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!

Comments (17)

Jul 13, 2022 - 1:24am
YieldCrusher, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Regarding recruiting for IB - I would utilize the IB/finance oriented programs that Carlson offers. There is a good pipeline of students in those programs that place into an array of IB shops across the US, and heavily in the twin cities

Jul 13, 2022 - 1:28pm
loganstarr, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I've heard that tings like the IB club there do a good job of supplementing the school's lackluster performance in IB if you can get into them. Do you have any idea how good Carlson is for management consulting? Is Madison better than Carlson for MC or IB? 

Jul 13, 2022 - 11:46pm
YieldCrusher, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Do not know - Did not go to Carlson and just know a few people across the street in IB that were in those programs, so that is the extent of my knowledge

Most Helpful
Jul 15, 2022 - 1:55pm
rafiki, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Are you one of the Wisconsinites that gets to pay less than MN in-state at UMN?

As a Carlson undergrad myself I would argue that Minneapolis is a better place to be year-round than Madison, with a way deeper market for internships that you can commute to from the school's campus, which is helpfully between the downtowns of Minneapolis and St Paul. That also means that internships during the school year are way easier to figure out to build your resume.

If you are looking at real estate specifically, Madison has a better program, there are still plenty of gophers in the Twin Cities real estate scene, just way more Tommies, Johnnies and 'Sconnies. If you are looking at tech consulting or anything touching management information systems, Minnesota will be way better. Beyond that they are close enough in all of the other categories that I would not worry about it.

Enjoy watching USC and UCLA playing in the midwestern fall!

Jul 15, 2022 - 1:58pm
rafiki, what's your opinion? Comment below:

That will teach me to try editing on mobile, my line breaks all went away!

Jul 16, 2022 - 12:39pm
Arroz con Pollo, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Madison has some baddies. Also know a former LMM PE MD who went to Wisconsin

  • 1
Jul 16, 2022 - 3:13pm
loganstarr, what's your opinion? Comment below:

While the attractive people is a plus, do you think that Madison grads have more lucrative employment opportunities than those at UMN's Carlson? 

  • Intern in Consulting
Jul 16, 2022 - 3:39pm

You made the right choice 1) if it's closer to your family and 2) if you want to work in a Minneapolis MM-Boutique bank (it's good PR). UW Madison and Minnesota both do not have OCR. UW Madison has a Kelley-esque IB club and it appears Minnesota doesn't. So, although Madison has way more alumni in finance probably, they're only available to people in that club.

Join the 180 Degrees Consulting club at the very least, and try to find out if there are any selective finance (i.e. workshop, student-managed fund) clubs, because that would be the only way you would stand out from either of these schools.

Jul 24, 2022 - 12:22pm
datchup, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Wisconsin was arguably an elite university up until probably the late 60s/early 70s, and you'll notice a lot of the most well-known alums came from that era. It still is an amazing school for certain STEM programs. That gives it a bit of a reputation advantage over Minnesota, but that definitely is dwindling as the years pass. In terms of the more diverse geographical placements, a lot of that is due to long-standing trend of middle-to-upper class East/West Coast kids coming to Madison for school and returning home (plus those old school alums having a lot of reach). It's a lot easier for those kids to do that with already established networks in the coastal areas.

Besides the above, the schools are basically the same - good state schools with large alumni bases. If you work hard and are a top student, there's very few doors that won't open for you. And Minnesota has the proximity to Minneapolis which helps if you want to stay there. Minneapolis is definitely an underrated city too - cheaper than Chicago but a surprisingly high number of businesses headquartered there.

I would not sweat your decision. Do your best in school and extracurriculars, control what you can, and have fun, and you'll do fine. Also remember that your first job does not define your career.

Jul 25, 2022 - 7:10pm
John Stone, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Bro, life's a crapshoot and I'm telling you right now that you're wasting your time comparing these schools. Just pick one and roll.

You must be up in your own head at all times, my man. I used to be that way…and then I found this miraculous plant known as kush. Smoke some kush, you will have a better time, be less depressed and neurotic, and not stress about this non issue you have for yourself. But it could also make you paranoid and you will write even longer posts. Maybe don't smoke weed and grab a couple of xan daddies and relax.

I just hit a white widow preroll and my golf swing is on point 😁😎

Jul 26, 2022 - 3:24pm
Go Time Game Time, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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