Sneak Peek At HBS’ Class of 2016

Harvard Business School

Harvard Business School

The individual members of Harvard Business School’s newest class may be vastly different from one another but on a macro basis the students in HBS’ Class of 2016 are pretty much a mirror image of those who just completed their first year as MBAs. That’s the conclusion from an analysis of a preliminary profile of HBS’ latest group of admits disclosed June 2 in a blog post by Dee Leopold, managing director of MBA admissions.

“These numbers will change slightly — there will be some ‘summer melt’ and we hope to still be able to make a handful of waitlest offers,” she said.

The median GMAT for the class that will enter this fall is exactly what it was for the past three years: 730, with a range of 580 to 790. The average age of the class remained the same: 27. Some 41% of the admits will be women, 35% will be international, and 25% will be U.S. ethnic minorities–also exactly the same percentages as last year.

With just a few exceptions, the work backgrounds of the class are nearly identical to the Class of 2015, too. The only differences are a two-percentage-point increase in admits from the technology industry, to 13% from 11%, a three-percentage drop in students from the manufacturing and heavy industrial sectors, to 4% vs. 7%, and a two-percentage-point decline in admits from consumer products companies, to 5% from 7%. In every other case, the difference is little more than a single percentage point.

The boost in tech admits is thought to be related to the school’s efforts to boost its standing as a place for entrepreneurial students. “What’s interesting to me about the makeup of the 2016 HBS class is the increased diversity of students from non-traditional industries like high tech,” said Chioma Isiadinso, founder of EXPARTUS, an MBA admissions consulting firm, and a former member of HBS’ admissions committee. “The school has made significant investments to position itself as an MBA program with real roots in entrepreneurship. When I served on the admissions board at HBS in the early 2000s, there wasn’t as strong an emphasis on entrepreneurship as we are witnessing today.”


Despite a move to make it easier for prospective students to apply to Harvard’s MBA program, applications rose by only 2.4% this past year to 9,543 from 9,315 a year earlier. The difference of just 228 applicants is something of a surprise because admission consultants had predicted that Harvard’s decision to require only one “optional” essay would result in a more significant increase in the school’s applicant pool. The slight rise didn’t make much of a difference to the school’s acceptance rate which remained at 12%, the same as the preliminary number released last year. The school said it’s yield, the percentage of admits who are expected to enroll, was also unchanged at 90%.

Leopold said she expected the actual class size to approach 940. “Class will end up somewhere in the 930-939 range,” wrote Leopold. “But this is how things look today. These are the barebones stats we capture from applications. Our admits are polled later so we can add some more colorful information about them. Those responses are still coming in so we’ll post here again in a couple of weeks.”

Overall, HBS said that 72 countries would be represented in the Class of 2016, significantly more than the 60 nations in the Class of 2015. The admitted students gained their undergraduate degres from 141 different domestic universities and colleges (up from 126 last year) and 119 international universities. “As an HBS alumna, I think it’s really cool that the school is drawing from 260 universities worldwide to construct a class,” said Betsy Massar, founder of Master Admissions, a consulting firm for MBA applicants. “I know there is a lot of rumbling on chat boards about feeder schools (and even here at P&Q), but the reality is that 260 schools is pretty diverse. Certainly it goes well beyond the traditional Ivy League and Oxbridge schools. This number alone should be encouraging for students with off-the-beaten-track undergraduate experiences.”

Though international representation remained the same this year, admits from Asia were down two percentage points to 14% from 16%. Students from Africa, meantime, saw a two-percentage point increase to 3% from only 1% a year earlier.


While last year saw a significant preference for applicants with STEM backgrounds, the latest entering class has the same percentage at 39% of undergrads who majored in science, technology, engineering and math degrees. Students with educational training in the humanities and social sciences edged up to 19% of the class from 18% last year, while those with economics and business majors slipped to 42% from 43%.

Nonetheless, STEM’s representation remained strong for the second year in a row. Only two years ago, those admits represented only 34% of the entering class–five percentage points lower than the past two years.  “I expect that we’ll continue to see more students enrolling with STEM and high tech backgrounds,” added Isiadinso. “This isn’t all bad news for traditional applicants from usual suspect profiles like bankers, consultants, etc. There is still room for them at HBS, but the sweet spot remains the STEM story.”

Leopold said that she expects to launch the Class of 2017 application online on June 10th. “Until then, there simply isn’t a way to start an application online — so please don’t get frustrated,” she advised. “It won’t be long!”



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