Top B-Schools Much Less Selective

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

The decline in MBA applications is making it easier to get into a top business school. In the past year, the acceptance rate increased at 23 of the Top 25 MBA programs in U.S., according to newly published data by U.S. News & World Report.

The single biggest decline in selectivity occurred at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business after a 16.8% drop in applications last year. Ross is now reporting an acceptance rate of 40.6%, up 8.4 points from 32.2% only a year earlier.

The significant jump in Ross’ acceptance rate now makes the school less selective than many other public university business schools. The University of Virginia’s Darden School has an acceptance rate of 26.6%, while the University of Texas’ McCombs School is at 28.6%. UC-Berkeley’s Haas School has an acceptance rate of 13.8%, while UCLA’s Anderson School is at 22.6%.


Several other publics, including the University of Wisconsin, the University of Florida, Ohio State, and Arizona State, also have lower acceptance rates than Michigan.

The jump can largely be attributed to a decline in applications and slightly lower yield rates (the percentage of admits who enroll in a school). Last year, some 2,436 people applied for admission to Ross’ business school, down from 2,927 a year earlier. The 2011 number showed a healthy 7.6% increase from 2,722 in 2010 when many schools were reporting declines.

“After two consecutive years of increases in Full-time MBA applications in the midst of declines at other schools, we experienced a decline in our applications last fall,” explained Soojin Kwon, director of admissions at Ross. “In addition, we discontinued our international student loan program in the middle of the admissions cycle, increasing our uncertainty around yield. This led us to increase the number of admissions offers. As a result of these two factors, our acceptance rate was higher than in the past.”

Kwon said the school is now experiencing an uptick in application volume, but it still expects to reduce the size of the entering class this year. “We expect to bring our acceptance rate back down this coming year as our application volume is up by almost 10%, the uncertainty around yield is back to more “normal” levels, and we are reducing our class size to 2008 levels (a reduction of roughly 12%).”


Acceptance rates are a good proxy for the overall health of a business school, especially when they can be compared against similarly ranked schools. Obviously, schools that are more selective have greater demand for their MBA programs and admissions officials can better pick and choose the best candidates in making up a class. The latest comparable figures were reported by the schools to U.S. News’ for its annual ranking which was published today (March 12).

Michigan can take some solace in the fact that it has plenty of company among schools that have by necessity become less selective. The simple fact is that almost all of the top U.S. business schools are now accepting a higher percentage of their applicants, including Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton, though their declines were slight to inconsequential (see table on following page). Still, Michigan’s drop was nearly double the average for the 23 schools that reported higher acceptance rates.

Significant drops, of course, can lead to lower average GMAT and grade point average scores for enrolled classes. But despite the drop, Michigan’s applicant pool was so deep that it was able to maintain both its GMAT and GPA scores which are exactly the same as they were a year earlier: an average GMAT of 703 with an average GPA of 3.40.

After a 19% decline in applications last year, Columbia Business School accepted 20.8% of its applicant pool, up from 15.9% a year earlier. Washington University’s Olin School saw its acceptance rate climb to 34.1% last year, up from 28.1% in 2011. The University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler School reported an acceptance rate of 42.6%, up from 37.7%.


The most notable exception to the down trend occurred at UCLA’s Anderson School, which had a 22% surge in MBA applications last year. UCLA said it accepted 22.6% of its applicant pool, down from 28.6% a year earlier. Only two other schools in U.S. News’ Top 25 became choosier: Emory University’s Goizueta and the University of Washington’s Foster School. Goizueta accepted 34.2% of its applicants last year, versus 35.1% in 2011, while Foster accepted 43.4% of its applicants, versus 43.5% a year earlier.

Interestingly enough, the second half of the Top 50 schools seemed to fare slightly better than the first 25. Eight of the 25 schools in the bottom Top 50 list became more selective this past year. No. 34-ranked Wisconsin Business School, for example, accepted only 24.0% of its applicants, down from 30.3% a year earlier. No. 40th-ranked UC-Davis reported an acceptance rate of 19.1%, down from 24.4% in 2011.

(See following page for acceptance rates of top business schools)

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  • CEO X

    U of M Ross sucks.

  • tesseract314

    I was admitted to 3 business schools that outranked Ross’ MBA program (f/t) in 2009 (and it is worth mentioning that, at the time of my matriculation, Ross was ranked by Business Week, IMHO the most honest of the large b-school listmakers, at 5th nationally for the MBA and 3rd or 2nd for the BBA); I chose Ross without hesitation. Having participated in numerous competitive, rigorous academic programs in my lifetime, Ross’s “total package” completely blew me away. There is something synergistic about the place: Ann Arbor, the greater University, the quality of the faculty…it is not something easily articulated with metrics, but the whole adds up to MUCH more than the sum of its parts. And the University of Michigan Ann Arbor is an academic powerhouse at the graduate level…not just for business education–in its entirety. Ross itself has gone through a massive amount of change in the past 10 years. First a renaming (coupled with a 9-figure donation), then some dramatic faculty changes, then the conclusion of Dean Dolan’s service and the beginning of Dr. David-Blake’s tenure at the helm, and ultimately a massive and costly re-branding as “Michigan Ross.” Just look at the quality of the applicant pool, and look at the top hiring companies. It shouldn’t take a statistician to figure out it is firmly placed among the most elite business schools in the United States.

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