The B-School Class of 2015: By The Numbers

by John A. Byrne on

A portrait of the incoming class of MBA students

A portrait of the incoming class of MBA students

This year’s incoming class at the Top 10 MBA programs in the U.S. is an extraordinary bunch, arguably one of the most talented and skilled classes of MBA students to ever enter business school.

For one thing, nine out of the ten reported an increase in MBA applications, allowing most of them to be even more selective than usual. The only school where that wasn’t so was the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, where applications fell by 5.8% to 6,036 from 6,408 a year earlier.

For another, GMAT averages for the Class of 2015 also rose at nine of the ten schools, reaching record levels at several MBA programs. The historical GMAT leader, Stanford Graduate School of Business, is reporting a record 732 average GMAT this year, up from 729 last year. The only school to report a decline: UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business where the average fell by just one point to 714 this year from 715 last year.

WHARTON AND KELLOGG REPORT HIGHEST GMAT INCREASES IN TOP TEN

Wharton and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business scored the largest single increases in GMAT averages: Despite its fall in applications, Wharton hit a record 725, higher than any school other than Stanford or Harvard. Kellogg, meantime, reported a record average of 715. At both Wharton and Kellogg, the mean GMAT bumped up seven full points in a single year from 718 at Wharton and 708 at Kellogg.

Undergraduate grade point averages–already high–remained pretty stable with some noteworthy exceptions. At Stanford, average GPA crept higher to an astounding 3.73, highest for any U.S. business school and up from 3.69 last year. At Chicago Booth, GPA eked up to 3.57 this year, from 3.52 a year earlier. Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business reported a tiny increase to 3.50 from 3.49. In general, though, undergraduate grade averages were exactly the same year-over-year: A 3.67 at Harvard, a 3.50 at Columbia, a 3.61 at UC-Berkeley Haas, and a 3.40 at Duke University’s Fuqua School.

Most admissions officials and deans say the applicant pool is among the best they have ever seen. “The quality of the pool is just stronger,” says Stacey R. Kole, deputy dean of the full-time MBA program at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. “We saw a bump in our average GPA and that is just reflective of the stronger pool we’re seeing. We hit a 730 median GMAT this year, the 96th percentile. There are very few people under 680 these days. When I got here ten years ago, the average GMAT was 695. It’s a record this year at 723. And it’s not like we just shimmied under the bar on GMAT.” Indeed, Chicago Booth’s 730 median is now equal to Harvard Business School for the first time in the school’s history.

 AT STANFORD & BERKELEY, 15% OF THE INCOMING MBA STUDENTS ALREADY HAVE ADVANCED DEGREES

No matter how you parse the class profile numbers on the Top Ten this years, it’s simply damn impressive. At Stanford and Berkeley, 15% of the incoming class already boasts advanced degrees. At the Tuck School, that is true of 16% of the Class of 2015. With only two exceptions–Harvard and Stanford–the incoming classes have at least five full years of work experience under their belts. At Stanford, the average is lowest: 4 years. At Duke, it’s highest: 5.5 years.

All told, Poets&Quants’ Top Ten schools received 51,196 applications, up 4.2% from the 49,125 they got a year earlier. The MBA programs that report higher than the overall percentage increase are Chicago (9.9%), Kellogg (8.3%), MIT Sloan (7.5%), Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business (7.0%), Columbia Business School (6.6%), and Stanford (5.8%). Columbia also reversed a 21% plunge in MBA applications in 2011-2012 by posting a 6.6% increase this past year..Those increases helped fuel two other trends this year: many schools enrolled larger classes of MBA students and many schools reported slightly lower acceptance rates.

Only 18.1% of Columbia Business School’s 5,765 applicants were admitted to the Class of 2015 versus the school’s 20.8% acceptance rate a year earlierAt Harvard, incoming students increased to 932, from 913 last year; at Stanford, the 406 students in the Class of 2015 is the largest class ever enrolled; at Chicago Booth, the incoming class numbers 581, up from 575 a year ago. As for selectivity, Stanford’s acceptance rate fell to 6.8% from 7.1% last year.

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  • P&QJokes

    This top 10 list is weird…

  • LS

    John – didn’t Kellogg have a 12.9% increase in number of applications? This is not reflected in the table. The table says Kellogg merely had a 1.1% increase.

  • JohnAByrne

    Actually, we reported on Poets&Quants that applications to the full-time program at Kellogg were up about 9%. This is what we were told by the school back in May. But when we checked in again for the figures, the numbers in the table were confirmed by the school. We’ve been going back and forth with Kellogg for days now trying to get to the bottom of this.

  • JohnAByrne

    Thanks for noticing. We corrected the table. The problem is that many schools don’t make this all that easy to find and then some are more transparent than others. Columbia actually did a very good job of posting all the relevant info. I missed the data that would allow me to do the acceptance rate. It’s corrected now.

    As for the increase in apps and why we didn’t do a separate story, here’s what I think. A double-digit decrease or a double-digit increase at a top school seems to warrant a separate story. That’s why I wrote about the 19% plunge last year and am covering the 6.6% rise in a more comprehensive story about the top schools this year. But your question is a good one and I think it is worth a special mention in this story at the very least. So I did add a paragraph on it.

  • JohnAByrne

    The latest update from Kellogg. The school is now reporting that applications to its two-year MBA and MMM programs were up 8.3% this past year to 4,964 from 4,583 a year earlier. This change is now reflected in the table above. We had earlier been told by Kellogg that the increase was only 1.1% but the communications person who relayed that information was wrong. So the 8.3% rise is more in line with the 9% the school reported in May before its round three deadline closed out.

  • ?

    Why are they combining programs for this statistic? It seems like you are comparing apples to oranges in this case. What is the YoY chg. for its two-year MBA program alone? Could that be the 1.1% increase? Maybe I’m missing something. Thanks.

  • FStratford

    The undergrad background speaks volumes: MIT is the STEM school, Harvard, Booth, Kelogg Tuck, Haas and Duke are Biz Schools, and Stanford, Wharton and Columbia are Humanities schools…

    Everyone else have STEM as a second’ish choice, but MIT likes them a lot.

  • Guest

    John, thanks for great data analysis as usual. Isn’t absolute application volume more telling than the YoY growth? Booth shows a strong growth in apps, but in absolute terms the ranking is: H, S, W, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth. ROIs and GMATs aside, this shows where the people really try to get into.

  • john’s mother

    There is incorrect and inaccurate information due to a lack of proper care and lack of proof reading.

  • john’s mother

    John camels

  • john’s mother

    John grinds camels

  • john’s mother

    John goes deep into insanity

  • MBASeeker

    John,
    Thank you for all of this useful info and all the work you do. Will this information also be provided for the schools in the 10 to 20 rank positions? Thx

  • jac2016mba

    The “Portrait of Class of 2015 – Undergraduate Backgrounds” looks weird for Harvard Stanford. The differences for the two schools for Econ/Biz and Humanities/Social Science are huge. I wonder if it’s a categorization thing and they are actually much closer? e.g. maybe the econ people for stanford are classified under humanities/social science.

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