Stanford GSB | Mr. Navy Officer
GMAT 770, GPA 4.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBB to PM
GRE 338, GPA 4.0
Chicago Booth | Mr. Semiconductor Guy
GMAT 730, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. Sales To Consulting
GMAT 760, GPA 3.49
Harvard | Mr. Polyglot
GMAT 740, GPA 3.65
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Enlisted Undergrad
GRE 315, GPA 3.75
Kellogg | Mr. Danish Raised, US Based
GMAT 710, GPA 10.6 out of 12
Darden | Ms. Unicorn Healthcare Tech
GMAT 730, GPA 3.5
Wharton | Mr. Sr. Systems Engineer
GRE 1280, GPA 3.3
Tuck | Mr. Consulting To Tech
GMAT 750, GPA 3.2
Stanford GSB | Mr. Rocket Scientist Lawyer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.65 Cumulative
Darden | Mr. Stock Up
GMAT 700, GPA 3.3
Stanford GSB | Mr. Classic Candidate
GMAT 760, GPA 3.9
Cambridge Judge Business School | Mr. Social Scientist
GRE 330, GPA 3.5
Darden | Mr. Federal Consultant
GMAT 780, GPA 3.26
INSEAD | Mr. Consulting Fin
GMAT 730, GPA 4.0
INSEAD | Ms. Hope & Goodwill
GMAT 740, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. Milk Before Cereals
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3 (16/20 Portuguese scale)
Chicago Booth | Mr. Guy From Taiwan
GRE 326, GPA 3.3
Darden | Mr. Leading Petty Officer
GRE (MCAT) 501, GPA 4.0
Columbia | Mr. NYC Native
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Tepper | Mr. Leadership Developement
GMAT 740, GPA 3.77
Harvard | Ms. Athlete Entrepreneur
GMAT 750, GPA 3.3
Darden | Mr. Education Consulting
GRE 326, GPA 3.58
Harvard | Ms. Ambitious Hippie
GRE 329, GPA 3.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Unrealistic Ambitions
GMAT 710, GPA 2.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Equal Opportunity
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0

The Most Selective MBA Programs

When you’re looking at metrics to compare the best business schools against each other, one of the best indicators of quality is the number of applicants a school accepts and rejects. After the average GMAT score, there are some observers who believe that the percentage of applicants accepted is the most important sign of quality for a school.

These numbers show that despite a slight decline in applications over the past year, it’s still extremely hard to get into a very good business school. Stanford, as it has for decades, leads the pack in selectivity. In putting together the Class of 2011, it accepted  a mere 6.5% of those who applied.

There are some very big surprises in this list of the best. Who would have thought, for example, that the University of California at Davis–a school that has never made it into a top 25 list–is more selective than many of the very best schools, such as Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. Davis accepts just 21% of its applicants, versus Fuqua’s 30.3%.

Other big surprises? The business schools at Texas A&M University and the University of Florida are more selective than the University of Chicago’s Booth School. Sure, the differences are miniscule–just fractions better than Chicago–but it’s completely counter intuitive given the quality of Chicago’s business school.

SchoolPercentage AcceptedAverage GMAT
1. Stanford6.5%726
2. Berkeley (Haas)11.0%718
3. Harvard12.2%719
4. MIT (Sloan)14.2%711
5. NYU (Stern)14.5%717
6. Columbia14.9%713
7. UPenn (Wharton)16.9%718
8. Yale18.0%715
9. Dartmouth (Tuck)18.8%712
10. Northwestern (Kellogg)19.5%706
11. California-Davis21.0%684
12. USC (Marshall)22.0%690
13. Cornell (Johnson)22.3%700
14. Texas A&M (Mays)22.7%652
15. Michigan (Ross)23.4%701
16. Texas-Austin (McCombs)23.4%681
17. Georgia Institute of Tech23.6%684
18. Florida (Hough)24.6%684
19. Chicago (Booth)24.8%714
20. UCLA (Anderson)25.0%711
21. Virginia (Darden)25.4%701
22. Connecticut26.0%621
23. Georgia (Terry)26.0%646
24. Arizona State (Carey)27.0%673
25. Calif.-Irvine (Merage)27.2%675

Data: Provided by schools for the Class of 2011

Why are there such discrepancies? The most common reason is location. A high percentage of applicants choose where to apply on the basis of where they want to live. That’s why the California schools do so well. It’s a highly desirable place to live and learn so it draws an exceptionally large pool of applicants. The same is true of New York, where the beneficiaries are New York University and Columbia University.

Another reason for some of the surprises has to do with self-selection. The average GMAT and GPA scores at the best schools are so high that they keep many applicants who aren’t quite in that league away. The result: fewer overall applicants. At the same time, some schools that rarely rank among the top 25 schools are heavily marketing their programs to get the highest possible number of applicants.

How do some of the best non-U.S. schools compare on these stats? London Business School, ranked number one among non-U.S. schools, compares favorably on this measure. Last year, LBS accepted just 17.6% of its applicants which would put it just behind The Wharton School and ahead of Yale’s School of Management. INSEAD does not reveal its selectivity number. In a recent interview with BusinessWeek, the admissions director for IE Business School in Spain, the fourth highest ranking school outside the U.S., accepts about 31% of those who apply to its full-time MBA program.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.