Harvard | Mr. Public Finance
GMAT 720, GPA 3.9
Harvard | Mr. Startup
GRE 327, GPA 3.35
Darden | Mr. Leading Petty Officer
GRE (MCAT) 501, GPA 4.0
Harvard | Ms. Almost Ballerina
GRE ..., GPA ...
Darden | Mr. Federal Consultant
GMAT 780, GPA 3.26
Stanford GSB | Mr. Rocket Scientist Lawyer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.65 Cumulative
Harvard | Mr. Polyglot
GMAT 740, GPA 3.65
Darden | Mr. Engineer Consultant
GMAT 730, GPA 3.47
Stanford GSB | Mr. Navy Officer
GMAT 770, GPA 4.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Systems Change
GMAT 730, GPA 4
Tuck | Mr. Consulting To Tech
GMAT 750, GPA 3.2
Harvard | Ms. Ambitious Hippie
GRE 329, GPA 3.9
Harvard | Mr. Milk Before Cereals
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3 (16/20 Portuguese scale)
Harvard | Mr. Sales To Consulting
GMAT 760, GPA 3.49
INSEAD | Ms. Hope & Goodwill
GMAT 740, GPA 3.5
INSEAD | Mr. Airline Captain
GMAT 740, GPA 3.8
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBB to PM
GRE 338, GPA 4.0
IU Kelley | Ms. Biracial Single Mommy
, GPA 2.5/3.67 Grad
Darden | Ms. Unicorn Healthcare Tech
GMAT 730, GPA 3.5
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBA Class of 2023
GMAT 725, GPA 3.5
Chicago Booth | Mr. Guy From Taiwan
GRE 326, GPA 3.3
Stanford GSB | Mr. Energy Reform
GMAT 700, GPA 3.14 of 4
Ross | Mr. Verbal Engineer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3
Ross | Ms. Packaging Manager
GMAT 730, GPA 3.47
Kellogg | Mr. Danish Raised, US Based
GMAT 710, GPA 10.6 out of 12
Wharton | Mr. Sr. Systems Engineer
GRE 1280, GPA 3.3
Chicago Booth | Mr. Semiconductor Guy
GMAT 730, GPA 3.3

The 50 Most Selective U.S. MBA Programs

A quick quiz: Which business school’s full-time MBA program is more selective? The University of Texas at Dallas or Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business? If you guessed the latter, you would be dead wrong. Surprisingly, UT’s business school accepts just 20.7% of its applicants versus Fuqua’s 23.7%.

Let’s try another one. Which business school is able to enroll a higher percentage of the applicants it accepts? Yale’s School of Management or Texas Tech’s Rawls School? If you went with the Lone Star state choice this time, you would be right. As shockingly as it seems, 57.7% of the applicants accepted into the Rawls School’s full-time MBA program enroll. At Yale, the number is 45.1%.

Who ever would have thought that the University of Wisconsin’s business school in Madison would enroll a higher percentage of its admits than only three other U.S. MBA programs: Harvard, Stanford, and Georgia Tech? Yet, it’s true. Wisconsin enrolls 75.6% of the applicants it accepts, not far behind Stanford’s 79.7%.

These are just a few of the contrarian surprises buried in an interesting table (below) on the most selective full-time MBA programs at U.S. business schools. It’s certainly a different way to look at the best schools–not by a ranking but by how selective each school is and then what percentage of the accepted applicants actually decide whether or not to take the school up on its offer of acceptance.

Even the top ten on this list is quite a surprise, with Texas Tech at number nine. Surprisingly, there are four Texas business schools in the top 20: Texas Tech, the University of Texas at Dallas, Texas A&M University, and finally what is generally regarded as the best MBA program in the state, the University of Texas at Austin at number 20.

One counter-intuitive conclusion: The best MBA programs are not always at schools with the lowest acceptance rates. There are a good number of highly ranked B-schools that fail to make the top 50 most selective list, notably Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business (with an acceptance rate of 42.5%). Yet, there are numerous schools that can afford to be a bit more selective even though they don’t have the repuation or quality of Indiana or Georgetown.

Another undeniable factor to consider when looking at the data: geography has an impact on the number of applications a school receives and, therefore, its acceptance rate. Schools in and around New York City and Boston as well as the state of California tend to be more selective because they are immediate draws for graduate students.


School Applicants Accepted % Accepted Enrolled Yield
1. Stanford7,2044886.8%38979.7%
2. Harvard9.5241,07111.2%90384.3%
3. Berkeley (Haas)3,62742211.6%24357.6%
4. MIT (Sloan)4,78262113.0%40164.6%
5. NYU (Stern)4,50159213.2%31453.0%
6. Columbia6,6661,02315.3%73972.2%
7. UPenn (Wharton)6,8321,14516.8%81771.4%
8. Yale2,96351217.3%23145.1%
9. Texas Tech (Rawls)2755218.9%3057.7%
10. Northwestern (Kellogg)5,5911,11219.9%64758.2%
11. Dartmouth (Tuck)2,52851420.3%28054.5%
12. Texas-Dallas4158620.7%6373.3%
13. USC (Marshall)1,98343622.0%21649.5%
14. Georgia Inst. of Tech43612222.0%9376.2%
15. Chicago (Booth)4,29995722.3%57960.5%
16. Texas A&M (Mays)53712222.7%6351.6%
17. Cornell (Johnson)2,00146923.4%27558.6%
18. Duke (Fuqua)3,50683123.7%44052.9%
19. UC-Davis44710723.9%5551.4%
20. Texas (McCombs)2,25954224.0%26148.2%
21. Michigan (Ross)2,72269125.4%48870.6%
22. Virginia (Darden)2,51566226.3%33951.2%
23. Florida (Hough)2637026.6%3651.4%
24. Ohio State (Fisher)78921327.0%12257.3%
25. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)1,54042327.5%20147.5%
26. Illinois-Urbana Champaign71919927.7%10351.7%
27. UC-Irvine (Merage)80222427.9%8337.1%
28. Boston Univ.1,38738828.0%16041.2%
29. Washington (Olin)1,52943728.6%14833.9%
30. UMass-Amherst (Isenberg)2547328.7%3649.3%
31. UCLA (Anderson)2,45971429.0%37152.0%
32. Arizona State (Carey)51015129.6%7952.3%
33. Minnesota (Carlson)45213730.3%7151.8%
34. Wisconsin-Madison51115630.5%11875.6%
35. Washington (Foster)77124131.3%11447.3%
36. Northeastern39115732.7%10365.6%
37. Boston College (Carroll)71923632.8%10644.9%
38. Notre Dame (Mendoza)88629233.0%13445.9%
39. Purdue (Krannert)77125633.2%10842.2%
40. Emory (Goizueta)1,03734533.3%13438.8%
41. Rochester (Simon)85028533.5%12242.8%
42. CUNY (Zicklin)37912833.8%6550.8%
43. Temple (Fox)2759634.9%5052.1%
44. SMU (Cox)56519835.0%12864.6%
45. Buffalo-SUNY42114935.4%9463.1%
46. Missouri (Trulaske)47116735.5%9959.3%
47. Rice (Jones)54419535.8%10955.9%
48. Vanderbilt (Owen)89432236.0%18657.8%
49. UNC (Kenan-Flagler)1,76463636.1%28745.1%
50. Penn State (Smeal)58721737.0%10749.3%

Notes: Applicants are the number of applications received by a school for what would be the Class of 2012; the estimated yield is based  on the number of enrolled students to accepted applicants. In some cases, however, there can be some deferred applicants who did not enroll. Harvard Business School, for example, says that its “yield”–the percentage of accepted applicants enrolled–tends to be around 91%. The table reports the number as 84.3%–still the highest of any school. The discrepancy could be caused by deferrals.


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.