Most Transparent MBA Admissons: Tuck, HBS, Ross & Fuqua

Harvard Business School's Baker Library at night

Harvard Business School’s Baker Library at night


Schools With The MOST Transparent MBA Admissions Policies


Rank & SchoolIndexDirector
   1. Dartmouth (Tuck School of Business)100.0Dawna Clarke
   2. Harvard Business School50.0Dee Leopold
   3. Michigan (Ross School of Business)27.8Soojin Kwon
   4. Duke (Fuqua School of Business)22.2Liz Riley Hargrove
   5. INSEAD11.1Pejay Belland
   5. Cornell (Johnson Graduate School of Management)11.1Judi Byers
   5. Chicago (Booth School of Business)11.1Kurt Ahlm
   5. Virginia (Darden School of Business)11.1Sara Neher
   5. North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler Business School)11.1Sherry Wallace

Source: P&Q survey of MBA admissions consultants


Although Stanford’s admissions office was rated as having the least transparent admissions practices, the school was tied for fifth for being best at knowing its applicants well. Stanford was tied with the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, MIT Sloan, and UC-Berkeley’s Haas School.

At least part of the reason for Stanford’s lowly rank on transparency could be the lack of publicly available communication with prospective students. MBA Admissions Director Derrick Bolton is the only admissions director of a major school to have tried and abandoned a blog to communicate with would-be applicants. The school actually shut down its admissions blog last October after failing to put up a single post for more than four months. The blog was started in August of 2007 by an admissions staffer, Rita Winkler, who made clear from the start that Bolton would be too busy to write posts for it. In fact, he rarely did, though one post on the fact that Stanford tries to interview between 959 and 1,200 applicants every admissions season lent the kind of insight and knowledge into the admissions process that applicants tend to clamor for.

But the reasons for Stanford’s overwhelming ding on transparency apparently result from things that are more significant than whether or not its admissions director blogs.  “For all of its supposed openness, it is an elitist institution that tends to recruit from a much narrower band of applicants than HBS, Wharton, Columbia, Booth, Kellogg, et al,” believes Adam Markus. “While I work with clients worldwide, I have tracked the Japanese pool of admits at Stanford very closely and the reality is that they regularly admit from a limited number of companies and industries. From what I have seen this applies worldwide. I think Stanford’s low transparency mark reflects admissions consultants awareness of the difference between the school’s rhetoric and reality and our frustration as well.”

Stanford’s poor showing also may partly result from its super high rejection rate. With an acceptance rate of only 7.1%–the lowest for any prestige MBA program in the world–the school routinely turns away 93 of every 100 applicants. “This low score for transparency aligns with Stanford’s single-digit acceptance rate,” believes Bauer. “That is, so many highly qualified, highly motivated applicants are denied admission each year that GSB’s admissions criteria can be perceived as vague or even baffling.”


Markus has some thoughts about the lower scores consultants give to both Columbia and Wharton as well, attributing CBS’ marks to its unusual early decision admissions policy and Wharton’s scores to the recent turnover of leadership in admissions  “I gave Columbia low transparency marks because Early Decision has been a way for them to game their acceptance rate data,” says Markus. “Early Decision applicants must pay a $6,000 non-refundable deposit, which surely increases Columbia’s yield and allows them to be more picky about Regular Decision applicants. I assume some of my colleagues probably concluded the same thing.”

As for Wharton’s showing, Markus adds, “I am also assuming that the total upheaval in Wharton’s admissions office over the last several years is responsible for its low transparency ranking, which is true enough but I am not really certain that it effects applicants as much as consultants. Wharton is certainly transparent enough when it comes to data. Sure it might be easier to get into the highly self-selecting Lauder program, but all that does is make Wharton look slightly easier to get into and may slightly improve its yield.”

Linda Abraham, founder of, says she is not overly impressed with the transparency of most business school admissions offices. “Some excel in some areas, like CBS with the waitlist managers,” she says. “Others invest in extensive advice on their sites such as Darden, HBS, and Ross, which contributes to transparency. Some have admissions staff conducting interviews, which tends to contribute to a more expensive for the school and more consistent process than if current students or recent alumni conduct the interviews.”

Schools With The LEAST Transparent MBA Admissions Policies


Rank & SchoolIndexDirector
   1. Stanford Graduate School of Business-100.0Derrick Bolton
   2. Columbia Business School-55.6Amanda Carlson
   3. Pennsylvania (Wharton School of Business)-33.3Mary Ellen Lamb
   3. UC-Berkeley (Haas School of Business)-33.3Stephanie Fujii

Source: P&Q survey of MBA admissions consultants

(See following page for participating MBA admissions consulting firms)