The 50 Most Selective U.S. MBA Programs

by John A. Byrne on

A quick quiz: Which business school’s full-time MBA program is more selective? The University of Texas at Dallas or Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business? If you guessed the latter, you would be dead wrong. Surprisingly, UT’s business school accepts just 20.7% of its applicants versus Fuqua’s 23.7%.

Let’s try another one. Which business school is able to enroll a higher percentage of the applicants it accepts? Yale’s School of Management or Texas Tech’s Rawls School? If you went with the Lone Star state choice this time, you would be right. As shockingly as it seems, 57.7% of the applicants accepted into the Rawls School’s full-time MBA program enroll. At Yale, the number is 45.1%.

Who ever would have thought that the University of Wisconsin’s business school in Madison would enroll a higher percentage of its admits than only three other U.S. MBA programs: Harvard, Stanford, and Georgia Tech? Yet, it’s true. Wisconsin enrolls 75.6% of the applicants it accepts, not far behind Stanford’s 79.7%.

These are just a few of the contrarian surprises buried in an interesting table (below) on the most selective full-time MBA programs at U.S. business schools. It’s certainly a different way to look at the best schools–not by a ranking but by how selective each school is and then what percentage of the accepted applicants actually decide whether or not to take the school up on its offer of acceptance.

Even the top ten on this list is quite a surprise, with Texas Tech at number nine. Surprisingly, there are four Texas business schools in the top 20: Texas Tech, the University of Texas at Dallas, Texas A&M University, and finally what is generally regarded as the best MBA program in the state, the University of Texas at Austin at number 20.

One counter-intuitive conclusion: The best MBA programs are not always at schools with the lowest acceptance rates. There are a good number of highly ranked B-schools that fail to make the top 50 most selective list, notably Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business (with an acceptance rate of 42.5%). Yet, there are numerous schools that can afford to be a bit more selective even though they don’t have the repuation or quality of Indiana or Georgetown.

Another undeniable factor to consider when looking at the data: geography has an impact on the number of applications a school receives and, therefore, its acceptance rate. Schools in and around New York City and Boston as well as the state of California tend to be more selective because they are immediate draws for graduate students.

THE 50 MOST SELECTIVE FULL-TIME MBA PROGRAMS IN THE U.S.

School Applicants Accepted % Accepted Enrolled Yield
1. Stanford 7,204 488 6.8% 389 79.7%
2. Harvard 9.524 1,071 11.2% 903 84.3%
3. Berkeley (Haas) 3,627 422 11.6% 243 57.6%
4. MIT (Sloan) 4,782 621 13.0% 401 64.6%
5. NYU (Stern) 4,501 592 13.2% 314 53.0%
6. Columbia 6,666 1,023 15.3% 739 72.2%
7. UPenn (Wharton) 6,832 1,145 16.8% 817 71.4%
8. Yale 2,963 512 17.3% 231 45.1%
9. Texas Tech (Rawls) 275 52 18.9% 30 57.7%
10. Northwestern (Kellogg) 5,591 1,112 19.9% 647 58.2%
11. Dartmouth (Tuck) 2,528 514 20.3% 280 54.5%
12. Texas-Dallas 415 86 20.7% 63 73.3%
13. USC (Marshall) 1,983 436 22.0% 216 49.5%
14. Georgia Inst. of Tech 436 122 22.0% 93 76.2%
15. Chicago (Booth) 4,299 957 22.3% 579 60.5%
16. Texas A&M (Mays) 537 122 22.7% 63 51.6%
17. Cornell (Johnson) 2,001 469 23.4% 275 58.6%
18. Duke (Fuqua) 3,506 831 23.7% 440 52.9%
19. UC-Davis 447 107 23.9% 55 51.4%
20. Texas (McCombs) 2,259 542 24.0% 261 48.2%
21. Michigan (Ross) 2,722 691 25.4% 488 70.6%
22. Virginia (Darden) 2,515 662 26.3% 339 51.2%
23. Florida (Hough) 263 70 26.6% 36 51.4%
24. Ohio State (Fisher) 789 213 27.0% 122 57.3%
25. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) 1,540 423 27.5% 201 47.5%
26. Illinois-Urbana Champaign 719 199 27.7% 103 51.7%
27. UC-Irvine (Merage) 802 224 27.9% 83 37.1%
28. Boston Univ. 1,387 388 28.0% 160 41.2%
29. Washington (Olin) 1,529 437 28.6% 148 33.9%
30. UMass-Amherst (Isenberg) 254 73 28.7% 36 49.3%
31. UCLA (Anderson) 2,459 714 29.0% 371 52.0%
32. Arizona State (Carey) 510 151 29.6% 79 52.3%
33. Minnesota (Carlson) 452 137 30.3% 71 51.8%
34. Wisconsin-Madison 511 156 30.5% 118 75.6%
35. Washington (Foster) 771 241 31.3% 114 47.3%
36. Northeastern 391 157 32.7% 103 65.6%
37. Boston College (Carroll) 719 236 32.8% 106 44.9%
38. Notre Dame (Mendoza) 886 292 33.0% 134 45.9%
39. Purdue (Krannert) 771 256 33.2% 108 42.2%
40. Emory (Goizueta) 1,037 345 33.3% 134 38.8%
41. Rochester (Simon) 850 285 33.5% 122 42.8%
42. CUNY (Zicklin) 379 128 33.8% 65 50.8%
43. Temple (Fox) 275 96 34.9% 50 52.1%
44. SMU (Cox) 565 198 35.0% 128 64.6%
45. Buffalo-SUNY 421 149 35.4% 94 63.1%
46. Missouri (Trulaske) 471 167 35.5% 99 59.3%
47. Rice (Jones) 544 195 35.8% 109 55.9%
48. Vanderbilt (Owen) 894 322 36.0% 186 57.8%
49. UNC (Kenan-Flagler) 1,764 636 36.1% 287 45.1%
50. Penn State (Smeal) 587 217 37.0% 107 49.3%

Notes: Applicants are the number of applications received by a school for what would be the Class of 2012; the estimated yield is based  on the number of enrolled students to accepted applicants. In some cases, however, there can be some deferred applicants who did not enroll. Harvard Business School, for example, says that its “yield”–the percentage of accepted applicants enrolled–tends to be around 91%. The table reports the number as 84.3%–still the highest of any school. The discrepancy could be caused by deferrals.

 

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/msshona/ Rishona Campbell

    Interesting; now I know I sort of sound like a broken record focusing on tuition again — but boy, I am curious as to what this list would have looked like 10 years ago. It would also be interesting to see the tuition rates. The Texas schools end up being quite a deal for in-state residents. I count at least 23 state or state-supported universities. These public schools also tend to have impressive yield rates. Makes me wonder…just maybe I am not the only MBA student in the world who is driven by tuition costs as the bottom line deciding factor! :-)

  • Gemelo

    There seems to be an error on the data for NYU Stern. According to the Stern website (see link below), the size of the class that enrolled in the latest year is 392, not 314, which translates into a yield of 66%, not 53% as shown in your table. http://www.stern.nyu.edu/AcademicPrograms/FullTime/Students/ClassProfile/index.htm

  • Bruce Vann

    I’m surprised that Stanford’s yield is lower than HBS’s yield.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Gemelo,

    Thanks for pointing out the discrepancy. This data is culled from the information that all the scores provided U.S. News & World Report for its ranking. As the note on the table indicates, the actual “yield” for each school may be different due to deferral admissions and other reasons. Harvard, for example, says it had a yield rate of 91%–not the 84.3% listed in the table.

  • Johnnie Welker

    I think it is a bit misleading when looking at these numbers like that. The GMAT, and GPAs need to be also thrown into that to get the “real” number for selectivity. I am sure the average GMAT for applicants at Texas-Dallas is lower than Carnegie Mellon, Ross and Virginia; and one would also agree that these schools are more selective than Texas-Dallas.

    Oh well, good to see that HBS 90%+ yield is taking a beating now.

  • b-school guy

    Great article John – do you think Columbia’s high yield rate is affected by early decision applicants? Or do you think that you would expect 72% for a school like Columbia?

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    B-School Guy,

    I do think Columbia’s high yield is related to a few factors: 1) The high quality of the school and its faculty; 2) New York — it’s the best b-school in a city that is a magnet for people; 3) If you pick Columbia, you pretty much are sold on it and New York and probably the world of finance.

  • http://john.com John

    Have they factored in affirmative action discrimination against white males?

  • Clint

    Applicants for the most part apply to programs which they think they can reasonably get in to.

    Not all school draw from the same applicant pool, so a school high selectivity doesn’t necessarily imply a higher quality class of admits. (not to say this chart isn’t interesting and useful)

    It might be interesting to plot the middle 80% GMAT ranges, against selectivity, (perhaps a bubble chart with an X and Y axis). You might be able to draw some conclusions as to which schools weight the GMAT more or less heavily.

    A common critique in any admissions process is that schools treat students as numbers (and all b-schools deny that) however a GMAT/selectivity bubble chart may be able to shine some light on that.

    though maybe I’m venturing to close to over-interpretation land

  • Guiseppe

    Can anyone explain why Ross’s yield is higher at 70.6% than its peers Darden 51.2% and Duke 52.9%?

  • H/S/Wbound

    B-School,
    Having just finished the admissions season, I would highlight that Columbia’s high yield stems from an admissions process that seeks to cull out the number of people unlikely to attend. I’ve spoken to several friends who were applicants and each mentioned that their interviewer explicitly asked if he/she would attend Columbia if accepted. Anyone who wavered in his/her answer was generally waitlisted or rejected. I applied to 6 schools this last admissions season and I never had anyone explicitly ask whether I would/wouldn’t attend if admitted.

  • b-school guy

    John, H/S/Wbound,

    Thanks for the answers – makes sense.

  • curious

    are those the stats for CBS’s 2-year full-time mba program? or do they include the 1-year program as well?

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Just the two-year, full-time program.

  • 2013

    Guisseppe, as someone that was admitted to Michigan (but not matriculating), I believe that their high yield is due to some of the reasons cited in H/S/Wbound’s response above. Additionally, Michigan students typically have a lower average GMAT score and GPA than their peers but higher average pre-MBA salaries so the applicant pool is a little different. Lastly, Michigan does a great job of reaching out and welcoming you to the school’s community once you’ve been accepted.

  • b-school guy

    Those stats include the J-Term and the Full time. The J-Term is roughly 200 or so candidates and the FT is the remaining. Columbia only offers a J-Term (16 month) and 2-year program. I assume this is what you are referring to. Not sure if you read curious’s question this way John.

  • b-school guy

    It’s on CBS’s website:

    of the 739 -> 70% enter for 2 years and 30% in the J-Term:

    http://www4.gsb.columbia.edu/mba/admissions/options#january

    Thus the selectivity is the same.

    Columbia’s 2 year class is about 518 or so. J Term is another 221

  • Guiseppe

    @2013: Thanks for your thought but I respectfully disagree. The Gmat numbers of Ross, Fuqua, Darden is in the same bracket. Incidentally, plenty candidates apply to all three BSchools. Ross does neither operate CBS’s ED nor J intake to manage their yield agressively, yet both are at 70ish%. Somehow the 20% gap to Fuqua and Darden stands out.

  • b-school guy

    Guseppe – totally agree. I got into Fuqua and chose not to go. I feel that it’s a solid school but many apply to it as a good backup to other top schools.

    Note sure why Ross’s yield is so high.

  • Guiseppe

    b-school guy: Can’t explain Ross’s yield either as the class profile in terms of geography, gender, ethnicity, age, gmat and previous WE/salary is in line with Fuqua and Darden. Ross actually has a larger class and more seats to fill and I don’t think that Ross can outspend Fuqua and Darden in scholarships to lure admits. The location does not help either with Michigan’s poor economy. I have to admit that Ross adcom does a good job in picking applicants who actually want to attend. In interview I was asked why Ross, but no CBS-style question such as if admitted, will you attend? Current students came across as grounded. It was a transparent and fair application process. Ross offers some concentration with Erb or Tauber and MAP to differentiate its programme.

  • b-school guy

    Guiseppe – Where did you end up accepting?

  • Guiseppe

    b-school guy,

    Still working on funding, really tough for international students to secure funding and thereby visa. This can be the key determinant for me where I actually end up. It would be either Ross or BSchool A and B. Regardless of outcome, I am impressed by Ross’s well rounded programme and alumni from different years and careers tend to have fond memories. Though Ross’s (along with most BSchools outside Top10) overseas alumni network is really patchy, if I may say so as constructive criticism. What’s about you, if not lovely Durham?

  • International

    Hello John,

    Great blog.

    Can you do something on the most popular U.S business schools abroad? In order words, what business schools can get you jobs abroad? Is this data hard to complie?

    For example, in the U.S, people are aware of INSEAD, HEC Paris, LBS and so on….

  • b-school guy

    I got into INSEAD, Duke and Columbia (only places I applied to) – got into all of them and chose Columbia.

  • kbnaperville

    How do these numbers change for EMBA programs? I am not eligible for Kellogg as I am not currently employed. Retaking GMAT after 20 years…appreciate any guidance you can offer.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Kbnaperville,

    They change considerably. Wharton, for example, accepts 46% of the applicants who apply to its EMBA programs, versus only 16.8% to its full-time MBA program. The University of Southern California Marshall School EMBA program accepts 68% of its EMBA applicants, versus just 22% for its full-time MBA program. So it’s definitely easier to get into a top-ranked EMBA program than a full-time, two-year program. As for GMATs, you probably know that many schools don’t even require the GMAT for their EMBA programs. In fact, that is increasingly the case as this article on our sister site, PoetsandQuantsforExecs.com, points out: http://poetsandquantsforexecs.com/2011/03/03/stern-drops-gmat-for-embas/

  • Tommy

    Am I reading this correctly…Indiana Kelley did not make this list??

  • Atlanta Exec

    Interesting to see Georgia Tech climbing up the charts quickly. With its high quality program, top parent University and scholarships on offer for top students, I can already see the Georgia Tech College of Management breaking into the top-10/15 very soon. Very similar to what Berkeley and Yale have done in the last 5-10 years.

  • daviddbwilson

    I recently took this data and created a metric I haven’t seen before: desirability. It’s essentially a measure of how desirable a programme is to the broader applicant pool versus its desirability to those accepted by the school. It results in quite a useful and revealing ranking. Guess which schools are the most desirable… http://datalens.org/post/22968856939/top-50-most-desirable-mba

  • Dumdumdigdiga

    This is not ranking. This is a list…

  • theKomodo

    My take on this is that Ross admission committee is very good at picking (extending offers) applicants who are most likely to attend Ross. They must be really good at judging people.

  • http://www.mbaover30.com/ MBA Over 30

    It would be useful to overlay this data with stats on which schools these institutions these schools compete with most commonly. Yield tends to be more relative to cluster/tier than to all other schools. For instance, Ross has a much higher yield than, say Booth. Then again, Ross doesn’t compete with H/S/W at nearly the same frequency that Booth does. The same can probably be said for Ga Tech, which probably attracts mostly regional applicants as opposed to Tuck, which primarily competes with other top 10 schools for globally competitive candidates.

  • watcher

    Its negligible compared to what Asians go through. Asians have to score 100 points higher than whites on the SAT to be on equal footing at Ivy leagues

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