Acceptance Rates At The Top 50 U.S. Business Schools

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

Image 4 - Kenan-Flagler GraduationYou’ve probably read that applications to MBA programs have been trending down in recent years. So you might think it’s slightly easier to get into a ranked business school.

Forget it.

A new analysis of application volume and acceptance rates at the top 50 U.S. business schools shows that at the vast majority of MBA programs, applications are up and acceptance rates are predictably down. This past year it was tougher to get into a highly ranked business school than it was the year before.


In fact, the more ambitious your target schools were, the more likely it was that you faced more competition than you would have if you applied in 2012. Eight of the top ten schools were harder to get into in 2013 than in 2012. The only Top 10 exceptions–and the increase in the acceptance rate for these two exceptions was so small as to be inconsequential–were Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business and UC-Berkeley’s Haas School. At Tuck, the admit rate climbed ever so slightly to 20.8% from 20.4%, while at Haas, the acceptance rate inched higher to 14.3% from 13.8%.

At the University of Chicago’s Booth School, MIT Sloan, and Columbia Business School, acceptance rates fell significantly. Booth went to 21.0%, from 23.0%; MIT to 13.1%, from 15.6%, and Columbia to 18.1% from 20.8%.

Some of the biggest changes, however, occurred outside the Top 10. The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, for example, saw its acceptance rate fall to 33.7% from 40.6% in 2012. The latter number was something of an aberration for Ross caused when the school decided to shut down its co-signer loan program for international students. Ross decided to admit more candidates to offset the expected decline in offers from prospective students who decided not to go to Michigan because of the loan issue.

The schools with the lowest acceptance rates? Stanford, where 93 out of every 100 applicants gets dinged; Harvard, which turns down 89 of every 100 candidates; MIT Sloan, which rejects 87 of every 100; Berkeley, which says ‘no’ to 86 out of 100 candidates; NYU Stern, which turns away 84 of every 100, and Columbia Business School, which passed on 82 out of every 100 prospects. The trend is obvious: MBA candidates love to study on the West or the East Coasts, in the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, or New York City. It doesn’t hurt that all these schools are among the very best in the world.


All told, 30 of the Top 50 schools reported lower admit rates, while 20 had increases, generally just a fraction or two above what they had reported in 2012. There was no major falloff at any of the Top 50 schools–at least not discernible by examining year-over-year data.

When it came to application volume, the same story held true. The vast majority of Top 50 schools–33 full-time MBA programs–reported receiving more applications in 2013 than they had in 2012. Generally, the highest ranked schools did better. Nine out of the Top 10 MBA programs reported application increases, with the only exception being Duke University’s Fuqua School. But even at Duke the decrease was inconsequential: 3,150 applications in 2013 versus 3,161 applications in 2012–a difference of only 11 applicants.

The more highly ranked MBA programs also reported the largest single increases: Chicago Booth was up 10.6% in a single year, Northwestern Kellogg was up 9.9%, while MIT Sloan saw a 9.6% jump in applications.

The data reveals another fact that may be surprising to some: many of the top 50 full-time MBA programs are quite small, with annual intakes that number less than 100 students. Some 14 of the top 50 welcome entering classes that are fewer than 100 students. The smallest: 38 incoming students at the University of Florida’s Hough School of Business and just 49 at the University of Georgia.

(See the following page for acceptance rates, application volume, admit and enrolled data for the top 50 U.S. business schools)

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Air Time - Comments
  • Ferdinand

    Would be nice to see the admission rates for PhD programs.

  • Monica Lieberman

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  • Int’ admit

    I believe yield is something that can be worked on by increasing the weight how much the applicant is interested on the school (essays & interview). That is, Booth and Kellogg will admit a great applicant that hasn’t put too much effort in their application because he was focusing HBS/Stanford but they know not everyone gets in. This approach increases quality of student body but decreases yield. In my opinion that is a trade that makes sense.

  • Consultant

    Jesus Christ man, it underrated because its student body (and hence its network) is worse than the M7 or other top15 schools. Being a top 15-20 school, it is a safety school for all schools higher ranked, not only HBS and Stanford.

  • mcintiregrad09

    I’m also curious. I went to visit the campus and this year’s job placement looked extremely strong as well. If Cornell Johnson focused only on high GMAT scores like Stern does, it would rise in rankings for sure. But I had a candid conversation with the Dean of Admissions and she said that the school really values the overall package of individuals and not just focused on high GMATs.

  • Herrimea

    I guess you went to a PhD program?! drink a lot of water to keep hydrated>>

  • MM

    Unfortunately, these are the traits that most corporations reward – it’s not only banking and consulting – and b-schools just select people who will be successful in these environments.
    Just out of curiosity – why did you do an MBA, and did your expectations clash with reality? Do you think it was a waste of time?

  • Lucas001

    Business schools need to be more academic in focus. Full-time programs tend to attract loud, shallow, self-promotional types that are incapable of introspection. If you look at the type of student who goes to and succeeds in law school or medical school- you will see a lot more academically-studious, hard-working and intellectual student. I went to ivies for undergrad and grad, and the difference between law and b-school students was vast. That said, some b-school people have fun personalities, like the CBS follies kids, but most are rather insufferable (disclosure: I have a so-called top MBA and graduated in 2012, still enjoy the site and Mr. Byrne’s writing).

  • SelfSelect

    Pretty much what It’sRealSimple said regarding Georgetown. Admit rate is high but it is a self selective group of applicants. -Usually they apply to Ivies/Chicago/NYU and then Georgetown as a backup. Though admission rate is higher, the GMAT and GPA is comparable to other top 15-20 schools. Georgetown is also in the trendiest part of a growing and prosperous capital city – attracting highly ambitious, cosmopolitan and smart(but just not smart enough for Ivies). That body of student is worth a second look.

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