Apps Up At Many Top Business Schools

On Harvard Business School's sprawling campus

On Harvard Business School’s sprawling campus

After UCLA’s Anderson School of Management revealed in late April that applications to its full-time MBA program jumped 32% for the 2013-2014 admissions cycle, many wondered if the impressive increase was something of a fluke.

The school attributed its unusually high year-over-year increase to a variety of factors, including a reduction of the number of essays and letters of recommendation required to apply as well as increased recruiting efforts that have led to deeper engagement by applicants.

In common with many other schools, Anderson cut in half the number of required essays and recommendation letters to one each from two a year earlier. “We did expect some increase by lowering barriers to entry but we didn’t expect the magnitude of increase,” says Rob Weiler, associate dean of the MBA program at Anderson. “The greatest percentage of it I would attribute to increased outreach on a lot of fronts.”

Now it turns out that many other schools are turning in some good news on the application front, too. At the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School applications rose a whopping 28%, largely fueled by a 44% boost in apps from international candidates. Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business reported a 23% increase. The University of Washington’s Foster School of Business is reporting the largest single increase of all: a 73.8% rise in applications.

Not every school, of course, had double-digit rises in their applicant pool. Harvard Business School just reported that its applications rose 2.4%, a somewhat disappointing increase in a year in which the school changed its admissions policies so that applicants could write only one “optional” essay.


Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business did better with a 9.6% rise, while the University of California’s Berkeley’s Haas School of Business had a 3.7% increase.

And some schools, including Yale School of Management, posted downturns. At Yale, applications to the MBA program fell 2.3%, even though the school opened the doors to a new impressive home for the school. At Darden, applications were essentially flat.

Many of the most highly selective business schools, including Stanford, Wharton, Columbia Business School, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and the University of Chicago’s Booth School, have yet to report numbers. The Wall Street Journal gathered some of the early numbers in an article published today (June 4) with the spin that the increases were largely the result of marketing efforts and not about rising demand for the MBA degree. Truth is, all the schools have been marketing for years–just like any other company, including The Wall Street Journal. You can’t create artificial demand for a product as expensive as an MBA.

With the majority of the schools not yet reporting numbers, it will take a month or two more for a fuller picture of the applicant pool to emerge. Still, the fact that a good number of schools were able to increase their application volumes after a generally strong admissions season last year bodes well for the business of business schools.

An Early Look At MBA Applications At Top Business Schools


School% Change2013-2014 Applications2012-2013 Applications
University of Washington (Foster)73.8%1,036596
Arizona State (Carey)44.1%480333
UCLA (Anderson)31.8%4,1163,124
University of Maryland (Smith)28.5%811631
UNC (Kenan-Flagler)28.1%1,9121,493
Georgetown (McDonough)23.1%1,7501,422
Indiana University (Kelley)20.3%1,2441,034
Rice University (Jones)19.4%763639
Washington University (Olin)17.5%1,6501,501
University of Minnesota (Carlson)11.7%631565
Southern California (Marshall)10.5%1,6581,501
University of Texas (McCombs)10.2%2,1501,951
Duke University (Fuqua)9.6%3,4533,150
New York University (Stern)6.2%3,8893,661
UC-Berkeley (Haas)3.7%3,5483,422
Harvard Business School2.4%9,5439,315
Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)-0.1%1,4101,411
University of Virginia (Darden)-0.32,7212,728
Yale School of Management-2.3%2,7612,825
Boston University-4.3%1,1251,175
Notre Dame (Mendoza)-4.3%708740
University of Michigan (Ross)-7.7%2,4432,647

Source: Business schools reporting to The Wall Street Journal
Note: Some schools are still receiving applications so the numbers are reported for application volume on the same date a year earlier for Tepper, Ross, Carlson, McCombs and Olin


  • The biggest increases seem to have happened at schools that are ranked between 20 and 35 on the US MBA rankings. Peculiarly, the top schools seem to all be clustered towards the bottom of this list too.

  • avivalasvegas

    Forget the M7. It ain’t happening anytime in the next decade.

    Fuqua, Darden etc. are all fighting for a spot in the Top 10. The problem for them is you have Tuck, Ross, Berkeley, Stern and Yale all fighting for those same 3 spots as well. Whether they can edge those schools out is the real question. Only then can toppling an M7 school become a reality.

  • Matt

    Thanks, John. I was trying to be ironic & passive aggressive, actually. 😉 I really don’t agree with Jessica’s insulting statements.

  • LogisticsEngineer

    Agreed. Breaking into a Top 10 is not easy, and it really takes someone going through the application process for real to find that out. It’s a combination of the hard stats and the ‘extra’ stuff you have, that have to be perfect, sprinkled in with a little bit of good luck, to break through. I’ve been applying to schools for the past two years and have found it to be an insane journey. The MBA application process is definitely not for the faint of heart and can take you on a roller coaster. As for myself, I will attend school no matter what this fall (have an admit at a Top 20), even though it isn’t settled where (still praying waiting on two waiting lists, 1 in the Top 5/10). One thing I’ve learned from the application process that’s applicable to life, is that things always happen for a reason, and it isn’t always going to work out the way you want it, but in the end, things will always work out just fine as long as you give it your best shot.

  • Matt

    Well, it has always been a consistent top 20 business school. I certainly call that good! I do agree, however, that the high admit rate looks pretty glaring when compared to peer schools.

  • JohnAByrne

    Because these numbers do NOT include online MBAs. They are ONLY for two-year, full-time on-campus MBA programs.

  • Matt

    Low quality? Are you serious?

  • Matt

    Then why didn’t Tepper’s apps go up?

  • Orange1

    Good post. Georgetown reminds me of Notre Dame in the respect that its undergrad business school is much higher ranked than the MBA program for schools that offer both. Splitting hairs? I think even the most ardent rankings zealots on this site will agree that the gaps are closing.

  • remond

    again, again, and again, I wish Yale get better admission and recruiting team to attract better students rather than focusing so much on the NUMBERS. It WILL NOT GET YOU ANYWHERE YALE. It is very very sad that such honorable name offer this low quality MBA program. very ashamed indeed.

  • start90

    as tech start ups surge in New York and the Bay Area, b school is driven by
    location, location, location
    Stanford GSB and Columbia Business School will dominate
    most people want to learn business where the action is

  • JohnAByrne

    I don’t believe these numbers include applications for the online degree programs. They are only for the two-year, full-time MBA programs.

  • Devin

    Is UNC any good? 44% admit rate

  • Jessica

    Yeah, Georgetown’s legit, but these are mostly online programs that are experiencing this great rise in applications (Arizona State, University of Maryland, UNC, and Indiana). Degrees from programs with an online option aren’t as prestigious as those without an online option because online programs don’t have the same rigor as brick and mortar programs and when you get a degree from a school with an online option it is ambiguous whether the degree awarded was from an online or brick and mortar program. It’s silly to highly rank schools with an online program when there are so many schools out there that exclusively offer rigorous programs.

  • JohnAByrne

    Thanks for that reply. It’s important for our readers to know that they can go to a school like Georgetown and it will open plenty of doors to high-paying and highly fulfilling jobs. And the Georgetown network is pretty powerful, too.


    Then again, I just spent 10 minutes of my summer internship crafting a website comments section response. So what do I know.


    Prompt response, beat me to it. Completely agree obviously!


    Current gtown MBA here. Would I love a top 10 ranking for my program one day? Yes, of course I would but I don’t think it’s happening any time soon. More importantly I don’t even think it’s a necessary goal to pursue. What new applicants should understand is that we are in a different MBA environment today. These “lesser” schools outside the top 10 can get you just about any job you desire. They all have the corporate relationships, alumni and brand to aid your career in whatever industry you’re pursuing.
    Do I think gtown is undervalued at it’s typical 20-25 rank? Again yes and I truly expect a slight uptick gradually. What you find as a student and working in the field is that we’re splitting hairs when comparing a cornell/ucla to a gtown/unc (among many other scenarios). This was my personal situation and I opted for the “underdog” based on fit and student feedback that validated my career related questions (I’m an IB summer associate). I can’t argue that a hsw won’t open more doors because there will be some. I likely would have chosen an M7 given the option. However, the gaps between all these schools are closing and it’s great to be the consumer privy to this transformation.
    Many great options out there so don’t let small differences in rank be the final determinant.

  • JohnAByrne

    Cracking the Top 10 is really hard. Though schools commonly go up and down, that’s less true at the top where most of the schools are pretty entrenched. But Georgetown has an ambitious and driven dean who is already improving the MBA program and making a difference. Also, while so many tend to be obsessed with the M7 or the Top 10, there are a lot of very good schools out there and that give you a solid MBA education, lifelong friends, and a highly valuable network that can endure a lifetime.

  • Interested in Gtown

    So John,
    Why do you believe that Georgetown bschool is ranked as it is and not higher at around 15-20?
    And 2 years from now after the article do you think a top 10 is still possible? The school is clearly on the upswing, but it seems that it’s always been the case without any clear materialization.

  • JohnAByrne

    Very true. Of course, it’s difficult to breakout GRE data by a test taker’s intention to go to business school. Also, because the test results are good for five years, there is some lag in there. You’ll recall that GMAT had a record number of test takers just before it introduced the integrated reasoning section. I suspect we’re seeing some of those applicants now. I do think it is unfair of the WSJ to assume that schools “inflated” their application numbers by aggressive marketing. Marketing and recruiting of the best and brightest has been going on for many years now. As for Foster’s huge jump, I think that is more a reflection of how poorly the school has done recruiting and marketing in the past than anything else.

  • John,

    Wouldn’t the GMAT volume data when combined with GREs sent to bschools say more about true demand for the MBA than application volume? Application volume says more about school popularity and how many applications are submitted per applicant than overall demand for the degree,

  • JohnAByrne

    Georgetown is a terrific business school. I visited there last year and left with a highly favorable impression. We’ve also written about the new dean and his plans for the school. See here:

  • JohnAByrne

    Totally agree. Visit a school, randomly pick out a dozen students and ask each of them the same questions. Within two hours, you’ll have the real skinny on a school. When someone is trying to spin you in person, it’s a lot easier to tell. And when someone is really leveling with you, it becomes very apparent.

  • JohnAByrne

    You’re absolutely right and I made the correction. I also attached a table that shows all the schools based on their percentages increases or decreases. The table is different than the one published by WSJ which has a number of incorrect percentages. For example: Carlson was reported to have a 37% increase in apps. Actually, it is 11.7%.

  • 2cents

    Duke would need the research triangle to boom more than it has. While the schools aren’t “regional”, there is academic rigor and strength attached to business schools and then there is the access that comes with it and the relationships built over decades with that business community. It’s the Tuck syndrome… Tuck is an incredible school (i.e. the caliber is easily on par with Kellogg or MIT), but because it’s not Bay Area/BOS/CHI/PHI/NY it gets a knock. Direct learning in business from a class setting does have some advantages after all (school year internships, networking, adjuncts, etc.). That said, being urban doesn’t necessarily make a school and not being directly next to the business world doesn’t necessarily break a school. I would give schools like Fuqua, UMich, Darden, NYU, Yale (particularly Yale if it can ever really ride its undergrad and laws school reputation up) long-man odds to unseat. Hell Haas Supposedly has done it over the last decade, though to me they still feel on the bubble looking in.

  • porpoise

    The M7 schools are not untouchable. Fuqua was ranked above some of them a few years ago. It only fell in the rankings when it increased its intake of students. Duke is a great brand name institution as well. It’s definitely not impossible for Fuqua to make the leap.

  • Ryan S.

    I visited Georgetown a few months ago – the students and community were infectious.

  • wsjdata

    John, any chance you can double check this?

  • wsjdata

    These blogs/forums referred to have first hand interactions between applicants, students and some times adcom. Granted, some posters are biased or have slander agendas so everything must be taken with a grain of salt. I’ve found it rather easy to filter thru factual accounts vs some of the garbage presented. On campus visit’s are definitely the way to go though. You’d be surprised how candid current students will be despite their own personal attachments to their school.

  • Sky

    I meant from a first person perspective. I don’t wanna see stupid admission stats and retarded holistic processes. I wanna hear the real deal. End of discussion

  • wsjdata

    Gmatclub calling all apps forum(s) has a good deal of info. Not sure where you’ve been looking but any reputable bschool website should have the details you’re looking for (P&Q’s profile page is a start).

  • jumping the gun

    Great for Duke, but let’s not get carried away here.

  • Jason

    I definitely know a few students who have. It’ll be difficult but not impossible.

  • Sky

    How was your experience at Georgetown. Can you tell us a little more about it. There’s not a lot spoken about it on the popular websites. But its one of the schools on my target list

  • Bob

    I assumed the increase was similar to UNC with international focus but interesting to see 27% growth from us pool.

  • wsjdata

    Underlying WSJ article shows georgetown up 24% year over year, rather than the 13% reported above. 13% was simply an increase in applications from those prospective students receiving personal calls vs. a control group that did not.

  • devils0508

    Doubtful. Applications are up, but I don’t know anyone who picked Duke over a M7 school. They don’t have “it” yet to convince M7 kids to choose them, and a new building won’t give them it. I think they’ll be a clear leader over ross/cornell/UVA and compete with Stern with the number 10 spot, but that’s about it. Plus, their admissions criteria is kind of whacky…they don’t seem to care about GMAT at all.

  • Manic

    Fuqua is absolutely massacring it on all counts. All they need now is a fancy new building and they will pose a legitimate threat to several M7 schools.

  • Farhad

    understandable the town of george !

  • kane85

    As a Georgetown alum, glad to see the administration’s branding push pay off. A lot to love with the current momentum!