Apps Up At Many Top Business Schools

by John A. Byrne on

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 % Change 2013-2014 Applications 2012-2013 Applications
University of Washington (Foster) 73.8% 1,036 596
Arizona State (Carey) 44.1% 480 333
UCLA (Anderson) 31.8% 4,116 3,124
University of Maryland (Smith) 28.5% 811 631
UNC (Kenan-Flagler) 28.1% 1,912 1,493
Georgetown (McDonough) 23.1% 1,750 1,422
Indiana University (Kelley) 20.3% 1,244 1,034
Rice University (Jones) 19.4% 763 639
Washington University (Olin) 17.5% 1,650 1,501
University of Minnesota (Carlson) 11.7% 631 565
Southern California (Marshall) 10.5% 1,658 1,501
University of Texas (McCombs) 10.2% 2,150 1,951
Duke University (Fuqua) 9.6% 3,453 3,150
New York University (Stern) 6.2% 3,889 3,661
UC-Berkeley (Haas) 3.7% 3,548 3,422
Harvard Business School 2.4% 9,543 9,315
Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) -0.1% 1,410 1,411
University of Virginia (Darden) -0.3 2,721 2,728
Yale School of Management -2.3% 2,761 2,825
Boston University -4.3% 1,125 1,175
Notre Dame (Mendoza) -4.3% 708 740
University of Michigan (Ross) -7.7% 2,443 2,647

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


  • GyanOne

    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.

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