The Ultimate MBA Program Comparison: Wharton vs Columbia

Admissions: What does Wharton seek?
Admissions: What does Columbia CBS seek?
Application Essays, Candidate Evaluation & Demographics
Admitted to Both, How to Decide?
Admissions Stats, Demographics & Class Size
Culture
Geography
Facilities
Program Focus
Jobs, Pay, and Employment Location
Rankings

If you get an invite to attend either of these two business schools, you are an exceptional person with huge upside potential. Otherwise, Columbia and Wharton would have dinged you! There are probably more similarities between these two schools than differences. Both programs consistently rank in the top seven. The business education they offer is comparable; accounting, finance, and marketing are all basically the same principles at both Wharton and Columbia.

Yet, there are important differences that we analyze throughout this smackdown with insights from MBA Admissions Officers and other valuable perspectives. We worked closely with the former CBS and Wharton Admissions Officers on our Stacy Blackman Consulting team to create this deep dive.

We also highlight the advice from two former SBC clients who received admits to both Wharton and Columbia about how they navigated their admit decisions and optimized their B-school experiences. Finally, we reviewed this topic with Executive Directors and Admissions Officers at both MBA programs to incorporate their insights, perspectives, and advice. So, without further ado, let’s jump in!

Curious about your chances of getting into a top B-school  such as Wharton or CBS? Contact us to talk strategy with a free 15-minute advising session with an SBC Principal Consultant. 

Admissions: What does Wharton seek?

We asked the former Wharton Admissions Officers on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team to preview what Wharton seeks in applicants. Their consensus is:

Wharton is looking for proven work experience from employers spanning traditional or niche fields because that predicts recruitability (aka “exit opportunities”) upon MBA completion. A strong resume marked by increasing career trajectory and quantitative proficiency is essential.

Current Wharton Admissions Director Blair Mannix commented, “The Admissions Committee is looking for candidates who will contribute to all aspects of Wharton life.” Beyond your credentials and experience, being an active part of the community during and after the program is important.

Wharton

We asked the former Wharton Admissions Officers on the SBC team what Wharton does not want. Their consensus is: People who quit their jobs to focus on applying to business schools. Too much job jumping is also frowned upon. 

Wharton’s Blair Mannix added this clarification: “We’re okay with people moving jobs, but we need to see the purpose of the move in their resume and essays. Longevity is important to us, but if a candidate has moved around because they’re looking to change industries or functions and are getting incremental experience with each role change, it is helpful to see where the applicant is going and why the MBA may be the key to their pivot.”

Admissions: What does Columbia seek?

We asked former Columbia Admissions Officers now on the Stacy Blackman team to share what Columbia looks for in promising candidates. Their consensus is:

With Columbia, it really is a holistic approach, but the fit is very important. The top focus points for the Columbia application include involvement outside of work/classroom and leadership or potential for leadership. They want to be certain that you’re going to fit into its tight-knit community and super involved student life. Logical and attainable career goals are important as well.

We asked these same former admissions officers what Columbia does not want. Their consensus is: Columbia is very turned off if an applicant has not taken the time to get to know the school.

Columbia Business School

Both Wharton and Columbia prefer to avoid the stereotype that they are just finance schools because they each feel they offer so much more than that. Lastly, they also want to know what the applicant is going to give back to the student community; they want people that will give as much as they will take away.

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Application Essays, Tips & Candidate Evaluation

The Wharton and Columbia essay prompts are similar; each application requires thoughtful responses about career goals and the applicant’s professional journey. Beyond that, both programs also expect applicants to address an essay prompt that is holistic, about fit with and contributions to the program and the applicant’s personality and character.

For example, Columbia’s last essay prompt is about a favorite book, movie, or song. Sample Wharton essays from successful admits and sample Columbia essays from successful admits are instructive to applicants.

There are some procedural differences between the programs’ application processes. For example, Columbia offers a traditional 1:1 interview, whereas Wharton has a group interview called the team-based discussion.

“The group interview is definitely a primer for the energy prospective students will step into on campus from day one.”

The Wharton group interview is there for a reason—to weed out folks who clearly can’t play well with others. Wharton’s Admissions Director Mannix echoed this priority, “Because much of the coursework is team-based at Wharton, we want to make sure that 1) the candidate gets a feel for the environment and 2) we can see if the environment will be a fit for them.”

Another key difference: Columbia also offers an early decision (ED) option for candidates committed to attending the school. This ED process requires a first-choice commitment and a binding admission (e.g., a required deposit). The Columbia admissions cycle is rolling, so the earlier you submit your application, the sooner you will receive feedback, even as early as July.

Rodrigo De Paula, a past Stacy Blackman Consulting client, was admitted to both Wharton and Columbia. He chose Columbia.  Regarding the differences between the application essays and process, he said, “The applications are very similar in that both schools are very career-goals oriented. They are acutely interested in what your short-term and long-term career plans are. The main difference is the interview process. Columbia has an interview with an alum, which is typically a more casual process and could take place anywhere. Wharton has their group interview, which is much more distinctive and requires more preparation.”

Christina Jiang, another former SBC client also admitted to both Wharton and Columbia, shared her insights on the two applications. She ultimately picked Wharton over Columbia. Jiang said, “The application process for Columbia and Wharton were not too dissimilar. Both had essays that were typical MBA-style, asking you to look into how an MBA will help you in your career goals in the next 3-5 years. Columbia had two additional essays that focused on its unique position in being in New York City and a more ‘behavioral interview’ style essay.

“The biggest difference in the application process I felt was the fact that anyone applying to Columbia has to be appreciative of the fact that it is in New York City. Having lived in NYC for 8 years at that point, I already loved the city, and I could tell that the Columbia application process wanted to see if candidates would notice and appreciate the opportunity to take advantage of going to business school in one of the greatest cities in the world. Additionally, the Columbia application process really valued networking and getting to know current students or AdCom.”

A recent Columbia admissions officer who now works on the SBC team shared, “My best advice for the application is just to be yourself! The Admissions Committee wants to get to know YOU, not someone you think the AdCom wants to see. Be as specific as possible in your application and show that you’ve taken time to get to know the program.”

She added, “Review your essays and make sure you are actually answering the questions asked. When I worked at CBS Admissions, my favorite applications were always the ones that had great essays where it was clear that the applicant was really being their authentic self.”

Admitted to Both, How to Decide?

We asked our double admits for advice on how to pick between Wharton and CBS.

“I think business school is a very personal decision,” shared Christina Jiang. “There is no one-size-fits-all formula to make a decision, but I would recommend admits reflect on what is most important to them and crucially attend welcome/admit weekends before committing.

“For example, I knew that because I missed out on a ‘campus’ experience having gone to NYU for undergrad, I wanted a business school experience that was more focused on a campus or part of town (most Wharton MBAs live in the Rittenhouse Square area). Additionally, I am pretty extroverted and want a very social experience, which Columbia also has, but having visited Wharton for Welcome Weekend, I felt that the social culture at Wharton was more suited to my personality.”

Rodrigo De Paula took a more analytical approach in advising future admits on how to make the choice between the two programs. He advised a three-pronged approach around recruiting, school experience, and internship:

“Recruiting: I think if students are seeking a very traditional path, such as consulting or investment banking, there is little difference in placement at the schools. For those looking to do private equity or VC, Wharton is definitely better. For public market investing, I think Columbia is better (or at least as good).”

“School Experience: If students are looking first and foremost to have fun, travel, etc. from business school, Wharton has an advantage in that classes are more relaxed from the get-go, while at Columbia, the first semester tends to be more work intensive. However, this creates a real culture of camaraderie at Columbia.”

“Internships: One of Columbia’ big advantages is the ability to do internships during the school year to figure out what you really want to pursue. For students who are very undecided between career choices, that can be a big help.”

Why did you choose Columbia over Wharton?

Rodrigo De Paula was admitted to both programs and chose Columbia over Wharton. We asked him why. He shared a few reasons in his words below:

1) I wanted to be in New York City. Being here gives you access to unparalleled speakers and great internship opportunities, and really simplifies the networking process because you can easily hop on the subway and go meet with someone from a company you’re interested in. 

3) I am interested in equity investing, and Columbia is extremely well-known for having arguably the premier Value Investing program in the world.

Why did you choose Wharton over Columbia?

“I think although ‘rankings’ matter, business school is a very personal decision,” said Christina Jiang, who chose Wharton over Columbia. “For me, culture + location were two big factors that helped me choose Wharton over Columbia. I’d spent my entire adult life in NYC at the time, and since I actually wanted to meet new people in business school and not be tempted to hang out with my friends in New York, I felt like it was best to move to a new city where I didn’t have as many strong ties. I liked the fact that Wharton was actually in a ‘smaller’ city compared to New York, so there was more opportunity to bond with classmates.”

Admissions Stats, Demographics & Class Size

Both Wharton and Columbia attract exceptional talent to their schools and are highly selective as a result. Wharton typically says no to roughly eight out of every ten applicants. Last year was an anomaly, with acceptance rates estimated at 25% for the MBA Class of 2024.

Although historically, the acceptance rate at Columbia is around 14%, last year also saw admits increase at CBS to 22%. That’s a world of difference from where Columbia was in the early 1990s, when it was accepting 47% of its applicants.

Wharton and Columbia are comparable with test scores and GPA, although both averages have slightly increased over the years. For example, Wharton’s Class of 2011 had an average GMAT of 718 and an average GPA of 3.5 compared to the current average of 733 on the GMAT and 3.6 GPA.

Class of 2024 Admission Stats Wharton Columbia
Average GMAT 733 729
GMAT Range 530-790* 550–780
Average GPA 3.6 3.6
Selectivity 25% 22%
Yield 50%* 61%*
* Estimate

Undergraduate Majors

You’d expect to see plenty of math and engineering folks because of the schools’ strength in finance. For the MBA Class of 2024, Wharton admits had undergraduate backgrounds from the humanities (34%), STEM (34%), and finance (32%) in near-equal measures. Interestingly, Wharton’s number of admits from the humanities is much higher than its representation in the Columbia student class. Where Columbia is lower in humanities-trained students, it compensates with business/econ student backgrounds.

Undergrad Degrees Wharton Columbia
Humanities/Social Science 34% 18%
STEM 34% 26%
Business/Econ. 32% 53%

Columbia is one of the largest two-year, full-time MBA programs in the world, with a total enrollment of over 1,600 students–not including more than 200 additional Executive MBAs. Still, it’s smaller than Wharton’s 1,733  full-time MBA students. In fact, only one other top school enrolls more full-time MBAs than Wharton: that’s Harvard Business School, with 1,800+ students.

Compared to a decade ago, current international student representation dipped slightly at Wharton due to Covid– from 37% in 2011 to 35% now. Meanwhile, Columbia’s international student representation has increased in that same timespan from 32% to 51% today.

Columbia has managed to increase its female student population over the decade, raising it from 34% in 2012 to 44% today– a noteworthy improvement.  However, Wharton reached parity with female enrollment in the MBA Class of 2024.

Enrollment Stats Wharton Columbia
Entering in 2022 877 844
Women 50% 44%
International 35% 51%
Minority 36%* 33%*
* Estimated. 

“Columbia Business School has joined The Consortium, a national nonprofit organization focused on diversity, equity and inclusion in graduate business education and American business. By joining the Consortium, CBS has made a public statement about our commitment to increasing the diversity of our classes, and to advancing opportunities for underrepresented minorities in graduate business education and leadership, ” shared Amanda Carlson, Assistant Dean of Admissions at Columbia Business School.

Listen to B-Schooled Podcast #149: Spotlight on CBS with SBC Consultant and Former AdCom Member Hannah

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.

The reputation for cut-throat competition is exaggerated at Columbia. People often think that Columbia’s environment is more competitive, given its location in New York. A former Columbia MBA Admissions Officer on our Stacy Blackman Consulting team shared this about CBS culture: “A key aspect of the program is becoming involved on campus and immersing yourself in the Columbia community. The students work wonderfully together; it’s not the cutthroat place that some imagine when they think of an NYC school.”

As former client Rodrigo De Paula noted, “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. While you do get some Columbia students who live far away from campus and don’t fully immerse themselves, the vast majority of people do fully immerse themselves. Most students move near the Upper West Side and there’s a great culture of doing fun things around NYC. I’ve also really enjoyed the extracurricular experience.”

It’s still possible 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. Christina Jiang, who chose Wharton over Columbia, said, “Student culture at Wharton is extremely social, which I love. I think business school is all about being open to meeting people of diverse backgrounds, cultures, perspectives, etc.

“The student class is one of the largest of the top business schools so there is no shortage of social events and everyone is really outgoing and willing to take the lead to set up small group events or large group events involving the entire class (for example, 2Ys do a class trip to a beach location at the end of their last quarter).”

“Wharton is a hyper-social environment. From day one, there is constant activity and a never-ending social calendar that extroverts will love, introverts with strong social skills will navigate successfully (finding a balance that works for them), and introverts without social graces would find stifling,” shared a former Wharton MBA Admissions Officer who now works on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team.

Listen to B-Schooled Podcast #80: Spotlight on Wharton with SBC Consultant Anthony, a former Assoc. Director of Admissions at Wharton

Wharton Admissions Director Mannix added that its student community embraces a range of personality styles. “Wharton has recently implemented an Advising Support Network (ASN), where introverts and extroverts alike are advised on how to make the most of the time at Wharton, from student life engagement to academics, career planning and leadership. Students are also given the opportunity to connect with a mentor to assess their social, academic and networking goals, as a part of their extra-curricular plan.”

Program Options

Columbia is the only top US MBA program that also offers a January intake for its full-time, accelerated program.  This option is attractive for candidates who are eager to matriculate asap (January is earlier than Sept intake), such as those who are already farther along professionally. Acceptance rates are higher for the January intake than for the fall intake.  While Columbia’s January intake historically didn’t offer a summer internship, the program is now incorporating changes to offer professional experience concurrent to coursework.

“The January intake is an incredibly interesting opportunity for aspiring MBAs to pursue a full four-semester MBA, and finish the degree in just 16 months,” said Amanda Carlson, Assistant Dean of Admissions at Columbia Business School.

“For those applicants who may want to pursue a deep-dive into Columbia’s Global Family Enterprise Program, or explore a new innovative partnership with classmates through the Lang Center for Entrepreneurship, the J-term provides the perfect path to focus on academic excellence while accelerating the pace of the traditional two year program. Another bonus of the J-term is the richness of diversity, with over 60% of the J-term class traditionally coming from outside of the US.”

Both Columbia and Wharton have an executive MBA (EMBA), although Wharton has the advantage of having a second location in San Francisco, California. Both have deferred admissions programs for college seniors, and neither program has part-time options.

Rankings

Wharton arguably has a better-perceived brand globally and most rankings reflect its enhanced reputation over Columbia. A few years ago, the elite candidates were only applying to HBS and GSB.  In recent years, the trifecta of HBS, Stanford GSB, and Wharton is a common round one focus for SBC clients. Columbia isn’t quite at this level by perception—yet. But as always, fit is everything.

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, whereas Columbia comes in below that. Nonetheless, across the Stacy Blackman Consulting client pool, we consistently see a high demand for Columbia that is comparable to the top 5 MBA programs.

Poets & Quants 2022-23 US News 2023-24 US News 2022-23 US News 2021-22
Wharton 1 3 2 2
Columbia 7 11 7 8

Jobs, Pay, and Employment Location

Both programs have comparable median base salaries of $175,000 upon employment, with a median signing bonus of $30,000. When it comes to salary, employment rate, and placement, both schools provide solid on-ramps to lucrative MBA jobs, as you can see from their career placement reports.

Wharton Employment Report

Columbia Employment Report

By industry, Wharton places into financial services at a rate of 38.6%, which is just over the finance industry placement for Columbia of 33.6%. If you want to work on Wall Street, in an investment management shop, or in 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, and Goldman Sachs overflow with Wharton and Columbia grads.

Meanwhile, tech/media placement is 17% at Wharton and 16% at Columbia, although the differences are negligible because media and fintech may be accounted for differently between the stats. A significant difference appears in consulting industry placement, which is only 24.3% at Wharton compared to 33.6% at Columbia.

Another surprising difference in outplacement data is that Wharton is far more dominant with US-based recruiting, with 95.2%, compared to US-based recruiting for Columbia, with 86%. Placement to Asia is almost double at Columbia, 7%, compared to Wharton at 2.4%. Meanwhile, 2% of Columbia grads went to Latin America, compared to zero listed in Wharton’s most recent report.

Jobs & Pay Data for the MBA Class of 2022 Wharton Columbia
MBAs employed 3 months after commencement 94% 92%
Consulting Industry 24.3% 33.6%
Finance Industry 38.6% 33.6%
Tech Industry 17% 16%*
Healthcare 5.6% 2.6%
Northeast Location 44% Not Available
West Coast Location 25.4% Not Available
Southwest Location 6.4% Not Available
South 4.9% Not Available
Mid-Atlantic 10% Not Available
Midwest 3.6% Not Available
International <5% Not Available

*CBS combines Media and Tech together

New Deans, New Directions

Wharton School and CBS have tried to diversify away from finance in the last decade. They aim to project an identity as a school that supports innovation and entrepreneurship.  Both programs are hubs for Big 3 management consulting. The career services at these two programs are definitely built for mature recruiting at big companies.

Both schools also have relatively new deans who came on the heels of longstanding previous deans (Wharton’s Geoff Garrett and Glenn Hubbard at CBS).  Both schools have begun tremendous transformations upon returning to full in-person learning in 2022.

Columbia Business School Dean Costis Magalaras’s vision for CBS encompasses “the effective marriage of management fundamentals with data science and analytics,” which “must be central to any modern business education.” Dean Magalaras’s professional background is rooted in stochastic modeling and data science.

He adds, “Whether working at a bank, consultancy, insurance company, non-profit organization, startup or established technology company, today’s leaders must be able to lead teams that can leverage technology, data and powerful analytics to drive decisions, add value, and positively impact business and society.”

According to a past Wharton AdCom member now on the SBC team, “Former Dean Garrett set the tone at Wharton when he said that the disappearance of many current industries and ideas would be inevitable.”

“He used optometry as an example of a field that won’t exist in 10 years as an example of the radically changing job market. That idea aligns with sending more students through the management consulting funnel, where they can gain broad expertise in several fields without having their skill-sets become irrelevant.”

Dean Erika James joined the Wharton School in July 2020, following her tenure as dean of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. Trained as an organizational psychologist, Dean James is a leading expert on crisis leadership, workplace diversity, and management strategy.

“As a psychologist working in business education, I learned early on that understanding human behavior and the motivations that drive behavior are pivotal for leadership,” James said upon her appointment.

Looking ahead, she said, “Wharton has a profound responsibility to prepare our students not only to meet today’s challenges, but to prepare them for anticipating and leading the world for tomorrow’s opportunities. That means our scholarship has to foresee what will be needed by business leaders to advance industries and societies, and our curricula has to prepare students for that future.”

Geography

“Columbia Business School applicants are drawn to the location and the opportunity to successfully pursue any career you could imagine (what can’t you do in NYC?),” shared a former Columbia Admissions Officer who is now on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team.

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.

A former Columbia Admissions Officer on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team shared, “Columbia offers C-Suite speakers comparable to an HBS without being as high in the rankings. For instance, the CEO of Anheuser Busch International went every year to speak in a class, same with McKinsey.” The school estimates that it gets more than 500 guest speakers a year on campus. That is a networking opportunity that is unique.

“Something that applicants may not know is how well Columbia connects students with the surrounding city (and the world). There are various immersion programs students can take as electives that allow them to spend time in class with their classmates and professors, and also spend time off-site doing corporate visits around the city (and globally),” shared a former Columbia Admissions Officer who is now on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team.

There are few cities in the world that are as alive, exciting, and dynamic as 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.”

Wharton’s location in the heart of Philadelphia makes it a train ride away from either New York or Washington. With the sixth largest population in the US, 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, walkability, and, as a large city, affordability.

Plus, “Wharton full-time has a semester in San Francisco (SF) option that can be perfect for students who want to take a less traditional career building approach and spend some time out West, and the students out there drive a lot of their own career services efforts (and are successful doing so),” shared a former Wharton Admissions Officer on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team.

“It would definitely be worth considering discussing the value-add of the SF semester in an application if a candidate has entrepreneurial or start-up career goals–along with the caveat that SF study is an application-based program, with academic performance as part of the evaluation.”

Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application needs, from our All-In Partnership to test prep to hourly help with targeted tasks. Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant.

CBS Facilities

Columbia’s new Manhattanville campus allows the program to be even more innovative and exciting than it already was. Students started classes in the brand-new facilities in January 2022. Columbia expects that all of its MBA students will ultimately inhabit the new buildings, which will be a welcome change given that students used to gripe about CBS’s aging facilities in the rankings.

Wharton Facilities

Wharton, on the other hand, has some of the best business school facilities in the world. The B-school campus is composed of nine 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.

Jon M. Huntsman Hall is home to both the undergraduate and graduate divisions of Wharton. It’s a gorgeous world-class building of 320,000 square feet, designed around Wharton’s cohort learning model. This building alone boasts 48 classrooms, four computer labs, 57 group study rooms, four floors of faculty offices, a 300-seat auditorium, student cafes, and study lounges.

The New Tangen Hall at Wharton

Blair Mannix of Wharton’s MBA program shared, “We’re opening the Wharton Academic Research Building and Tangen Hall, the new home for Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship. The Wharton Academic Research Building will become a central hub for data and analytics. The building will be 4 floors of multi use space including two floors of classrooms, multiple group study rooms, permanent space for some of Wharton’s research centers, and more shared conference rooms. It’s located just off of the Quad. Tangen Hall will feature a Venture Lab, test kitchens, street-level storefront popup retail space for student ventures, a virtual reality environment, and more. It is located just blocks away from the heart of campus.”


At seven stories and 68,000 square feet, the Wharton-led Tangen is the largest student entrepreneurship hub in the world.

Program Focus, Teaching Method

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 10 academic departments (not including courses you can take elsewhere at the University of Pennsylvania).

But we asked a former Columbia Admissions Officer on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team and she clarified, “At Columbia, you can take whatever electives you want—and out of about 400, more than any of our peer schools, there are certainly plenty of options that you will want to take.”

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 the 19 listed majors at Wharton, including such narrow fields as healthcare management and environmental and risk management.

Columbia is no slouch in offering up specialty areas of study. There’s a private equity focus and a “value investing” focus. The latter has a curriculum of eight courses, 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 “healthcare and pharmaceutical management.”

With a full-time faculty of 150 plus 50 more adjunct professors, Columbia offers extraordinary flexibility. So does Wharton, with its staff of more than 240 faculty members.

“Columbia’s faculty is so great and approachable,” shared a former Columbia Admissions Officer who is now on the SBC team. “I managed our class visit program, which presented a great opportunity to work closely with some of our faculty members.”

Finally, both schools offer up a variety of teaching methods, from case studies 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%.

Alumni Network

Wharton claims the largest alumni network of any business school in the world: 99,000 alums in 152 countries. That figure includes Wharton’s sizable undergraduate output. It’s a sure bet that wherever you are in the world, 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 47,000 living alums, a figure that includes EMBAs, you can find a Columbia connection anywhere in the world.

Amanda Carlson, Assistant Dean of Admissions at Columbia Business School, shared, “The student programming put on by the Office of Alumni & External Relations, especially over the past year, has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. Alumni from around the globe have dedicated countless hours providing career insights, offering advice, and sage counsel to students.

“From a fireside chat Robert Reffkin, MBA ’03 founder and CEO of Compass, to a candid conversation with Shazi Visram, MBA ’04 founder and CEO of Happy Family Organics, to a leadership seminar with Yuzaboro Mogi ’61, Chairman and honorary CEO of Kikkoman, Columbia alumni continue to dedicate themselves to uplifting next generation of CBS graduates.”

Check out our other MBA comparisons here.   For details on MBA program application deadlines, check out our comparison chart here.

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Updated in 2023 from the original reprint from Poets & Quants

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