Top B-Schools Much Less Selective

by John A. Byrne on

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%.

WISCONSIN, FLORIDA, OHIO STATE & ARIZONA STATE MORE SELECTIVE THAN MICHIGAN’S ROSS SCHOOL

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%).”

A PROXY FOR THE OVERALL HEALTH OF A BUSINESS SCHOOL’S MBA PROGRAM

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%.

BUCKING THE DOWNTREND: UCLA’S ANDERSON SCHOOL

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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  • theKomodo

    Wow! That’s a really high acceptance rate for Ross. I wonder whether the sudden discontinuation of the international loan program in the middle of 2012 application season was the sole reason for the lower selectivity.

  • Looking@Ross

    So the question I have is, as you mention, with what appears to be a deep applicant pool (high admission rate and consistent applicant pool profile) wouldn’t this indicate there there is a strong demand for the school among highly qualified applicants? Could be that there are less “lower tier applicants” applying to the school. Ross is among the larger class sizes as well, which could factor into this. Stats which would be interesting to see are Total Number of Applications (y-o-y comparison), Total Yield (y-o-y comparison), and if it was available the profile of the Applicant Pool at large as it compares to some of the other programs.

    As a potential Rosser, this does concern me somewhat, however, the consistent GMAT and GPA’s helps. From the students I have met, as well as the on-campus recruiting and employment reports, I do not believe the composition of the student body at Ross is being “watered down”.

  • @Ross

    If you attend Ross’ admitted student weekend (GBR), I assure you that you will not select any other school

  • RossMBA2014

    Wholeheartedly agree. GBR sold me on Ross last year

  • GenericUsername

    I attended an interview weekend at Ross a few months ago. It was quite discouraging when Soojin announced during the greeting that the incoming applicant pool would have about 40-50 less seats open than the previous year. Sadly, I wasn’t accepted to the program and this article leaves me wondering if I would have at least gotten on the wait list if I applied the year before.

  • JP

    If selectivity matters, people will choose Ohio State over Ross for their MBA. If there are 500 great applicants with 730 GMATS and 3.8 GPAs, Ross should take all of them. I doubt Ohio State, UCLA and some of those other “more selective” programs mentioned in your article are dealing with the kind of applicant pool Ross picks from.

  • Andrew

    There were many comments about racial issues at Ross on P&Q.

  • b-school guy

    It’s interesting if you look at yield – the number of applicants who received admission and accepted.

    School
    Admitted
    Enrolled
    Yield

    Harvard
    1029
    919
    89.3%

    Stanford
    474
    398
    84.0%

    Columbia
    1126
    741
    65.8%

    Wharton
    1283
    837
    65.2%

    MIT
    645
    413
    64.0%

    Booth
    929
    575
    61.9%

    Kellogg
    1127
    625
    55.5%

    Tuck
    510
    282
    55.3%

    NYU
    615
    322
    52.4%

    Haas
    461
    240
    52.1%

  • Yakov

    Wow, 40% selectivity at Ross. How can this happen. Only a few years ago, it was 25% with rising application numbers and what has led to these significant changes? What is their yield? I just heard from internationals that the lack of ‘no-cosigner loan’ has hurt Ross and internationals avoid Ross. The stats would have been worse if Ross had come clean before application cycle rather than R2.

    The standard adcom reply to declining applicant number is: We have a deep pool of high quality. What a strategy reversal, 3 years ago Ross announced class size expansion to 500 with grand fanfare. Now it is class reduction. What is next, Early Decision a la CBS?

  • Guest2

    Interesting. Also looked at the schools on the “tier” right below. Although Michigan has a high admissions rate, its Yield is closer to that of NYU, Hass, & slightly higher than Duke

    Ross
    990
    502
    50.7%

    Duke
    868
    432
    49.8%

    UVA
    657
    320
    48.7%

    Yale
    545
    249
    45.7%

    I think Yield says a lot about a program and how it compares to others in the same “Tier”. I would imagine that Duke, UVA, and Ross have a number of cross admits which are choosing from these schools.

  • MathWiz

    UCLA difference is -6%, listed at -4%. Something is off

  • Jon

    Good data, but these acceptance rates miss the self-selection that occurs for students applying to all of these programs. The time investment required to pull together application materials and write essays, the not-inconsequential application fee, and the fear of rejection that all applicants go through mean that a lot of people choose to not apply to schools they know they won’t get into. No one should think that it’s easier to get into Booth or Wharton than it is to get into Stern just because they have a lower acceptance rate.

    It’d be interesting to map these rates historically against rankings. I’d guess the correlation would be very low.

  • TruthaboutRoss

    Going to Ross is like going to a community college. Considering the less than stellar employment results compared to peer and especially lower ranked schools (UNC, Texas, Indiana) on the percentage employed, and this is coming from the recent graduating class of 2012 (with a 25.4% admit rate), I expect the graduating classes of 2013 and 2014 to be the demise of the program because they will have far worse employment stats, which is the number #1 factor that a B-school should be judged by – What kind of elite jobs your candidates get and what percentage of them do.

    I’ve heard that the Ross consulting numbers for MBB jobs are skewed and that many domestic students can’t get McKinsey/BCG/Bain jobs compared to international students. Many of them end up in not even second tier consulting such as LEK Oliver Wyman, but at third tier firms such as Accenture or PWC that tout IT strategy as true strategy/management consulting. Why go to an expensive business school for a firm that you don’t need an MBA for and one that doesn’t care if you go to a ranked school. Top M7 schools don’t have many if any that go to Accenture because their students can get real consulting jobs.

    The best way to judge how elite a B-school is to look at how many MBB sponsored classmates there are. The number tends to be high at schools in the M7 (especially HSW) and non-existent at schools like Ross. Who do you think will better prepare you for consulting cases? – classmates who didn’t get MBB jobs or ones who are sponsored because they are high achievers and have worked there longer than one summer internship and know exactly what their firm is looking for.

  • @Ross

    Responding to these insane claims (“2013/14 will be the demise of the Ross program”… lol) line by line is a very poor use of my time. I’ll just say that the vast majority of students at Ross were also admitted to Duke/Fuqua, and a pretty high percent were admitted to Kellogg as well (~40%, maybe?). So to think that the quality of the student base is lower at Ross than other similarly ranked schools is ridiculous. Additionally, preliminary data I’ve heard for 2013 internship recruiting is that McKinsey and BCG gave out more offers for non-internationals, although Bain may have given fewer.

    By the way, I’m curious why you have such vitriol for Ross.

  • Guest

    I don’t think you know anything about consulting. Getting an offer at a MBB does not make you a shoe-in at a “2nd” or GASP “3rd” tier consulting firm. As a matter of fact, many of the top consulting firms have very similar hiring standards and profiles for their consultant ranks. Just because you got a MBB offer doesn’t mean that Accenture of PWC will bend over backwards and give you an automatic offer. They’ll make you go through the exact same process as everyone else who is recruiting, and your outcome could be a ding cause you messed up one of the FIVE cases you need to do. The strategy shops at all these firms all have high standards, and yes, YOU NEED AN MBA from a TOP SCHOOL.

    Also, your anger against Ross makes one think that you got a nice little ding from them. Is that true and you are now bitter?

  • RossStudent

    As a current Ross Student, I agree with TruthaboutRoss. The administration seems to not take measure against the drop in ranking but instead Soojin told students (during a Q&A session last year) don’t focus too much on a particular ranking. I believe we as a current student have a right to put out our concerns and I truly don’t appreciate her reaction in this instance. Also, GBR tends to create a falsely positive image regarding the program. Again, this is my personal prospective only.

  • Yakov

    Soojin’s advice is the general response from adcoms to sliding ranking: don’t be obsessed with rankings. To be fair, Ross is addressing this challenge with a quick fix, the reduction in class size should lower acceptance. I think total application will stabilize. Ross is still popular in South America and India.

  • @Ross

    I’d love to know what you felt at GBR created a “falsely positive image”. Did you think every dinner was going to be at the Big House? I mean of course they wined and dined but I can’t remember hearing any aspects of the program’s content and culture that feel inauthentic having now experienced it

  • Scott2015

    Ross has the 5th largest class of any school. It expanded to serve more students a few years ago and it had negatively impacted them. I like where they are going and for how strong their program is. I was accepted to Haas, ucla, duke and Cornell and picked Ross above all. I’m excited to start there this fall. None of those other programs has the combination of curriculum, mtrek, MAP, fun, great friendly people and consulting recrutiing as Ross. serioosuly MAP is another internship. Ann arbor is an awesome college town. A ton of people do consulting; and for those that don’t there is amazon, google, proctor and gamble and many others that are top in their field. In fact, Ross has more top companies recruit there (with exception of finance) than all the other schools ranked 6-15.

  • M7BschoolAppplicant

    Only the bottom of barrel HWS people go to Accenture or PWC. Don’t tell me you know someone who works there that impressed you. That’s like telling me McDonalds is healthy and that Sarah Palin isn’t stupid.

  • Guest

    First, you need to come back to the real world. Secondly, are you 12? Serious question.

  • Guest2

    His name says it all. He’s not even in B-school yet. M7BschoolApplicant, good luck in all your endeavors.

  • Sangram Joshi

    Best IT Bachelor Programs in Bangalore, baccalaureate programs in india and, B-Schools in Bangalore and Top Business Schools in Bangalore.

  • Rosser

    I’m on MAP right now. Such an amazing business experience. It’s basically a free internship. Just incredible.

  • Meh

    Article is hilarious. Stanford went from 7.0% to 7.1%. Big jump lol

  • CEO X

    U of M Ross sucks.

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