Have I made a mistake in choosing the Carlson school of management at Minnesota over the Wisconsin school of business at UW-Madison? (undergraduate finance major)

Hello everyone!

Over the course of the past few months, I have decided to transfer from UW-Eau Claire (Wisconsin satellite school) to one of the two reputable state flagship business schools near me- either the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities (Carlson) or the University of Wisconsin- Madison (Wisconsin school of business). My reasons for transferring are simple- I want to go to a more prestigious school that offers both higher salaries for finance majors and placement into name-brand companies, specifically for consulting, investment banking, or corporate finance (think Boston Consulting Group, Goldman Sachs and BestBuy/Target).

Note: I qualify for In-state tuition at both schools- costs are pretty much the same with Wisconsin perhaps being slightly cheaper.

I have elected to choose Minnesota’s Business school, Carlson, (after being admitted to both) for a variety of reasons:

  1. Carlson has a very high job placement rate as well as competitive starting salaries. The average Carlson grad makes around $62,000 a year upon graduation. Three years after graduation, for finance majors, the average Carlson grad makes $76,000 per year according to the U.S Department of education’s college scorecard. Madison grads make essentially the same salary. Carlson’s career placement rate is around 98%, not sure about Madison. These are very good employment stats.
  2. My friends and family are, for the most part, local to the twin cities area. Moving to Madison would mean that I would be leaving most of my social circle behind, therefore having to make lots of new friends (My best friend does go to Madison, but that’s about it). I think that this would have a negative impact upon my grades and quality of life.
  3. Ideally, I would work in the twin cities upon graduation, for much the same reasons as those outlined in point 2. Carlson has a very high career placement rate and large alumni network in the Twin Cities. I would, however, like to have the option to move elsewhere in the future for work (L.A, New York).
  4. Carlson is highly ranked. This last year, it was #19 in the US for undergraduate business programs, according to U.S News. (Madison #16)
  5. I have a strong familial connection to Minnesota. UMN, specifically Carlson, has always been my dream school- My Dad went there, My mom went there. 3/4 of my grandparents went there, so on and so forth. Growing up, I always considered Minnesota to be the best school around- narrow world-view aside.

Now, for the concerns:

  1. The University of Minnesota seems to be much less reputable than I had thought up until this point. It is ranked #68 in the Nation, Madison is #44. On the other hand, the business schools seem to usually be on par with each other. It seems to me (with zero statistical backing, just speculation) that this lower ranking may result in a lower chance of acceptance to graduate programs, should I wish to pursue something like an MBA.
  2. In addition to that, Minnesota’s acceptance rate seems to be getting higher and higher and the number of applications seems to be getting lower (in 2021, acceptance rate was 73%, 36,000 applications vs 2016-17 acceptance rate was 47% , 49000 applications). In contrast, UW-Madison seems to be on the rise with 60000+ applications this past year (a new record) and an acceptance rate around 50%. The Carlson school’s acceptance rate hovers around 29% (nearly identical to Wisconsin’s b- school) but I’m not sure that it will remain that competitive once the stats are in for this previous admissions cycle, given the trajectory of the university itself.
  3. I have read in various places that Wisconsin’s b-school places its students in a much more diverse set of geographies than Minnesota’s (NY, LA), making my career prospects outside of Minnesota and the Midwest less appealing coming from Carlson. If I want to move to the coasts or elsewhere in the future, it seems that Carlson may put me at a disadvantage.
  4. I also have found conflicting information on Carlson’s reputation with consulting and investment banking. I am not sure if I will be able to obtain a job with, say, Boston Consulting Group if I go to Carlson.

Therefore, my questions are as follows:

Is the University of Minnesota prestigious? Is it well regarded in academia and by the general public? Is Minnesota on the decline and losing its former strong reputation? Is Madison much more prestigious? Will I suffer coming out of Carlson instead of the Wisconsin school of business? Have I made a mistake in choosing Minnesota over Wisconsin?

This is something that has been eating away at me for months, and I wanted to make a long, in-depth post that lays out my thoughts- Any advice/input is appreciated. Thank you all for your help!

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First off congratulations. Second off. Stop!

I know many, many people that went to B schools you never heard of that are CEOs of very successful companies. You make the school. Period. Just be an active part of the school community and try to make it a better place then you found it. The name of the school doesn’t get you a job. Only you can do that.

Enjoy your time at school and do something worthwhile when your there.

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Your concern #1 -

  1. Wrong - they’re both very reputable big 10 / state flagship universities - don’t listen to magazines that publish a list to sell more.

  2. UMN is in job haven

  3. For an MBA, you could stay where you are - going to Eau Claire, Madison, or TC will make not a single iota of difference for getting into a program. Your work experience post grad (that you have some vs. what it is), GMAT, and other things will matter most.

Neither Wisconsin nor Minnesota will be a magnet for the top consulting firms but both will place some.

You need to pick the right school for you. Ultimately, you will make your success.

But both these schools are a great launching pad for you.

Stop overanalyzing and get excited about your choice. If it’s the right fit for you - and you laid out why it is - then it’s the right choice!!

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Congrats! They are both very good. Agree that you need to stop over analyzing small differences. For example, your assessment of future trajectories regarding selectivity haven’t taken into account how the recent Supreme Court reproductive rights ruling may affect relative admissions rates between these universities. Both business schools are well regarded out of state.

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You’re fortunate to have these great schools as in-state options.

Your choice was clear due to family and that matters.

Yes, UW has a better national reputation. It draws more students from the coasts and even a few from the South. It’s fun, maybe too fun (!), and rigorous. Much more Greek focus I presume. The U draws more from the region but is rigorous and has far more great jobs in the vicinity.

Neither are going to send more than say five to bulge bracket IB or consulting. However, you can launch into a great career from both and go to a top MBA program.

I like your analytical skills. You’ll thrive.

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My sister graduated from Carlson a decade ago. She and all her friends launched immediately into great jobs. The ones who wanted to stay local had multiple local offers. The ones who wanted to go to the coasts had plenty of offers on the coasts. When it came time for MBAs they got accepted into top programs. A couple of the hardest working are now filthy rich. They are still a tight knit group despite being scattered across the country. Tons of fun. Great alumni connections. Work hard, get good grades, be social, and you will have no trouble.

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First of all, overall rankings have very little to do with rankings for any specific program. The most extreme example of this that I have noticed is the DVM program at Colorado State University. The DVM program is ranked 3rd in North America and 4th in the world at a university that US News has ranked 153rd in the US. However, the DVM program really does deserve its high ranking and is superb, and anyone who employs veterinarians knows this. The same issue will apply to business programs or any other program. The program matters. The overall ranking of the school does not matter.

Secondly, the difference between a ranking of 68 versus 44 is not meaningful. Both of them are very good universities. There are hundreds of very good universities in the US, and anything in the top 100 is a very good university. There are multiple very good universities that are not ranked in the top 100 in the US.

And rankings do not matter much.

I agree with other responses that you are trying to decide between two very good programs at two very good universities. Your reasons for wanting to transfer make sense to me. Your reasons for preferring UMN make sense to me.

This makes a lot of sense.

I think that you are doing well. I think that you made a good choice for good reasons. Relax. Get ready to work hard when you show up at UMN in the fall or late summer.

Over your career you will work with UMN grads and UW grads (for more than one definition of “W”), and no one is going to care which of these very good universities each of you attended.

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Thank you for your input! I appreciate the advice.

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Thank you! I’ll try to be more exited about Carlson, that’s a good pointer. It is, after all, my dream school!

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My lack of consideration of all of the confounding variables is a good point, thank you!

Thank you for the kind words! I suppose that either way I would have had some sort of trade of as far as geography, thank you for pointing that out!

Hopefully the job opportunities are as abundant now as they were when your sister was attending the school. I appreciate the encouragement as well as the advice!

That is a very good point as far as rankings being relatively inconsequential. It’s still difficult to disregard them, but I see what you mean. I also think that you have very strong points about the program mattering more than the institution itself. Thank you for your advice and consideration!

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See below

@Logan_Starr Did you get direct entry acceptance to WI B-School or „pre-business?“ If the latter, direct entry to Carlson is the better choice without a doubt. Students at WI „pre-business“ will still need to go thru a competitive process in getting into the B-School for Junior Year. Those that don’t make it, will be in the Liberal Arts school either majoring in econ or switching fields. On the other hand, Carlson direct entry will nurture those accepted students to thrive and succeed, including internship opportunities. WI might be more popular, with a more fun environment and beautiful campus, but to be supported from day 1 academically and career-wise, IMO Carlson is better. If you did get one of the few direct entry spots to WI, kudos to you. And all depends what you want for your undergraduate career.

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I was a direct admit to both schools as a transfer student. Do you think that there is a difference in prestige or outcomes for the two schools? Is Carlson better? Is wisconsin better? Thank you for your response!

Both programs are tied at 19 in the USNWR 2022 rankings. I think Carlson is highly regarded and has great opportunities in the Twin Cities, home to many Fortune 500 companies. I think UW-Madison itself has a a little more “prestige” but not necessarily its business school over any other flagship U business program. You choice should also consider what you want to specialize in. Each school has strengths and different depth of curriculum and course offerings.

Between these two, pick the school where you want to spend your time. Your results after you finish your undergrad program are most likely determined by you and not by the minor difference of these two very similar schools.

For what it’s worth, I got my undergrad business degree from UWEC and still had all the opportunities that you are seeking. Today, my peers are from Wharton, Michigan, Georgetown, NYU, etc, and we are all highly successful.

Good for you in pursuing a great education at Minnesota or Madison, but please relax and enjoy whichever you choose. You are going to do great!

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Good to see a fellow blugold around!
Thank you for the advice. Hopefully I do well!

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Thank you!