With applications to the Top 10 business schools slightly down last year, it was a wee bit easier to pass through the very fine screen to gain entry into an elite MBA program in the U.S. Acceptance rates at seven of the Top 10 schools inched higher last year, with the exception of Harvard Business School, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and UC-Berkeley’s Haas School.
The most selective business schools are still extremely tough to get into, a new analysis of admissions data by Poets&Quants shows. Stanford remains the most selective MBA program in the U.S., with an acceptance rate of just 7.1%, slightly above the 6.8% admit rate a year earlier. Harvard is next, having accepted 11.0% of its applicants last year, a tad below the 11.3% in 2013.
Another way to look at it: Stanford rejected 93 of every 100 applicants, while HBS turned away 89 of every 100 applicants. UC-Berkeley dinged 87 of every 100 candidates, and MIT passed on 86 out of every 100 who filed an application. When it comes to getting into a Top 10 school, there were 51,735 applicants trying to fill only 5,589 seats last year. Those are daunting odds for applicants who want to get into one of the prestige MBA programs, but they obviously include candidates who are applying to several of the same schools.
TOP 25 MBA PROGRAMS IN THE U.S. AS A WHOLE WERE HARDER TO GET INTO
In most cases, there were only minor changes in application volume and admit rates for the top MBA programs. The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, for example, posted an acceptance rate of 23.5% last year, up 2.5 percentage points from 21.0% a year earlier, while the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania reported an acceptance rate of 20.7%, two percentage points higher than the 18.7% in 2013. UC-Berkeley and MIT Sloan round out the most selective top five programs, with admit rates of 13.2% and 13.8%, respectively.
Interestingly, the Top 25 school numbers were slightly better, largely due to significant increases in applications at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. the University of Washington’s Foster School, Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, and Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business (see table on following page).
Overall, applications to the full-time MBA programs at the Top 25 schools increased 2.0% last year to 82,794 from 81,153 in 2013, driving down the acceptance rate to those MBA programs to 20.7%. In contrast, application volume at Top 10 schools slipped 1.8% to 51,735 from 52,350 a year earlier. That dip caused the admit rate for a Top 10 program to rise slightly to 16.4% from 16.2% in 2013, yet still below the 17.0% in 2012.
Given the slight dip in applications to Top Ten schools, the increases in apps at these schools was surprising. At Foster, a beneficiary of the growing Seattle economy, applications soared 72% to 1,025 last year from 596 a year earlier, allowing Foster to improve its acceptance rate to only 22.9% from 45.1% in 2013. At UCLA, MBA applications jumped 32% to a record 4,129 from 3,124 a year earlier, pushing Anderson’s acceptance rate down to 17.8% from 22.3%. Apps at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, meantime, rose 28% last year to 1,912 from from 1,494 a year earlier.
KENAN-FLAGLER IS ALSO UP ANOTHER 21% FOR THIS YEAR ON TOP OF A 28% RISE LAST YEAR
At Kenan-Flagler, moreover, the increase in application volume has continued into this new year. The school says that as of April 1, applications to its full-time MBA program are up another 21% for 2015 entry.
“While application increases from international applicants led the way, we witnessed across the board increases in domestic and international applicants, female and male applicants, and U.S. underrepresented minorities in each of the past two seasons,” says Sridhar Balasubramanian, associate dean for the full-time MBA program and MBA@UNC.
Apart from the general lift in full-time MBA applications across business schools, Balasubramanian attributes the sharp increase at Kenan-Flagler to a number of factors including the school’s strong career outcomes for graduates. They include the creation of new academic concentrations, including one in healthcare that has been popular with students across marketing, consulting, general management, finance and other functional areas, and a continued focus on leadership development.
There also has been more targeted outreach by admissions and alumni to students who fit UNC’s profile “not just in terms of academic credentials and test scores, but also in terms of career objectives and cultural fit” as well as what the associate dean calls “a more powerful articulation of the UNC Kenan-Flagler brand delivered across multiple channels with an emphasis on digital marketing and analytics.”
The Top 10 U.S. MBA Programs
Source: Poets&Quants analysis from publicly available data