Face Off: UCLA Anderson vs USC Marshall

UCLA MBA application

The school selection process for MBA applicants can seem overwhelming. With so many great business schools, how do you decide which one is right for you? In SBC’s blog series Face Off, we tease out the strengths and differences between two similarly ranked, or located, b-schools. Plus, we’ll highlight noteworthy elements of their admissions processes. Let’s kick things off by looking at the differences between the UCLA MBA application versus that of USC Marshall School of Business.

We have a former Admissions Officer from UCLA Anderson on our team. Thanks to her for the thoughtful advice below.

How does the UCLA MBA application and admissions process compare with that of USC Marshall School of Business? 

GPA/GMAT averages are notably higher and weigh more heavily in the UCLA MBA application. In theory, USC Marshall School of Business should be more flexible, with higher acceptance odds and lower ranking. Practically however, there are unusual aspects to the USC Marshall application that have proven that USC admissions can actually be harder than UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Applicants need to convince USC admissions that they are a good candidate based on test score, GPA and a couple of essays. Unlike the UCLA MBA application, USC does not require or accept recommendation letters. Also, it will only interview candidates by invitation.

These parameters can make it difficult for some applicants to gain an admit.  Due to this, we have seen several cases where clients were admitted to Anderson but denied at USC. Or, admitted to a top 20 program such as UT Austin but denied at USC. If given the choice of two admits, our clients will almost always select the higher-ranked program.

What advantages does Los Angeles give both schools? 

Los Angeles, also nicknamed Silicon Beach, has become a coveted tech business hub. The region has seen a rise in tech companies large and small, such as Facebook, Google and Snapchat, which have coastal offices in Santa Monica, Venice or Marina Del Rey.

Unlike students attending MBA programs on the East Coast, Angelinos don’t have to deal with any polar vortexes.  The excellent weather and beach side aspects of Los Angeles allow for an ideal quality of life.

 What are the key differences between them that an MBA applicant must consider?  

Class Size: USC has a smaller cohort at 208 relative to UCLA, which is 370.

Stats: GPA/ GMAT averages are notably higher for UCLA. Marshall will be more flexible, with higher acceptance odds.

Alumni Network: The USC alum network is very strong. Local employers are fiercely loyal and eager to recruit Marshall grads. The strength of the “Trojan family” affords benefits to Marshall grads that its counterpart, Anderson, can’t seem to match at the same level.

Location within LA: UCLA is located in West Los Angeles, an upscale area surrounded by high-end residential homes with sprawling hills and lush greenery, the beach, and the college town of Westwood Village. By contrast, USC is in urban downtown Los Angeles, near areas that aren’t as upscale, although downtown LA is seeing a gentrification.

How do the career outcomes between the schools stack up? 

USC Marshall is stronger in the traditional career paths of consulting and finance. Anderson, meanwhile, is stronger in tech recruiting.


Consulting 30%
Financial Services 28%
Tech 16%


Consulting 21%
Financial Services 18%
Tech 30%

How do the two schools’ MBA cohorts compare in terms of quality and culture? 

The quality and culture are comparable, in part because those who opt for a LA-based MBA program enjoy the lifestyle benefits that apply to both programs.  While the rankings show UCLA as higher than USC, SBC clients have reported over the years that they are VERY satisfied with their Marshall education and have gotten the jobs they wanted upon graduation from USC.

How do the two curriculums and teaching methods compare? 

The schools have comparable curricula. Lecture-style learning makes up roughly half of the instruction for both programs. Marshall is at 48 percent and Anderson School of Management at UCLA is at 40 percent. The remaining teaching methods include experiential avenues such as case method,  team challenges, simulations, field work and extracurricular activities.


We hope this comparison between the UCLA MBA application and MBA experience versus USC Marshall has given you helpful intel as you make your school selection decisions this season. Finally, please leave any questions you may still have in the comment section below. Stay tuned for more Face Off posts to come!

SBC’s star-studded consultant team is unparalleled. Our clients benefit from current intelligence that we receive from the former MBA Admissions Officers from Wharton, Booth and every elite business program in the US and Europe.  These MBA Admissions Officers have chosen to work exclusively with SBC.

Just two of the many superstars on the SBC team:
Meet Anthony, who served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he dedicated over 10 years of expertise.

Meet Kim, who was an Senior Associate Director of Admissions at Chicago Booth.

Tap into this inside knowledge for your MBA applications by requesting a consultation.

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