The Top Business Schools: Who’s Hot? & Who’s Not!

Top 25 Admission Directors whose MBA programs had huge gains in applications last year. Sherry Wallace of UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School and Jim Holmen of Indiana's Kelley School of Business (upper left), Kelly Wilson of Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School (bottom left), Soojin Kwon of Michigan's Ross School (center), and Bruce DelMonico of Yale's School of Management (right)

Top 25 Admission Directors whose MBA programs had huge gains last year. Sherry Wallace of UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and Jim Holmen of Indiana’s Kelley School of Business (upper left), Kelly Wilson of Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School (bottom left), Soojin Kwon of Michigan’s Ross School (center), and Bruce DelMonico of Yale’s School of Management (right)

One of the best indicators of which business schools are on the move is a metric never examined in MBA rankings. It’s the increase or decrease in year-over-year applications to a school’s full-time MBA program.

That data is the closest you can get to votes in a political election. When applications soar, you can bet a school is doing something that is attracting more candidates to its MBA program. When applications fall, it could very well mean that a school is failing to gain the enthusiastic attention of that year’s applicant pool.

The latest winners? The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and Yale University’s School of Management. Ross knocked it out of the park, with a massive 31.3% gain in applications for the Class of 2017. So did Yale SOM, which only this week achieved its highest rank ever in eighth place on U.S. News’ list of the best MBA programs in the U.S. Applications to Yale jumped 25.1% in the 2014-2015 admissions cycle.


These are massive increases during a year in which the Top 25 business schools in the U.S. saw total MBA applications rise by only 2.7% to 84,884, up slightly from 82,638 a year earlier. In all, 16 of the Top 25 reported increases, though some (Columbia Business School) were as small as half a percent. Yet, there were several other schools that also saw applications soar. The Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill reported a 23.3% jump in MBA candidates, while Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business saw applications climb a healthy 20.3%.

And there were some fairly hefty declines as well. UCLA’s Anderson School of Management led in this department, with applications to its full-time MBA program falling 14.4% to 3,533 for an enrolled class of 372 first-year MBAs. MIT’s Sloan School of Management was next, reporting a 10.2% drop to 4,254 for the 400 seats in its incoming class.

In a so-so year, Michigan and Yale clearly stood out, driving down acceptance rates for the schools. At Ross, 3,207 candidates vied for 407 seats in the Class of 2017, up from only 2,443 a year earlier. That brought the school’s acceptance rate to 28.3%, down from an estimated high of 35.9% in the previous year. At Yale SOM, 3,449 applicants sought the school’s 326 seats, up from 2,756 in 2013-2014. Yale’s acceptance rate fell to 20.7%, from 23.7%.

The lowest acceptance rate for any elite MBA program once again belongs to Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. Thanks to a 7.4% increase in applications, the school was able to take a full percentage point off its year-earlier acceptance rate, taking in only 6.1% of applicants this past year. Harvard Business School had a 1.5% application bump, receiving 9,686 applications for 937 seats. The school admitted 1,033 applicants for an acceptance rate of 10.7%.