Harvard MBA Applications Up 3.9%

Dillon House is where Harvard Business School makes all of its admission decisions.

Dillon House is where Harvard Business School makes all of its admission decisions.

Harvard Business School said today (May 17) that 9,315 applicants sought admission to the school during the 2012-2013 admissions cycle, a 3.9% increase from the previous year. The increase, occurring after HBS made major changes to its MBA application process, reverses two consecutive years of application declines.

In the 2011-2012 season, applications fell 4% to 8,963. Two years ago, applications to Harvard’s MBA program also had fallen by 4% to 9,331. The peak year for HBS applications was back in 2004 when the school received 10,382 applications.

This year’s increase came in an admissions cycle that saw the most significant changes to Harvard’s MBA admit policies since 2002 when the school required interviews for all admitted candidates. Dee Leopold, managing director of admissions and financial aid, cut in half the number of required essays for most applicants to Harvard’s full-time MBA program. Instead of requiring applicants to write four separate essays, for a total of 2,000 words, MBA candidates had to turn in just two essays, for a total of 800 words (see Behind Harvard’s Big Admission Changes).

The two questions that formed the basis of the new essays also were more direct and simple than the previous menu of questions. Harvard asked candidates to “tell us something you’ve done well” and to “tell us something you wish you had done better,” both in no more than 400 words.

The school also added a novel twist for MBA candidates who make the first cut and are invited to an interview with the school’s admissions staff. Those applicants were asked to write an additional “written reflection of the interview experience” within 24 hours of the interview. Harvard also moved up its round one deadline for applicants to the earliest date ever, Sept. 24.

Commenting on the increase, Sanford Kreisberg, an admissions consultant and founder of HBSGuru.com, said, “Could be that the essays are less, that Dee Leopold is more (inviting than most adcoms), that the shellac outer coating of the economy (where the applicants live) is pulsing bright once more, and that hey, people are tired of gloom and doom and just want to party.  That sure sounds like HBS.”

Leopold partly explained the move by saying that essays had become too large a part of the admissions process. “I’ve been saying that admissions is not an essay writing contest and that is where a lot of the anxiety (among applicants) is,” Leopold told Poets&Quants. “When we never met anyone, essays were the only way we had for applicants to get some form of personalization of the application. But since the Class of 2004, we’ve been interviewing all admitted applicants. The interviews are a big investment of our time, money and assessment energy, so I think it’s time to have a corresponding reduction in that initial (essay) hurdle.”

Initially, some applicants had been relieved to hear they had only two essays to write this year, explained Linda Abraham, founder and president of Accepted.com. “Others were frustrated because they felt they couldn’t really tell their story,” she said. “And sometimes the relief combined with a feeling of being cheated and overly constrained in the same individual.”

Whether Harvard will stay with its new application process for next year is anyone’e guess. The school is expected to announce its new application by the end of May.


Because the changes essentially lowered the initial burden of applying to Harvard, the school and admission consultants expected to see more HBS applicants. Harvard joins several other highly ranked schools in reporting applications increases, reversing several years of declines. While most business schools have yet to officially report their numbers, the largest single percentage increases so far are at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School, up 12.6%, and at Cornell University’s Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 10.12.11 AMJohnson Graduate School of Management. Applications to Johnson’s two-year MBA program have risen 12% following the school’s news to open a New York City campus. Several other schools have reported healthy increases. They include  the University of Virginia’s Darden School, up 11%, and the University of Chicago’s Booth School, up 10%.

As previously reported by Poets&Quants, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management had a 9% increase in applications for its two-year MBA program and a 30% rise for it’s one-year MBA program for students with undergraduate business degrees.

For many of the schools, the increases represent something of a rebound. The University of Michigan’s Ross School, which is reporting an 8% increase in MBA applications, saw its application volume fall by 16.8% a year ago. That drove up the school’s acceptance rate to an unusually high 40.6%, 8.4 points more than the  32.2% acceptance rate for the school in 2011. Columbia Business School, which saw applications fall 19% last year, says it is up 7% over the same time last year.

“Coupled with what we’re hearing from our peer schools, there seems to be a significant uptick of interest industry-wide,” said Christopher Cashman, a spokesman for Columbia.

The rising volume of applicants is not entirely unexpected because it follows an 11% increase in GMAT testing volume for the year-ended last June.


  • lol

    also, i have to lol at your bragging about a 45 in quant. you have to be trolling or are delusional.

  • lol

    wat. 72.5% hbs admits turned it down to go to booth? couldn’t you pick a more believable number?

  • CurrentMBA

    If you mean that Carlson had a higher % increase in apps than Ross than you would be right as they also had a higher % increase in apps than Harvard, Columbia, Booth and Kellogg. However if you are using this logic to say that Carlson is a better school than Ross, then you are absolutely crazy. It is a good school in its own right but it is not even in the same league as Ross let alone other schools that had a lower % increase in apps such as Harvard, Columbia, Booth or Kellogg.

  • wallstreetexpert

    no need for numbers, everyone knows booth is #1, all rankings say that. the question is for the second place, stanford or harvard? it is very very difficult to differentiate here.

  • wallstreetguru

    I’m a quant, I’m good at math since I’m kid and got a breakthrough 45 at Gmat Quant. I know what I talk about. If I talk about something I’m not going to bullshit people with emotional statements, I use numbers, and I rely on the work of the hundreds of scientists and experts who do research on MBA rankings here at Booth.

    You can be as sarcastic as you want, it does not matter. Booth is the best school in the world, everyone should know it.

  • Tyler

    Well if the scientists say so…

  • Renault


  • wallstreetguru

    Today, the order is H/S/B, everyone knows that. Experts and scientists claim that in 2 years it will be B/S/H. Booth is booming at an incredible rate, while H is declining totally.

    People who applied this year know that. They know that by the time they graduate Booth will be unarguably #1. No wonder why I heard that this year nearly 72.5% of HBS admits turned it down to join Booth, while Booth yield increased to a record 92.73%.
    How can you argue against numbers?

  • Renault

    Jesus Christ, how many accounts do you have?

  • Vikas

    As an international applicant, I was thinking of applying to Ross since they have a high admit rate and because McKinsey/BCG/Bain all recruit there. However, the racism and the declining state of the school as seen by the rankings as well as the no-cosigner loan issue makes the school no longer attractive. I believe the other schools such as UNC, Texas and Carnegie Mellon will be similar to Cornell and Duke at surpassing Ross in the near future. Although the top firms have not stopped recruiting at Ross, I believe they will likely be a regional school that supports mostly the automotive industry and nothing beyond that. And that industry is dying in the US as well.

  • Jason

    The new pecking order will like be H/S (WB) and the sweet sixteen schools with a national reputation will likely be only the Top 15 schools once Ross is eliminated or schools such as UNC, Texas, Tepper or USC take Ross’s place.

  • FuquaRossDardenJohnsonApplican

    Cornell is an Ivy League School with a small tight knit community. Ross says it is but from my experience visiting, the school is too big and full of cliques of domestic white students only hanging out together, domestic minorities, and internationals. The school is not as cohesive in culture as other schools where it was more common to see the segregation barriers broken down and everyone having a good time. Other schools students bond over their similarities as students while Rossers tend to only associate with their ethnic ghetto outside of class.

  • JohnsonApplicant

    I’m going to agree on this. Cornell has surged in apps in the past two years and its only getting more selective as the awareness for its immersion programs and collegial atmosphere increases.

  • DaveT

    Cornell and Duke were once peers of Ross, particularly Duke, but they now have completely surpassed Ross. They are no longer peer schools. Cornell was once behind Ross and now they are slightly ahead and definitely more diverse and less racist.

  • Orange`

    Dud, this is what I have been preaching forever. I follow blogs for college football and even that is not as bad as what people post here. Alabama vs. LSU is TAME compared to people who will argue: Chicago is better than Wharton, Ross is doomed, Cornell/Duke is one the way up past its peers, etc. If all these schools have similar GMATS/undergrad/professors who are from Harvard/Stanford/Wharton/fill in the blank, how could they be radically different in quality? Makes no sense.
    Unless someone must work on Goldman Sachs or McKinsey, any of the top 20 is going to get you where you want.

  • kee

    Frankly, the Booth people on this website have an ego problem. It is an amazing school, but there is no way somebody would give up H/S (and maybe W) for Booth. The only thing I see is that many HBS applicants apply to more b-schools now, Booth being one of them… Also, just because Booth comes out on top in one of the 4 or 5 most important MBA rankings doesn’t mean anything

  • Dud

    I think people that comment on this site should grow up. It doesn’t matter if booth is better than hbs or vice versa. All top tier schools are great.

  • RacismDestroysBschoolFun

    I bet Ross is appealing to KKK members on the basis that they should get additional leadership training

  • wallstreetguru

    Harvard is down. I calculated that at this rate, Booth acceptance rate will be below that of HBS in only 5 years. This is math, you can’t go against it. This ranking proves that Booth is THE best MBA now. I heard the new trend among elite insiders is now to say B/H/S, H/S/W is history.

  • MNisKing

    Minnesota Carlson >> Michigan Ross!!!

  • JennasDirtyMouth

    Ross still sucks more c*ck than Jenna Jameson!!

  • Samson

    HBS is the king!!!!