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MBA Comparison: Kellogg vs Michigan Ross

MBA Comparison: Kellogg vs Michigan Ross main image

Choosing between earning an MBA degree at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business or Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business is one of the easier decisions you’ll face: both are top-notch programs. But there are distinct differences MBA applicants must bear in mind.

Reputation and rankings

The key difference between the two schools is reputation, admissions consultants say. Alex Min, CEO of The MBA Exchange admissions firm says, “It’s fair to say there’s more luster to the Kellogg brand worldwide.”

Kellogg has coveted membership of the “M7” group of elite business schools – including Harvard, Stanford, Wharton and MIT Sloan – and  is consistently ranked more highly than Michigan Ross.

QS' Global MBA Rankings 2019 lists Kellogg #14 and Michigan Ross #15.

Similarly, Bloomberg lists Kellogg #8 and Ross #12 overall. Kellogg’s edge is primarily due to superior rankings by alumni (#18 vs. Michigan Ross’s #47);average salary (#5 vs. #12); job placement (#10 vs. #26). But Michigan Ross has a significant advantage in ranking by current students (#4 vs. Kellogg #14).

Kellogg’s historic edge is also evident in global business school rankings, where it’s placed higher by The Economist and The Financial Times.

Esther Magna of Stacy Blackman Consulting says, “Brand value is seen as higher for Kellogg, which typically correlates with more robust alumni networks and student peer groups.”

Kellogg’s worldwide alumni network is an advantage (60,000 vs. Michigan Ross’s 50,000). Each school has graduates in approx. 100 countries, but Kellogg grads have greater involvement through alumni clubs (72 chapters in 34 countries) compared to Michigan Ross (49 chapters in 25 countries).

Min says, “Alumni access and support can be a significant benefit for students and recent grads when seeking to advance their careers and relocating to new cities.”

Location

For an urban setting, Kellogg is the right choice, he adds. Evanston, Illinois, where Kellogg is based has a population of 75,000 and is minutes away from bustling Chicago. As the third largest US city, Chicago offers students an array of opportunities. And Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport – the US’s fourth largest – is a major asset.

For those who prefer a more traditional “college town”, Ross doesn’t disappoint, Min says. With a population of 121,000, Ann Arbor is heavily focused on its beloved University of Michigan and has cheaper living costs than Kellogg.

However, the closest major city for Michigan Ross students to visit companies is Chicago (a 3.5-hour drive). Illinois also has 36 Fortune 500 company headquarters compared to 17 in the state of Michigan.

Curriculum, teaching methods, faculty and facilities

Both schools offer rigorous yet flexible paths to earning an MBA degree.

Kellogg students can – but aren’t required to – choose from seven majors, including Accounting, Operations and Strategy. They can also select a “pathway” sequence to gain expertise in emerging areas like Data Analytics, Entrepreneurship and Social Impact. However, seven of the nine required courses can be waived, depending on a student’s experience.

Kellogg’s diverse tracks and specialized programs offer a dual-degree combination of MBA and Master of Design Innovation, plus a shorter one-year version of its full-time MBA.

Historically, Kellogg has been stereotyped as a marketing program — but the school’s outplacement into marketing is almost identical to Michigan Ross.

The latter offers various concentrations in Data Analytics, Business and Sustainability, Healthcare Management, as well as programs in Finance and Operations, and a certificate in Real Estate Development. The school has 10 required courses.

Teaching methods vary slightly, according to Min at The MBA Exchange. He says, “Kellogg places equal emphasis on case study, team projects and lectures, with far less exposure to experiential [practical] learning and simulations. Michigan Ross also offers case studies and lectures, but proudly claims to be a pioneer in experiential learning.”

For MBA students seeking an international education, Kellogg offers a larger set of exchange options (37 programs across 20 countries) compared to Michigan Ross (19 programs in 15 countries).

Teaching quality should also be considered. The Economist lists Ross at #12 and Kellogg at #20 among global business schools. The University of Michigan has had 24 Nobel Laureates compared to Northwestern’s 11, however, Northwestern is much smaller than Michigan (21,000 students vs 45,000).

Admissions requirements, selectivity and student culture

Both programs seek well-rounded candidates with strong academic attributes and depth of character. The schools require the same standard application elements: CV, undergraduate transcript, short-answer questions, and GMAT/GRE score.

Kellogg is more demanding of recommenders, requiring two letters from a current supervisor or manager and the second from a former supervisor, compared with one at Michigan Ross. Kellogg’s recommenders also have to answer up to 10 questions, while Michigan Ross’ have only three.

Kellogg requires two written essays, plus a video essay with several specific questions, which are much longer than Michigan Ross’. And Kellogg also extends a traditional one-on-one interview invitation to the vast majority of applicants, while Michigan Ross is more selective about interview invitations, admissions consultants say.

“Kellogg wants sparkly, dynamic people,” says a former Kellogg admissions officer. “There’s also a significant focus on academic rigor and GMAT average in the two-year full-time program. For the class entering 2017, Kellogg’s 732 GMAT average was number two, behind Stanford.”

When it comes to culture, both schools are very team-focused — though The Economist, ranked Michigan Ross higher (#7) on “culture and classmates” than Kellogg (#11).

A former Michigan Ross admissions officer says the school focuses on “leadership, teamwork, intellectual aptitude and creativity” in its admissions process. But Kellogg is more selective on most application criteria say consultants.

Both schools attract quality students, but Kellogg’s class profile is stronger with an average 732 GMAT and 3.6 GPA compared to Michigan Ross’ 716 GMAT and 3.46 GPA.

Kellogg is the more selective institution, with a 20.2 percent acceptance rate, compared with 25.3 percent at Michigan Ross. Offers of admission from Kellogg are also apparently more compelling, with a yield of 55.5 percent compared with Michigan Ross’ 44.9 percent.

In terms of the admitted MBA cohort, Michigan Ross’ class is slightly smaller at 407 students versus Kellogg’s 678, according to 2017 employment reports. Kellogg is more diverse, with a higher percentage of women (43 percent) and international students (40 percent), compared with Michigan Ross whose proportion of women and international students was 32 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

“Like its reputation, Kellogg has an advantage here with respect to diverse perspectives, although both programs are known for their collaborative culture,” says Magna at Stacy Blackman Consulting.

Career destinations

Recruiting success is high, with Michigan Ross having a slight edge: within three months of graduation, 94.4 percent of graduates accepted jobs compared to 90.8 percent of Kellogg graduates.

At Kellogg, consulting attracted 33 percent of the class, technology 25 percent, financial services 13 percent, and consumer products 12 percent. At Michigan Ross, consulting hired 32.7 percent of the class, technology 23.6 percent, financial services 11 percent, and consumer products 8.8 percent.

Similarly, the geographical placement is remarkably comparable, with slight differences only for the international placement for Kellogg (11 percent) whereas for Michigan Ross the figure is 7.5 percent.

But average annual compensation is somewhat higher for Michigan Ross graduates at US$150,052, compared with Kellogg’s US$146,259. But in terms of the most popular industry (consulting) Kellogg alumni received a higher median salary of US$147,000 compared to US$140,000 at Michigan Ross.

Seb Murray
Written by Seb Murray

Seb is a journalist and consulting editor who has developed a successful track record writing about business, education and technology for the international press.

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