Business Administration

Top MBA Programs in New York City: Columbia and NYU Stern

Top MBA Programs in New York City: Columbia and NYU Stern
New York City is home to (at least) two top-tier MBA programs. To paraphrase Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, Columbia's up and NYU's down. Image from Pexels
Rebecca Heath Anderson profile
Rebecca Heath Anderson May 27, 2020

New York City is home to (at least) two top-tier MBA programs. Our guest columnist from Menlo MBA Coaching offers guidance on how to choose the one that's best for you.

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If you are keen on attending a top business school in New York, how do you decide whether to apply to NYU Stern or Columbia University? Yes, many MBA candidates apply to both schools. That certainly simplifies the decision!

Before you go to that effort and expense, though, get the facts straight about the differences and similarities between the two programs. Although both schools may appear similar on the surface, chances are that one of them is a better fit for you.

Their most obvious common trait is, of course, their prime location in New York City. Both schools provide access to companies and financial institutions located in the city. Both facilitate guest lectures and mentoring opportunities from top industry professionals.

Although you might want to start and end your decision between the two programs with MBA rankings, you should consider other factors before submitting your application to either school. Submitting cookie cutter essays to both NY-based business schools will not work in your favor, for the simple reason that you might be a good fit at one MBA program but not the other.

MBA class profiles: New York b-schools

Class profiles provide valuable insight into the types of students accepted into these programs, which in turn elucidates the kind of classroom environment you can expect. When looking at the class profiles, it's clear that the two programs differ in many respects.

For instance, 754 students enroll in Columbia's full-time MBA program. With bigger classes, you may have the opportunity to get to know more people, which in turn means that you may end up forming a wider network. On the flip side, NYU Stern's MBA program only enrolls 350 students. With a smaller cohort, it may be easier to create strong bonds with classmates and professors. Each program offers its own benefits in this regard.

The larger class size at Columbia Business School not only leads to a larger number of students from a variety of backgrounds, but also a larger contingent of international students. About half of CBS' entering MBA class last year—47 percent—was international. Only a third—33%—of NYU Stern's entering class hails from overseas. If your ambitions include international business, Columbia may be the better choie.

More key differences between the two MBA programs can be seen through the report of their incoming class profiles.

Columbia Business School vs. NYU Stern MBA Class Profiles

Business School Columbia Business School                   NYU Stern                          

Acceptance rate


Average: 727
Range: 560-790

Median: 721
Range (mid 80%): 680-750
Reporting GRE: 16%
Does not disclose individual
quant and verbal scores

Reporting GRE: 17%
Quant: 160
Verbal: 162
Average: 3.6
Range: Does not disclose

Average: 3.52
Range: Does not disclose
Age: 28 years
Work Experience (years): 5

Age: 28 years
Work Experience (years): 5.2
Women: 38%
International: 47%

Women: 37%
International: 33%
Pre-MBA Industries Financial Services: 29%
Consulting: 23%
Tech / Technology: 7%
Non-profit: 5%
Military / Govt: 4%
Real Estate: 3%

Marketing / Media: 15%
Healthcare: 5%
Energy: 2%
Manufacturing: 1%
Other: 6%

Financial Services: 29%
Consulting: 12%
Technology: 8%
Nonprofit / Arts / Education: 7%
Military Government: 6%
Real Estate: 4%

Consumer Products / Retail: 7%
Entertainment Media: 5%
Advertising, Public Relations: 3%
Law: 2%
Manufacturing, Trade: 2%
Energy: 1%
Engineering: 1%
Other: 10%
Undergraduate Majors
Business / Economics: 51%
STEM: 26%
Humanities / Social Sci.: 22%
Other: 2%

Business / Economics: 45%
STEM: 22%
Humanities / Social Sci.: 33%

NYU Stern enrolls more students with a humanities or social science background. 33 percent of the incoming class at Stern holds an undergraduate degree in the humanities or social sciences versus 22 percent of the incoming Columbia MBA class.

Another noticeable difference between the Stern vs Columbia MBA class profile is that Columbia reports a sizable portion of their class with previous work experience in the healthcare industry (no doubt due, at least in part, to the university's joint MD/MBA program) . If you work in healthcare and are looking to earn an MBA, Columbia might be the better fit for you. Clearly, many of your peers think so.

Career paths for New York MBA grads

All MBA programs work hard to help students achieve professional success, and the best typically offer robust career placement services. Not that these programs need to work that hard: their reputations certainly help their MBAs find excellent opportunities upon graduation. Not all schools succeed equally in all areas, however. Columbia and NYU demonstrate different strengths with regard to the job market.

For instance, even though both MBA programs place a large proportion of their graduates into the consulting industry post-MBA, NYU Stern does a particularly good job. About 12 percent of Stern's entering MBA class has a background working in consulting. Post-MBA, their placement into consulting is a whopping 37 percent.

In comparison, 23 percent of Columbia's entering MBA class has worked in consulting before the MBA degree. Post-MBA, the percentage of students going into consulting increases to about 32.6 percent. This bump isn't nearly as high as what we see at NYU Stern.

NYU also excels in its ties to the luxury retail sector. The Council of Fashion Designers of America and the Doing Business in Italy experiential learning programs, combined with the Luxury and Retail and Graduate Marketing Association clubs on campus, make Stern a great fit if you're interested in working in this area. For Columbia's part, its partnership with the Luxury Education Foundation, a non-profit in the luxury sector, creates its own opportunities in luxury trade and services.

In addition, Stern also offers two additional "special" MBA programs in Tech and Fashion and Luxury. If you're looking for a narrower focus to your MBA in these areas, one of these NYU Stern MBAs may be of interest to you.

Columbia, on the other hand, excels in financial services, where approximately one-third of its students find post-degree employment. Graduates in this sector earn median incomes of $125,000 to $152,000, with bonuses and other compensation adding another $20,000 to $50,000 annually.

Highlights of Columbia Business School

Each program boasts unique offerings beyond those mentioned above. Standout features at Columbia Business School include:

J- Term

CBS offers a January entry for the full-time MBA. January entrants study through the summer in order to complete the degree in a shorter time period—just 16 months. This no-internship program is a great fit for sponsored students who want to return quickly to their firm. It is also a good fit for those who are part of a family business and do not need an internship.

Early Decision Program

This excellent feature of Columbia's MBA program eliminates some of the stress (and extra waiting) of the standard admissions process. You are required to make a nonrefundable $6,000 deposit shortly after notification of acceptance, so make sure Columbia is your first choice before pursuing this option.

__ Value Investing Program

This program is selective; you can only apply once you're already a student. Once you're in, you have access to six special courses in value investing. The program also includes other benefits, such as recruiting and career workshops.

The Tamer Centre for Social Enterprise

This center offers many courses and activities for those interested in public and nonprofit management, international development and emerging markets, social entrepreneurship, and sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

Highlights of NYU Stern

The NYU Stern Emotional Quotient

NYU accepts a certain kind of student, which is evident from their high emphasis on "EQ" (the Emotional Quotient). Admissions officers look for strong interpersonal skills in their applicants, which ensures that you will find students with a high EQ in the Stern community. If this sounds like you, then the Stern MBA program will be a good fit!

Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Interested in entrepreneurship? Stern's support for these endeavors is vast and growing. With the program's location in NYC, you will find that the Stern MBA is well-suited for experiential learning.

Solve a Business Challenge

With close ties to The Big Apple, Stern is continually creating opportunities to connect students with the NYC business world, and vice versa. The Stern Solutions program pairs graduate students with faculty to work on actual local business cases in real time.

One final aspect to keep in mind when considering the Stern MBA is the fact that their post-MBA salaries are on the rise. Their median salary from 2018 to 2019 showed a huge jump of 12 percent.

Rebecca Heath Anderson is a Senior Consultant and Director at MBA admissions consulting firm Menlo Coaching. She earned an MBA at Kellogg and holds her B.A. in Journalism and English Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Rebecca has a wide range of business experience, from project management at a Fortune 500, to non-profit leadership and entrepreneurship. She recently served as Chief Marketing Officer for a business incubator and its related tech ventures. Rebecca has been coaching MBA applicants since 2018.

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle. He has been managing editor of the website for over four years.

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