When it comes to full-time, two-year MBA programs, the conventional wisdom is that they are on the wane. Applications are dropping. Acceptance rates are increasing. And it’s generally thought that it’s a lot easier to get into the MBA program at a business school.
Forget it. That notion may apply to the vast majority of business schools. After all, there are now as many as 13,000 business schools in the world. But when it comes to the leading business schools–and not necessarily the very elite institutions–the data shows that it’s harder than ever to get into an MBA program that is ranked in the Top 50.
Truth is, today’s top applicants are running into lower odds of being accepted–almost without exception. Even more, many are arriving on campus with higher GMAT scores and undergraduate GPAs than their predecessors, better track records at work, and leaving higher paying and more prestigious jobs for the honor of getting into a full-time program at a highly ranked school.
SCHOOLS GROWING MORE SELECTIVE AS THEY EXPECT MORE FROM CANDIDATES
Take Harvard Business School. In 2005, Harvard Business School accepted 15.7% of students looking to join the Class of 2005. Their average GMAT was 707, with their average undergraduate GPA coming in at 3.64. Fast forward to 2014 and HBS’ acceptance rate had fallen to 11.0%. Just 1,053 of 9,543 applicants were accepted by the school. Even more, the average GMAT had risen 19 points to 726 (though the average GPA had only crept up .03 to 3.67). To put it another way, HBS’ Class of 2007’s 707 GMAT is roughly equivalent to the 706 average produced by Class of 2016 at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.
Indeed, the top MBA programs have become a more exclusive club than ever. And the expectations for applicants are higher than ever. How high? Consider this: Among the schools ranked in Poets&Quants’ most recent Top 10, nine had lower acceptance rates in 2014 than 2005 (though this rate does not account for yield). For example, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business’ acceptance rate has plummeted from 45.6% in 2005 to 25.1% in 2014. That makes Fuqua nearly twice as difficult to get into over the past 10 years. Similarly, the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business (23.1% to 13.2%) and MIT’s Sloan School of Management (22.0% to 13.8%) also significantly tightened their acceptance rates over the past ten years.
In fact, the only Top 10 program whose acceptance rate grew more generous during this timeframe was Columbia Business School (15.0% to 18.2%). But getting into Columbia is anything but a cakewalk. For starters, Columbia is only one of seven schools with an acceptance rate under 20%. Even more, its average GMATs have climbed ten points in the past decade (from 706 to 716). And its average undergraduate GPA is up well (3.4 to 3.5). In other words, Columbia has been drawing higher caliber students to campus over the past decade, which offsets any slack on its acceptance rate.