive are students. Source: university's official statistics, 2021.

Tuition & Aid

Tuition payments, known primarily as tuition, refer to the annual fee charged for educational instruction during higher education. Source: university's official statistics, 2021.

A lower growth rate for tuition fees indicates that the cost of studying at the university is not increasing too quickly year on year. Source: university's official statistics, 2021.

The average amount of funding that is available for a student per academic year (grants, scholarships and/or financial aid given to eligible students). Source: university's official statistics, 2021.

Calculated using salary today, course length, fees and other costs, including lost income during MBA. Source: Financial Times, 2021.


The U.S. News World's Best Universities rankings, based on the QS World University Rankings, evaluated schools in countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, China, and more, and identified these to be the world's top universities. Source: U.S. News, 2021.

According to the Forbes' annual list of America’s 650 Top Colleges. The rankings focus on the things that matter the most to students: quality of teaching, great career prospects, high graduation rates and low-levels of debt. Source: Forbes, 2021.

The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) uses six objective indicators to rank world universities. These indicators include the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, number of highly cited researchers selected by Thomson Scientific, number of articles published in journals of Nature and Science, number of articles indexed in Science Citation Index Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index, and per capita performance with respect to the size of an institution. Source: ARWU, 2021.

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings is an annual ranking published by the British magazine “Times Higher Education”. Information is supplied by Thomson Reuters and provides performance based data. Main ranking indicators are based on the universities' core missions- teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

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MBA School Choice: Columbia Vs. Wharton

An offer to attend either Columbia Business School or the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School would be a significant coup. Both are ranked extremely highly by the leading financial press, and there are many similarities between the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania and Columbia Business School. But there are also plenty of differences.

Columbia Vs. Wharton: Location and MBA culture

“Location and culture are the two areas where these programs differ,” says admissions consultant Stacy Blackman.

Her former client, an MBA student who chose Columbia stressed the importance of being based in New York City: “Being here gives you access to unparalleled speakers, great internship opportunities, and really simplifies the networking process.”

Some prospective students may think that Columbia is more competitive—at least in terms of culture—given its location, but a former MBA admissions officer at the business school disputes this.

“A key aspect of the program is becoming involved on campus and immersing yourself in the Columbia community,” they said. “The students work wonderfully together; it’s not the cutthroat place that some imagine when they think of an NYC school.”

Another MBA student from Columbia adds: “People from the outside often think of Columbia as having less of a tight-knit culture because it’s in NYC, but I did not find this to be the case at all.”

Columbia is seen by some people as a “commuter school” where pockets of students live across NYC—perhaps in boroughs like Brooklyn or Queens—and use transit to get around to other classmates. But the student said that, while you do get some Columbia students who live far away from campus and don’t fully immerse themselves, most people move near Manhattan’s Upper West Side and do fun things around the city.

Wharton in Philadelphia on the other hand has more of a traditional campus atmosphere, where the vast majority of students live in a small radius within Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse district.

One MBA candidate said they chose Wharton because it was in a relatively smaller city compared to New York, so there was more opportunity to bond with classmates.

Wharton’s campus is compact and contained, so you’re more likely to know a larger number of your classmates. Another MBA student at the school says: “Student culture at Wharton is extremely social. The class is one of the largest, so there is no shortage of social events, and everyone is really outgoing.”

Another added benefit is that Wharton’s location in the heart of Philadelphia makes it a train ride away from either New York or Washington. “Most students who attend Wharton have never been to Philadelphia and are usually pleasantly surprised by the city’s livability, walkability and affordability,” says Blackman, the consultant.

Columbia Vs. Wharton: Post-MBA career outcomes

After graduation, many Columbia students stay in and around the NYC metro area and build their professional network there. “While many Wharton grads land jobs in NYC post-MBA, many also spread to other parts of the US and global areas,” says Susanne Gruda, a Wharton MBA graduate who works as an admissions consultant at The MBA Exchange.

In general, Columbia graduates lean more towards finance and consulting, with two-thirds of the class end up in one of these industries and typically at a firm within the North-eastern region of the US and especially NYC itself.

While closer to 40 percent of Wharton graduates have chosen to accept offers in consulting and finance, over the past few years, more graduates have been moving to technology, entrepreneurship or careers that involve data analytics.

One important consideration is the alumni network. “Wharton generally has a more expansive and global alumni network with roughly double the alumni base compared to Columbia, partly owing to Wharton having an undergraduate business school,” says Gruda.

Columbia Vs. Wharton: MBA admissions requirements and selectivity

Prospective students should consider their background. “If concerned about their competitiveness, they might want to consider applying to Columbia’s early admissions round, which gives potential candidates an increased chance of getting into the school,” Gruda says.

“And for those that aren’t career switchers and therefore likely don’t need to do an internship to gain work experience in their new field, CBS offers a January enrolment; Wharton only has one starting period in September,” she adds.

Both schools have highly selective admissions criteria and are among the top business schools in the world. Generally speaking, however, Wharton is more selective with a lower admission rate typically in the single digits.

In the last few years especially, Wharton has heightened its focus on accepting women and diversity candidates and last year, for the first time ever, Wharton admitted more women than men compared to Columbia (52 percent versus 41 percent). 

Columbia has a very traditional interview process where alumni interview candidates asking them questions around why the candidate is interested in the school, how they intend to contribute and various behavioral questions.

Wharton is currently placing more emphasis on instantaneous team-based dynamics through its Team Based Discussion where students have less ability to practice for their interview.

Wharton’s interview also requires students to be reflective of their group dynamic and potentially what part they played in coming to a successful answer to the team-based discussion prompt.

“The interview process varies significantly between the two schools and as such, applicants might want to consider how they would likely perform under each scenario,” says Gruda.

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Wharton vs. Columbia

UPenn’s Wharton School vs. Columbia Business School

If you get an invite to attend either of these two business schools, you are an exceptional person with huge upside potential. Otherwise, Wharton and Columbia would have dinged you. There are probably more similarities between these two schools than differences. “We are a fact-based and data-driven school,” says J.J. Cutler, deputy dean of Wharton’s MBA Admissions and Career Services.  “We do not have a charisma-style approach. We let the data drive us and help lead us to the solutions.” The same could just as easily be said of Columbia.

Yet, there are important differences. The first is obvious: Columbia is all about New York and the awesome resources it routinely leverages from the capital of the world. Unlike Wharton, it also enters two MBA classes a year, in January for students who don’t need or want a summer internship, and in September for a more conventional full-time MBA schedule. The diversity of exceptional students in both schools is mind-boggling: In Columbia’s Class of 2011, for example, are students who have interned at the White House, managed hedge funds, published books, produced TV shows and launched companies in the U.S. and abroad. The class includes an army ranger and recipient of the Bronze Star, the founder of the largest organic vegetable processing factory in northwestern China, a finalist on American Idol (we’re not kidding), and a three-time Grammy award-winning music producer.

Top Ten Reasons to Go to Wharton?

  1. You want to work for a financial services firm and want the single best degree to do so.
  2. You want lots of choices in courses, joint programs with other schools.
  3. You’re not yet sure what you want to concentrate in and want to insure you have a deep dive in virtually any subject.
  4. You’re up for an intense, competitive culture.
  5. You thrive in a larger environment and enjoy being a smaller fish in a bigger pond.
  6. You want to work, live and play in world-class business school facilities.
  7. You expect to be among the highest paid MBAs in the world.
  8. You prefer smaller, manageable cities to larger, more congested ones.
  9. You think Rocky is one of the best pictures ever made.

Top Ten Reasons to Go to Columbia?

  1. It’s one of the six best MBA programs in the world.
  1. It’s all about location, location, location. That is, New York location.
  2. You want a deep and thorough education, not merely in finance but a subset of it, such as investment management, private equity, value investing or something even more obscure.
  3. You expect to work in New York and want to be part of an extremely strong alumni base in the city where every major company is populated with at least some key players who got their MBA ticket punched where you did.
  4. You are highly competitive and want to go through a tough, competitive MBA program.
  5. You thrive in a larger environment and enjoy being a smaller fish in a bigger pond.
  6. You want to be part of an extremely diverse class, with lots of international exposure.
  7. You don’t mind traffic, people congestion, overpriced housing, and putting up with the hassles of big city life.
  8. You love big city life, or at least badly want to try it out, and you tend to dislike small towns in isolated places.
  9. You root for the New York Yankees, love museums and Carnegie Hall.

The more detailed differences between Columbia and Wharton?

Columbia University

Geography: Columbia Business School is the quintessential big city university. Its location in New York, the business, financial and media center of the world, brings the school massive benefits: a living laboratory of markets and businesses, an endless supply of well-qualified adjunct teachers, and more visiting executives who gravitate to its classrooms to speak and lecture. The school estimates that it gets more than 500 guest speakers a year on campus. That is a networking opportunity that is unique. “We have a big advantage being in New York City because there are so many opportunities for students to visit local alumni in their work offices and for alums to come back and coach students on campus,” says Ethan Hanabury, a senior associate dean at Columbia. He estimates that as many as 3,000 alums come back to the school each year for conferences, classes, recruiting sessions, and mentoring programs. There are few cities in the world that are as alive, exciting and dynamic than New York. The drawback to Columbia’s location is also obvious: As one student put it, “It’s easier to get a little lost in New York, to feel a little less rooted if you’re from outside the area, and to be a little more anonymous.” The social dynamic is completely different as well. Because Columbia MBAs rarely live together but are spread throughout the city, they’re far more likely to be more competitive with each other. It’s easier to stab someone in the back when you

rarely see them outside of class. Wharton’s location in the heart of Philadelphia makes it a train ride away from either New York or Washington. Despite some concerns over the neighborhood surrounding the school, Wharton is in an extremely safe and comfortable place. With the fifth largest population in the U.S., Philadelphia is a great, compact city, with world-class restaurants and cultural attractions. Most students who attend Wharton have never been to Philadelphia and are usually pleasantly surprised by the city’s livability. Says Wharton’s Cutler: It’s fair to say that you can’t compare Philly to New York. They are different places. It’s not better or worse, they are different.”

Size: Both Wharton and Columbia boast two of the largest full-time MBA programs in the world. Total full-time MBA enrollment at Wharton is 1,674, versus Columbia’s 1,293. In the September-entry class alone, Columbia brings in about 554 full-time MBAs as well as another 121 Executive MBAs. Wharton enrolls just over 860 full-time MBAs each  fall semester. They’re divided into four groups of about 210 students that are known as clusters. Then, each cluster is chopped into three cohorts of about 70 students. Every cohort moves through the core curriulum as a unit, sharing the first year of their academic experience. You can waive out of the core courses if you have prior experience in the subject and move onto more advanced coursework. Only three courses can’t be waived at Wharton: business ethics, leadership, and communications. It’s a similar story at Columbia which divides up its new students into clusters of 60 to 65 people who take most of the first-year core classes together.

Culture: Wharton and Columbia are big-city schools with all the advantages and disadvantages that come with that. Typically, schools in large urban settings tend to have more intense and competitive cultures. It’s easier to escape school in a big city than it is in a college town or rural setting. While cut-throat competition may be exaggerated at Columbia (it has been said that MBA students once hid books from classmates), it’s true that the Columbia environment is more competitive given its location in hyper-competitive New York. A year ago, a graduating Columbia student penned an essay for the campus newspaper in which he  he bemoaned the lack of a supportive and encouraging culture. “There is no community at Columbia,” he wrote. “There is no sense of solidarity. There is no creative energy. Too many people out for themselves.” There’s more than some hyperbole in those comments, but they are directionally correct. A greater sense of community exists at Wharton if only because the campus is compact and contained, and you’re more likely to know a larger number of your classmates. Wharton has one significant disadvantage for MBA students: it has one of the largest undergraduate business and executive educations programs in the world, with 2,621 undergrads and 9,000 executives attending seminars and longer programs. Columbia has no

undergraduate business population and few executive education courses to spread its faculty over.

Facilities: Unfortunately, Columbia Business School has the absolute worst facility of any prestige b-school. That’s no fault of the school’s leadership. For years, several deans have been trying to get a new world-class building to replace the 1960s-built Uris Hall, but politics and highly limited space on campus have made this a long, and difficult quest. Meantime, all of Columbia’s peers have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into new world-class complexes so the contrast between what Columbia has and everyone else is vast. Uris is an unattractive concrete slab of a building, over-crowded and sub-standard in every way. No wonder the school’s elaborate website contains only a single photograph of the outside of Uris among numerous slideshows of the overall university campus and New York. It has been renovated, but has limited places to study and few classrooms. There is no business school residence hall. Instead, some b-school grads get to fight it out for the limited graduate housing with Columbia’s other schools. Half of the MBA classes, including the core, gets taught two blocks away from Uris at Warren Hall, a building on 115th St. shared with the university’s law school. Though the school has two other buildings, they are used for the Executive MBA and executive education programs. So all the action in the MBA program occurs in Uris and Warren on Columbia’s Morningside campus which runs from West 114th St. to West 120th St. between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave. This will change, perhaps by 2012, when the b-school is supposed to move to the university’s expanded campus, a 17-acre tract of land in West Harlem from Broadway to 12th St. between 125th and 133rd St. This new university campus won’t be fully built until 2030.

Wharton, on the other hand, has some of the best business school facilities in the world. The B-school campus is composed of seven buildings on and off Locust Walk, the brick-lined pedestrian thoroughfare at the heart of Penn. The buildings are closely clustered around the area of campus known as the “Wharton Quad,” a great meeting place and hub for students. The newest building, Jon M. Huntsman Hall, is home to both the undergraduate and graduate divisions of Wharton. It represents the single largest addition of academic space on the Penn campus in more than half a century. It’s a gorgeous world-class building of 320,000 square feet, designed around Wharton’s cohort learning model. This building alone boasts 48 clasrooms, four computer labs, 57 group study rooms, four floors of faculty offices, a 300-seat auditorium, student cafes and study lounges. If you’re keeping count, it’s essentially one building at Columbia versus seven at Wharton.

Teaching Methods: Both schools offer up a variety of teaching methods, from case study to lectures and team projects. There’s really no major difference in the classroom approaches at Wharton and Columbia, though the more flexible classroom space at Wharton offers the opportunity for more experiential opportunities. Wharton says that case studies make up about 35% of the work, team projects account for 25%, and lectures take up 20%. Columbia says that case studies and lectures each account for 40% of the classwork, while team projects make up 15%.

Program Focus: The most common misperception about Wharton and Columbia is that they are finance schools. While it’s true that Wharton and Columbia boast superb finance faculties and course options, these schools are more like department stores with widely diverse offerings than they are finance boutiques. Wharton, for example, claims to have more elective courses than any other business school in the world, nearly 200 across 11 academic departments (not including courses you can take elsewhere at the University of Pennsylvania). Columbia Business School, meantime, offers more than 130 electives, an amazing array of choices yet still about a third less than Wharton. Interestingly, Wharton opens a door to allow its students to work with faculty and administration to develop new courses, and they often partner with faculty and businesses on individual advanced study projects. Taking five courses in a field qualifies you for one of 18 listed majors at Wharton, including such narrow fields as health care management and environmental and risk management.

Columbia is no slouch in offering up specialty areas of study. There’s also a private equity focus and a “value investing” focus, the latter with a curriculum of eight courses alone, from “Legends in Value Investing” to “Distressed Value Investing.” A “media” focus boasts 26 courses at Columbia’s schools of business, film, law, journalism, international and public affairs, and arts and sciences. You can even do deep dives on such specialized areas as “social enterprise” or “healthare and pharmaceutical management.” With a full-time faculty of 150 plus 50 more adjunct professors, Colubmia offers extraordinary flexibility. So does Wharton with its staff of more than 250 faculty members.

In most specific areas of study, such as international business, finance, marketing, management, and entrepreneurship, Wharton is more highly regarded than Columbia, according to U.S. News & World Report’s latest survey of B-school deans and MBA directors. No school tops Wharton in finance (Columbia is fourth behind Wharton, Chicago, and NYU). Yet, Columbia’s finance and economics division is the school’s largest, accounting for nearly half of the courses taught at the B-school.

In marketing, Wharton is second, behind only Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management (Columbia is tied for sixth with Chicago). In management, Wharton is ranked fourth, just beneath Harvard, Stanford and Northwestern (Columbia is tenth). In entrepreneurship, the gap is even wider, with Wharton ranked fifth and Columbia tied for 14th with Chicago. In international business, Wharton is second, while Columbia is tied for sixth with Duke and NYU. The only significant area of study where Columbia has an edge over Wharton is non-profit management, where it is ranked ninth out of 11 top schools in this area by U.S. News & World Report. Wharton doesn’t rate at all in this field.

On-Campus Recruiting: If you want to work on Wall Street, an investment management shop, or a global financial services firm, getting your MBA punched at either Columbia or Wharton is as close to a guaranteed ticket to entry as you could ever get. Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan-Chase, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse overflow with Wharton and Columbia grads. All the major MBA employers recruit at both schools so there are no shortages of opportunity on the job front. We give Wharton a slight edge over Columbia in recruiting, given the school’s highly consistent superior showing in BusinessWeek’s recruiter polls. In the 2008-2009 year, 243 companies interviewed graduating MBAs on campus, 1,623 employers posted jobs on the school’s MBA Job Board, and 199 bought Wharton’s online resume books. Obviously, the Class of 2009 had a tough time in a difficult environment. At Columbia, 62 sponsored-students chose to return to their pre-MBA employers. Many others accepted jobs at small and mid-sized firms.

Alumni Network: Wharton claims the largest alumni network of any business school in the world: 85,000 alums in 140 countries. That figure includes Wharton’s sizable undergraduate output. It’s a sure bet that wherever you are in the world, however, you’ll find Wharton MBAs or even a Wharton Alumni Club to use as a networking base. Columbia alumni are fully entrenched in the financial, media, and business world of New York which essentially means that alums are a powerful and influential bunch. Of the 38,000 living alums, a figure that includes EMBAs, you can find a Columbia connection anywhere in the world. How tight are these networks? We give the edge to Wharton which has been able to generate a greater sense of community than Columbia over the years.


Hands down, Wharton comes out on top over Columbia on every major ranking out there. The school’s rankings almost always put it among the top five business schools in the world. Columbia, on the other hand, is usually in the bottom part of any top ten list. The Financial Times has Wharton as the number two school, Penn’s highest current ranking. Perhaps more importantly, however, no school has had better success in the rankings than Wharton in the

past ten or so years. The best rank accorded Columbia is sixth place, according to our new survey along with Forbes and The Financial Times. The lowest rank given Columbia is 20th by The Economist which is yet another reason why we consider that magazine’s ranking to be the least credible of them all. The P&Q rank–which factors into consideration all the major rankings weighted by their individual authority–places Wharton at fourth and Columbia at sixth. These are the up-to-date rankings from each ranking organization.

MBA RankingsWhartonColumbia
Poets & Quants46
U.S. News & World Report59
Financial Times26
The Economist920


Historical Rankings by BusinessWeek:

Wharton is the big winner here, having come in first in the BusinessWeek rankings on four separate occasions, from 1994 until 2002, when it fell to fifth, its lowest ranking by BW ever. Columbia has never been ranked higher than sixth by BusinessWeek, which largely measures customer satisfaction by surveying recent graduates and corporate recruiters. The reason: Wharton has simply been far more attentive to both students and MBA hirers than Columbia Business School over the years. Wharton’s vastly superior facilities certainly play some role in the consistently high satisfaction levels it scores.




Historical Rankings by The Financial Times: Unlike BusinessWeek’s rankings, The Financial Times includes business schools from all over the world. So the FT is ranking both Wharton and Columbia against such places as London Business School, which ranked

number one in this survey in 2010 and 2009, and INSEAD, which ranked fifth these last two years. Even so, no school has fared better than Wharton in The Financial Times’ surveys. Wharton has been named the top business school in the world in nine out of the past ten years! The London Business School just barely edged out Wharton in the FT’s last survey. Columbia has done quite well in the FT rankings over the years as well, even though it has been far less consistent, ranging from its current rank of sixth to second in 2007. The Financial Times has ranked Columbia third on five occasions, in four consecutive years from 2002 to 2005, and in 2008.




Both Wharton and Columbia attract exceptional talent to their schools and are highly selective as a result. Wharton says no to more than eight out of every ten applicants, and has an acceptance rate of just 16.9%. Columbia is even more selective, mainly because its location in New York City is highly desirable. Columbia sends offer letters to just 14.9% of its applicants, making it the sixth most selective business school in the world. That is a world of difference from where Columbia was in the early 1990s when it was accepting 47% of its applicants in 1992. Wharton’s average GMAT score for the Class of 2011 is slightly higher than Columbia’s by five points, 718 to 713. * Estimate.

Admission StatsWhartonColumbia
Average GMAT718713
GMAT Range540-790530–780*
Average GPA3.503.50



Columbia is one of the largest two-year, full-time MBA programs in the world, with a total enrollment of nearly 1,300 students–not including more than 200 additional Executive MBAs. Still, it’s smaller than Wharton’s1,674 full-time MBA students. In fact, only one other top school enrolls more full-time MBAs than Wharton: that’s Harvard Business School, with 1,837

students. Even accounting for Columbia’s location in New York, it’s surprising to see that Wharton enrolls a significantly higher percentage of international students (37% vs. Columbia’s 32%), more female students (40% versus Columbia’s 34%), and a far greater representation of minority students (29% vs. Columbia’s 18%). The numbers for women, international and minority students are for the Class of 2011.

Enrollment StatsWhartonColumbia
Total MBA Enrollment1,6741,293


Poets & Quants:

Surprisingly, the largest single chunk of MBAs at Wharton have undergraduate backgrounds in the humanities and social sciences. At first blush, you’d expect to see far more math and engineering folks here because of the school’s strength in finance. Instead, you get a sizable group of poets.

Undergrad DegreesWhartonColumbia
Humanities/Social Science42%NA

Jobs and Pay:

The financial meltdown of 2009 led to a disaster of an MBA recruiting season at Columbia’s Business School. Nearly four of every ten graduating students in the Class of 2009 was without a job at commencement. Columbia was more severely impacted than any other top ten school because it traditionally feeds Wall Street and the big banks which were largely on life support at the time. In fact, for the first time in recent history, three consulting firms–McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain–were at the top of the list of employers hiring Columbia MBAs rather than the financial services firms which tend to dominate. The same three consulting firms hired away the most Wharton grads as well. Wharton did slightly better, though nothing to brag about, because a third of its class didn’t have jobs when they graduated. Grads from both schools fared much better three months after commencement, yet roughly one in four MBAs were still looking even then. Starting pay for Wharton grads was just a little bit more than at Columbia by about $600 a year.

The estimates of median pay 10 years after graduation and over a full career come from a study by PayScale done for BusinessWeek and do not include stock options or equity stakes by entrepreneurs. Columbia grads did better after ten years than Wharton grads, but surprisingly, over an entire career, they trailed Wharton MBAs. The differences, however, are slight. In fact, Columbia MBAs were third in career pay behind only Harvard and Wharton.


Job & Pay DataWhartonColumbia
Starting salary & bonus$123,741$123,150
MBAs employed at commencement65.8%61.1%
MBAs employed 3 months after commencement74.6%77.3%
Estimated median pay ten years after commencement$161,000$165,000
Estimated median pay & bonus over a full career$3,491,372$3,349,669

Who Hires Who:

Big prestigious companies come to both Wharton and Columbia to hire the best and brightest. The single biggest surprise is the emergence of consulting firms at both schools for the Class of 2009, a consequence of the near total collapse of finance due to the severe economic recession. For the first time in recent memory, consulting firms were the top three hirers at both schools known for finance. Even so, about 48% of Columbia’s Class of 2009 still went into financial services, vs. 43% at Wharton. Interestingly, Morgan Stanley hired only five Columbia MBAs vs. 18 Wharton grads. Microsoft hired eight Whartonites and Amazon snapped up seven from the Class of 2009. Typically, more Wharton grads go into health care, technology, and consumer products and retail companies than those at Columbia. NA does not necessarily mean that a company didn’t hire any graduates from the school, but rather that the number of grads it did hire did not qualify it for breakout treatment by the school. The cutoff number at Wharton was six hires; at Columbia, it was three hires. An asterisk in the Wharton column indicates that the company at least three MBAs or as many as five.

Hiring CompanyNumber of Hires

at Wharton

Number of Hires

at Columbia

McKinsey & Co.5046
Boston Consulting Group3121
Bain & Co.1820
Morgan Stanley135
JP Morgan Chase1215
Deloitte Consulting1012
Deutsche Bank1011
Goldman Sachs98
Credit Suisse811
Pacific Investment Mgt.8NA
Booz & Co.720
BofA/Merrill Lynch79
Barclays Capital610
Johnson & Johnson6NA
American Express3*6
American ContinentalNA4
Fidelity Investments3*4
General ElectricNA4
Blackstone Group3*3

This article by  John A. Byrne, Poets and Quants,  


Vs wharton columbia

bb wrote:

However, I feel that 69% employed at graduation is a bit low number for a school in the top 10 (Wharton is at 82% and Ross is at 90%). I feel the 69% speaks about the level, quality, and competitiveness of the on-campus recruiting opportunities (though it does talk about the student talent as well).

bb - it says here CBS has 90% of students who are looking for employment accepted offers.
I can't post the link but:

And if you do the math among H/S/W and then CBS, you'll see the former 3 are all playing around with numbers because they categorize a decent percentage of people as "not seeking and postpone" or "no response" and take them out of that percentage.

These are the true 2019 "seeking employment and accepted a job offer" within 3 months of graduation:

HBS: Seeking and accepted 600 out of 928 or 65%; sponsored coming in 15%; start business & "other" 10%
GSB: Seeking and accepted 253 out of 418 or 61%; sponsored coming in 8%; start business & "other" 15%
Wharton: Seeking and accepted 621 out of 863 or 65%; sponsored coming in 12%; start business & "other" 4%
CBS: Seeking and accepted 563 out of 753 or 75%; sponsored coming in 11%; start business & family biz 6%

Few things I noticed:
1.) People trash CBS for J-term diluting the class, but reality is sponsored and rich people mix is way higher at Harvard, and slightly higher at Wharton's. I bet sponsored acceptance rate is higher at HBS and Wharton than CBS J-term. They just don't disclose it.
2.) It's pretty easy finding a $125k a year job around NYC as long as you're competent, especially a freshly minted MBA from a well known school. There are so many different industries and options here in NYC vs Boston focused on healthcare and education etc. #1 thing to get a job is hustle and show you're interested. Way easier in NYC. Try getting a marketing job out of Palo Alto. The numbers speak for themselves.
3.) I personally know plenty of H/S/W grads who drank the "change the world" cool aid, "running own business", and get nowhere in 10 years. It's not just business school, it's also undergrad, the whole higher education thing. Successful people are going to be successful, not because they chose CBS over Wharton. CBS application process seem to "weed out" the dreamers.
Can He Get Into Wharton \u0026 Columbia With Low Stats?

Executive MBA showdown: Columbia vs. Wharton

BY Rich GrisetAugust 31, 2021, 02:00 am

People taking a walk along a road around the Columbia University grounds in Manhattan, New York. (Photo by: Peter Titmuss—Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

When it comes to executive MBA programs, few are older or more renowned than Columbia Business School and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Started in 1968, Columbia lays claim to having the second-oldest EMBA program in existence; Wharton followed soon after in 1975. In addition to belonging to established, Ivy League schools located in big cities, both EMBA programs frequently duke it out for the top spots in national rankings. 

In its first-ever ranking of the best EMBA programs, Fortune ranked Wharton as the fourth-best, with Columbia two spots behind, at six. 

“Certainly, we are competitors, but we are also colleagues,” says Kelley Martin Blanco, senior associate dean for executive MBA and global programs at Columbia Business School. She notes that both schools have helped lead the charge to bring EMBA programs in academic parity with full-time programs. “Many, if not most, schools have followed suit.”

Wharton’s programs operate in Philadelphia and San Francisco; Columbia runs EMBA programs in New York City and through its EMBA-Global partnership program with London Business School and the University of Hong Kong.

For those applicants considering which program to choose, Fortune asked officials at each school to explain what makes their EMBA so special. Here’s what they said.

Location and residency

Though New York is inarguably the center of American finance, Columbia’s location shouldn’t be the deciding factor when choosing between the schools, says Peggy Bishop Lane, vice dean of the Wharton MBA for executives program and an adjunct accounting professor. 

“Both schools have a very strong alumni base and a strong presence in New York,” Lane says. “Wharton alumni probably go to New York more than any other city, and it’s actually our greatest feeder city, aside from San Francisco.”

Martin Blanco disagrees that Columbia’s location in New York shouldn’t factor into applicants’ decision, arguing it allows the school to employ adjunct professors who work in private equity or investment banking to teach electives, for example.

Another key difference between the programs is residency: Living on or around the campus is required at Wharton on class days, but not at Columbia. Wharton’s MBA Program for executives alternates Friday/Saturday weekends with the occasional Thursday and extended session thrown in.

“They’re expected to be on campus from Friday morning to Saturday afternoon,” says Lane of Wharton’s EMBA students. “We think that’s important, because it helps to re-create some of those bonding opportunities that our full-time MBA students have by living in the same city together.”

Students can either stay at Wharton’s conference center in Philadelphia or in a hotel near the program. 

“They’re basically on campus, but not in a dorm,” Lane adds. “We try really hard to get them out of Philadelphia by 4:00 on Saturday so they can have their Saturday evening and their Sunday with their family.”

Except for a residency period at the beginning of each core term, living on or near campus isn’t required for Columbia’s EMBA program. Because of this, many of its students live in nearby areas and commute for the program. 

A big advantage of Columbia, Martin Blanco says, is that students don’t have to take the train to Philadelphia and stay the night: “We attract people who want to be able to go home, to not have to commit to staying two nights away.”

How Columbia and Wharton compare on tuition, admissions

Both programs have rigorous admissions standards; the middle 80% GMAT range for the class entering Wharton’s EMBA program in 2021 is 660–750, while Columbia doesn’t disclose this information. 

Wharton’s 24-month EMBA program begins each May, and tuition is $210,900 for the two-year program. Tuition at Columbia, meanwhile, is $219,720.

Columbia offers two versions of its EMBA–New York program: a 20-month Friday-Saturday option that alternates weeks and a 24-month Saturday-only option that meets every week. Columbia’s 20-month EMBA-Global meets one week, once a month during its core course period. The New York Friday-Saturday option begins in August; the New York Saturday program begins in April; and the EMBA-Global program begins in May. 

Columbia has more EMBA students, Wharton has options for majors

Wharton currently has about 120 students enrolled in Philadelphia and slightly fewer in San Francisco; Columbia admits approximately 144 Friday-Saturday students in New York, 135 Saturday students in New York, and 100 EMBA-Global students each year.

To graduate, Columbia students must take 20 credit units comprising 12 electives and eight core courses; Wharton requires 19 credit units comprising nine electives and 10 core courses. A few waivers for Wharton’s core courses are possible, which increases the number of electives students can take. At Wharton, EMBA students may pursue a formal major, but aren’t required to do so. Like its full-time MBA program, Columbia doesn’t offer majors or concentrations.

Columbia is flexible with its electives; if an EMBA student wants to take an elective offered to full-time students, they may do so, as well as other electives in various formats.

“We have more programs, more students. Our scale allows us to offer more optionality to our students, specifically when it comes to electives,” says Martin Blanco.

Both schools have an international focus

A required element is Columbia’s weeklong international seminar; past destinations have included Cape Town, Munich, Shanghai, Tel Aviv, Santiago, and Myanmar. In these seminars, different cohorts of Columbia’s EMBA program mix, just as they do in some electives. Columbia’s international seminars are led by faculty and usually involve local speakers and visits to companies and cultural attractions.

“There is about three hours of classroom time, and then they do some experiential activities off-site,” Martin Blanco explains.

Wharton EMBA students are required to take part in the school’s Global Business Week, a weeklong international trip. Past destinations have included China, Finland, Sweden, Cuba, Argentina, and South Africa; students of different EMBA cohorts mix on these trips. Wharton also offers optional shorter international electives. Students take part in a marketing strategy course that includes a comprehensive computer simulation game that provides realistic examples for discussion and analysis. It usually takes place on the San Francisco campus—meaning Philadelphia students must travel—and lasts five days.

“We have a huge opportunity for electives,” Lane says. “Half of our program is electives.”

Finding a niche at Wharton and Columbia

Like other students at Columbia Business School, EMBA seekers also take part in CBS Matters, an initiative in which students give presentations to their classmates about themselves or something important to them. “It’s very powerful, because it really helps people understand each other in a deeper way. It uncovers commonality that people have,” Martin Blanco says.

At Wharton, Lane says that one of the program’s biggest selling points is its elective offerings, which students may take on either coast. Some courses intended for full-time MBA students are currently being offered as electives as an experiment.

“They’re really popular, so I expect we’re going to continue doing them,” says Lane. “It’s just one half-credit class, and students can come if they want.”

Though a major isn’t required, Lane says roughly half of Wharton’s EMBA students pursue one. Popular majors include finance, management, strategic management, and entrepreneurship. More recently, the school’s business analytics major has been gaining steam. “It’s a relatively new major, and it’s skyrocketing in popularity,” she adds.

How student cohorts and alumni learning opportunities compare

There are some slight differences in the students these two top programs attract. At Wharton, the average EMBA student is 37 years old and has 13 years of work experience—and 49% of the 2023 class has an advanced degree. By comparison, the average Columbia EMBA student is 34 years old and has 10 years of work experience—and only 8% have a previous graduate degree.

The programs have other similarities, however. Both are a draw for international students; 30% of Columbia’s EMBA students were born outside the U.S., while students from 34 countries are represented in Wharton’s 2023 class profile. And women remain the minority at both schools, accounting for less than 40% of their EMBA programs.

Finally, both schools offer ways to keep alumni engaged. All Columbia Business School graduates have lifelong elective-auditing privileges. Additionally, the school just launched an initiative called Alumni Edge that offers special continuing education opportunities. All business school alums can take advantage of career management resources after they graduate.

For its graduates, Wharton offers a variety of online and in-person events, including webinars, global forums, and reunions. And students can audit classes after graduation, Lane notes.

“We allow them to take an executive education class every number of years,” she says. “There’s a long time that they’ll be working after that program ends.”

See how the schools you’re considering landed in Fortune’s rankings of the best executive, full-time, and online MBA programs.


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