The Class Of 2016 By The Numbers

Virginia Darden's Incoming MBA Class

Virginia Darden’s Incoming MBA Class

You know the drill. You show up on campus for the big hug from the dean and his admissions director-and you’re told how lucky and exceptional you are to be in this year’s incoming class. The dean’s script typically includes talk of how accomplished everyone is, both in and out of the classroom, and how remarkably diverse they are in their backgrounds, talents and perspectives.

Truth is, it’s absolutely true. This year’s incoming crop of MBA students at the top business schools are an extraordinary bunch: More international. More female. With generally higher GMAT scores and grade point averages. And the diversity of the class in terms of backgrounds is nearly mind-boggling.

The incoming MBAs at the University of Virginia’s Darden School include several professional athletes, including a former National Football League player. They also have a herpetologist–which is apparently someone who studies reptiles and amphibians.


Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business boasts a student who had a dog live to be 20 years old, one who is a certified skipper and has sailed across the world, another who has attempted to complete every New York Times crossword since March of 2008 and one who claims to be the inspiration for a video game character.

Ironically, the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina accepted the man behind the costume of Duke’s Blue Devil mascot. Additionally, they have a student who coached the Ugandan national lacrosse team, a member of the Turkey Ultimate Frisbee National Championship team, someone who trained astronauts on space shuttle evacuation procedures, an amateur gold prospector from Western Australia and a former volcano boarding tour guide from Nicaragua. Whatever that is.

Among the newbie MBA students at Goizueta Business School at Emory University there’s class a former para-ski instructor, someone who was ranked 29th in the world in the Madden 2010 video game (apparently there are more than 500,000 ranked players) and the subject of a 1999 Vietnamese documentary.

Of this year’s 936 incoming MBA students at Harvard Business School, 8% completed a triathlon, 17% played a varsity sport in college, 40% worked outside their home country, and 30% know a programming language. There’s also some startup blood in those HBS veins: 152 members of the class, 16%, have already founded a business, while 236, or one in four, have worked for a startup. A couple of other quirky tidbits: One in four has a blog or a Twitter account, while 11% are the first in their families to go to college.

You get the picture. Business schools are drawing an exceptionally diverse group of young professionals, far beyond the more typical consultants and investment bankers who often make up the largest single student populations. The early numbers for this year’s incoming class from 13 of the top 25 schools demonstrate that the Class of 2016 is perhaps the most unique class in terms of background and skills to go for an MBA.


The quality of students–at least judged by their raw scores–also increased for the 13 schools responding to Poets&Quants’ queries on the Class of 2016. GMAT scores at several schools hit record levels and averaged out at 704, an increase from the 699 for the same schools last year. Average undergraduate GPAs also inched higher by .02 points to an impressive 3.46.

But the biggest gains at many schools had to do with the international flavor of the class. Eight of the 13 reporting schools are reporting an increase in international students, including many with big-time gains. Emory’s Goizueta School increased its global student representation by 20 percentage points to 43% this year from just 23% in 2013. Other MBA programs reporting significant increases are  North Carolina, Georgetown and Berkeley, with upticks of eight, seven, and six percentage points, respectively.

Of the 13 schools that have crunched the numbers on their incoming classes, Berkeley and Emory have the largest percentage of international students at 43% each. Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business and Columbia Business School follow closely with 41%. As previously reported, Georgetown says the larger international influence comes from more applicants and more recruiting efforts into other countries, specifically India. Emory’s large leap in international students was the result of a sizable increase in applicants that also led to a 26% increase in class size.