Acceptance Rates At Top 50 MBA Programs

getting in

Getting into a Top Ten MBA program in the U.S. last year was slightly harder than it was only a year earlier. An analysis of acceptance rates at leading business schools showed that Top Ten schools admitted just 15.6% of their applicants last year, the lowest level in at least four years. A year earlier, Top Ten schools accepted 16.4% of their applicant pools, while in 2012, they admitted 17.0% (see table below).

So while many business school deans view the two-year, full-time MBA market as mature and applications to those programs have fallen in recent years, the top-tier of the market remains as competitive as ever. In fact, applications to the Top 25 schools also were up by 2.5% to 84,879, at least the third consecutive year of increases. A year earlier, applications to the Top 25 MBA programs in the U.S. totaled 82,794, while they were 81,153 in 2013. Those increases drove the overall acceptance rate of the schools in the Top 25 down to 20.3% last year, from 20.7% a year earlier.

While numbers of the just-completed year are not yet in, some schools have reported healthy increases in the 2015-2016 academic, making another improved year likely. MIT’s Sloan School of Management leads the pack with a 35% jump in applications, followed by a 12% rise at UC-Berkeley’s Haas School, a 6% increase at Yale’s School of Management, and a 5% rise at Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

AT THE TOP OF THE ‘FROWN INDEX’ IS HARVARD, STANFORD & WHARTON

The bottom line: The most highly selective MBA programs remain extremely difficult to get into. That’s especially frustrating news for self-selecting applicants because admission officials concede that as much as 80% of their applicants are fully qualified to attend and successfully complete an MBA program. At the top of the most selective list remains Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, which turned down a remarkable 93.9% of the candidates who applied for admission. Stanford was able to lower its acceptance rate a full percentage point to just 6.1%. Harvard Business School was next, rejecting 89.3%, while UC-Berkeley’s Haas School turned away 87.0% of those who applied.

There’s another way to look at selectivity, of course, tracking the numbers of people who received “deny” letters from schools. Call it the “frown index.” Harvard leads all schools in dishing out the most disappointment due to the size of its applicant pool which was 9,686-strong last year. HBS put frowns on the faces of 8,653 applicants, followed by Stanford (7,414), Wharton (5,288), Columbia (4,781), MIT Sloan (3,631, and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management (3,413).

Hefty increases in applications at a number of schools helped to make them far a bit more selective in the past year. Among the Top 25 U.S. programs, Michigan’s Ross School reduced its acceptance rate the most, shaving off 7.6 percentage points to get to 28.3%. The Kenan-Flagler Business School brought its acceptance levels down five full percentage points to 33.8%, while Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business knocked 4.1 percentage points off its acceptance rate which fell to 43.4%, still the highest for any Top 25 business school. Indiana’s Kelly School (down 3.9 points), Yale (3.0 points), Kellogg (2.6 points), and Duke’s Fuqua School of Business ( 2.o points) all became slightly more difficult to get an “admit” from.

FIVE FACTORS THAT ARE MAKING IT HARDER TO GET IN

The biggest improvements in acceptance rates, however, came in the second half of the Top 50 U.S. MBA programs.  SMU’s Cox School dropped its acceptance rate by a whopping 12.9 percentage points to 35.9% from 49.0% a year earlier thanks to an increase in applications and better yield on its admits. Wisconsin Business School brought its acceptances down by 9.3 percentage points to just 20% from 29.3% as a result of a 69% jump in applications.

Dan Bauer, founder and CEO of The MBA Exchange, a leading MBa admissions consulting firm, sees five key factors to explain why it’s still so challenging to gain admission to a top program. For one thing, he notes, the supply of classroom seats is not expanding. “The number of top B-schools and the number of available seats at those schools remain relatively flat,” says Bauer. “If anything, we see the interest in second- and third-tier schools declining, which makes the top-tier programs even more compelling.”

Despite ever-escalating tuition bills, the return on investment for an MBA degree remains excellent. “Post-MBA hiring and compensation continue to grow, which encourages more applicants who want to capitalize on this opportunity as their golden ticket.

 

The Top Ten Business Schools

Data2015201420132012
Acceptance Rate15.6%16.4%16.2%17.0%
Applications52,38251,73552,35049,605
Admits8,1778,4708,3738,452
Enrolled5,2975,5895,5185,462

Source: P&Q analysis of publicly available data provided by schools to U.S. News

  • Randy Magallon

    Berkeley Haas acceptance rate dropped to 11.8% this year as the number of applicants surged to 4k plus. This is bad for me.
    Time for me to look at UCLA Anderson, Cornell Johnson, USC Marshall, Duke, Emory, UNC, the two Washinhtons and other second-tier schools with very high career prospects.

  • Duy N Pham

    sherwinwill : Really ? Don’t you see you are the only person here having this stupid trouble ?

  • sherwinwill

    your table has Stanford listed behind harvard. when Stanford’s acceptance rate is demonstrably lower..

    the title of your table says acceptance rates fall so the reader is expecting a table acceptance rates not a table of total applications (which is wierd)

  • That’s clear from the article and the accompanying tables.

  • sherwinwill

    weird that you don’t list by acceptance rate. Stanford is the toughest to get into by far

    Stanford 6.1 %
    Harvard 10.7%
    Hass 13%

  • PlainOldInterested

    That seems to match what I am hearing anecdotally from folks at the School. Seems to be considerable momentum and enthusiasm that merging the Business Schools together across all of Cornell University will bring together previously under-utilized and unseen resources to positive effect. We shall see but bears watching.

  • MBAPrepCoach

    I suspect that Yale’s ascension to the top is crowding out the old timers

  • MBAPrepCoach

    And getting into Haas is no small feat either. It’s not SV but Anderson is a decent back up with the entrepreneurship focus. I wish there were more reputable b-schools on my coast. Just to make us look better if nothing else.

  • The latest: Cornell just told me the school saw a 13% increase in apps for the 2015-2016 admissions season. So that is an important reversal of the trend.

  • Hope

    Now that Cornell (finally) has a new dean, hopefully things will turn around..Cornell has been sliding ever since outgoing dean Dutta took over.

  • BigRedReally

    2016 may be a better yr for Cornell….but Cornell is still having a lot of problems….John’s article is great in pointing out a program that is expanding at all costs and forsaking the full time program….

  • C

    Yep, dunno why P&Q didn’t put that as a footnote.

  • Not sure about Darden and NYU. But Cornell had some major changes in its admissions office that almost certainly had an impact. This story provides some context for the application drop at Cornell. http://poetsandquants.com/2016/01/30/cornell-paves-way-for-new-b-school/

  • Bilil

    the data is on a lag, latest reports indicate Cornell apps surged from bschool consolidation / increased marketing, etc

  • MBA21

    Complete conjecture, but I wonder if Cornell’s table of contents essay is leading to fewer applicants. It seems like most of Cornell’s peer schools are decreasing the amount of required essays and using similar prompts that applicants can modify for different schools. The table of contents essay is unique and likely not just a word document, which could turn off applicants unless Cornell is one of their top choice programs.

  • Orange 1

    Any ideas on why applications are down at Cornell over 8% and down at both Darden and NYU at 5%. Also, why the yield at Cornell and Darden is lower? Didn’t have time to crunch all the numbers but those two schools look like the only ones where both applications and yield are worse in 2015 than 2014.

  • Prospective MBA

    Was curious why the Kellogg class size dropped so much… after checking their website it looks like the 2014 size listed here (691) includes all Kellogg students (one year and two year MBA, MMM program, and JD/MBAs), whereas the 2015 class size (492) is just the two year MBA class size. The 2014 two year MBA class is actually 483

  • Thatsnotit

    Berkeley’s application pool is not broadly different from any other of the top 5. Percentage-wise it toggles between the second and most third selective historically largely because it is such a small school and because it’s a top 5 school in my opinion with the stats to show (applied, got in, deferred going to business school). This year it’s adding to its campus and slightly to its class size which in my opinion it should make even larger. Its small size contributes to its getting sometimes overlooked is how I see it, though that seems to be changing judging by surging application numbers. If you want to work in the Valley/tech/entrepreneurship you shouldn’t just be applying to Stanford which eclipses it often, but also Berkeley. And not everybody can get into the GSB – a lot of fine people get turned away judging by the numbers here. 🙂

  • 2cents

    It’s a class size game – just look at total applications. All great schools, but the size of the application pool seems to me more telling than the actual acceptance rate e.g., Harvard and Stanford clearly above the rest, though I’m somewhat surprised to see the divide between those two

  • Cam

    I don’t suppose schools record any stats on applicants versus admits do they? I wonder for example if schools like Berkeley have a high proportion of undergrads applying and thus contributing to the low acceptance rate meanwhile a Kellogg is predominantly already experienced professionals?

    The effect wouldn’t be large I imagine and I was just subjectively picking schools I would think the undergrads are more aware of how top tier their MBA program is versus otherwise. But still if that information was out there it would be cool to see.