What are the best business schools to do a MBA in the US, if I have aspirations to get a job at McKinsey/Bain/BCG?
Great question - I recently went through this process and applied and gained admission to Stanford Business School and researched this very extensively. It’s important to note right off the bat is that business schools attract students from a number of different buckets; budding entrepreneurs, aspiring consultants (such as yourself!), and even individuals who simply wish to hone their leadership and management abilities in an immersive, educational environment.
For this reason, certain schools tend to optimise students for certain career tracks better than others. It’s important that you don’t misinterpret the general reputation of the school as an ability to best prepare you for what you’re looking to do.
Here are a handful of schools I came across in my research which, for reasons I will go into, I believe are incredibly strong picks for someone aspiring to pursue a job at the likes of McKinsey, Bain, BCG, and other top consulting firms!
(in no particular order)
Columbia Business School
As will be the case with a lot of these suggestions, Columbia Business School has historically seen a large portion of its graduates pursue consulting roles. In 2015, 35% of the graduating class went into management consulting, with 69% of those students taking up jobs at one of the three firms you mentioned in your initial question.
Columbia graduates are renown for their proficiency with quantitative work, which, as I’m sure you’re aware, is heavily weighted as a core skill in the consulting world. This is largely because Columbia adds a finance spin to the majority of their classes, so not only will you be able to crush any intense mathematics and/or statistics tasks that come your way as a consultant, but you’ll be well optimised for other career tracks such as investment banking, should you change your mind about consulting!
Aside from the quantitative rigour Columbia offers, they also stand-out due to their focus on developing their student’s social and emotional intelligence. Their ‘Program on Social Intelligence’ teaches students a number of skills that are essential for a successful consultant: how to read people, how to work well within a team, dealing with the different emotional needs of people, and more. It’s easy, as an aspiring consultant, to get swept up in the quantitative and theoretical side of the job without realising that, at the end of the day, a lot of your work will be people facing, whether that be interacting with your team, or your clients.
Pairing a rigorous quantitative skill-set with great people skills makes any Columbia graduate a killer candidate for top consulting firms, this is definitely not a school to be overlooked!
Tuck School of Business - Dartmouth
The first thing I will note is that Tuck is substantially smaller than the majority of other business schools you are likely to be considering. With a 2015 class size of only 259 students, Tuck is renown
for the intimacy and collaborative nature of its programme. In addition to this, Tuck alumni are also known to form incredibly loyal bonds amongst each other and their school. The friendships you make and the networks you develop whilst at business school will be an incredible asset to you as you move throughout your career, so this intimate collaborative environment is certainly gives Tuck a big tick from me.
This aside, Tuck has a reputation for being very big on leadership. They aren’t just develop team players, they’re developing team leaders. During your first year, you will be required to come up with a leadership programme of your own. I think this is an incredibly valuable task (virtually all Crimson students will do at some point during their programmes!), as it allows students to take their leadership knowledge from a theoretical realm, to a practical one.
Finally, Tuck is regarded as one of the top schools for technical training. Everything in a management consultant’s tool-kit, from complex excel modelling to flawless presentations, are known to be thoroughly taught.
Sloan School of Management - MIT
Another relatively small school, with a 2015 class size of 406, Sloan is well regarded for building an incredible campus community. There are weekly ‘C-Functions’, with the C standing for consumption, which serve as a hotbed for student networking and collaboration. Whilst I believe that, to an extent, many situations are what you make of them, Sloan does an incredible job of ensuring that all students are immersed in an exciting collaborative environment, and graduate from their school well networked, and well connected.
Culture and community aside, another attractive aspect of Sloan is their “Action Labs”. These labs offer students the opportunity to work with real companies from throughout the US, China, and India on the real world problems they are facing. I’m a big advocate of the classic textbook style of learning, but there’s no denying the immense value of practical, hands-on experience. Sloan’s extension of the typical business school case learning format is brilliant, and I there is no doubt that the knowledge students gain from these action labs is partially responsible for Sloan’s reputation as a recruitment hotbed for world class consulting firms.
Kellogg School of Management - Northwestern University
In the world of management consulting, effective teamwork is one of the most important arrows in your quiver. Many cite Kellogg as being one of the most, if not the most, effective schools at helping students develop this skill. Almost all projects and assignments are completed collaboratively, and are peer-reviewed. The school consistently places students in scenarios where working together effectively amongst their peers is critical to successfully completing the tasks. In my view, this environment offers a fertile training ground for a successful career in management consulting, during which you are likely to face scenarios of this nature frequently.
Of Kellogg’s 635 2015 graduates, a whopping 35% of these students landed consulting roles. It’s also worthy of note that McKinsey has an affinity for Kellogg graduates; they have hired over 200 Kellogg graduates over the last half a decade, including 34 from the 2015 cohort. If you’re a die-hard McKinsey fan, then this school should definitely be on your radar!
Other schools that I would rank highly for consulting:
Emory University’s Goizueta Business School
Stanford Graduate School of Business
Berkely Haas - University of California
Harvard Business School
Fuqua School of Business - Duke University
Darden School of Business - University of Virginia
Booth School of Business - University of Chicago
Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
Research, research, research! I spent many, many hours looking into the idiosyncrasies of different programmes before I finally settled on Stanford. As I hope you’ve seen from my examples above, each business school offers quite a unique opportunity to their students. Dig deep and analyse the schools at a very granular level. What is the culture like? Do they help students develop a reputable quantitative skill-set? Do they have a well connected alumni network, or do graduates tend to disengage and drift off on their own?
There’s an endless amount of information on-line, but I would highly recommend speaking with people who have been to the schools themselves. They will be able to give you a first-hand account of their experience, and give you insight that is likely impossible to find elsewhere.
Please don’t hesitate to message me if you have any further questions on this topic, and I wish you the best of luck in your search for your perfect business school!