Yield Rates: Schools That Land The MBA Students They Really Want


Business school rankings largely measure prestige. GMATs and GPAs suggest the caliber of classmates. Employment rates and starting salaries reflect the market appeal of graduates. Student and alumni surveys suggest strength of network and degree of delivery. Taken together, they paint a portrait of where applicants may encounter the best minds, resources and opportunities.

As with any big decision, applicants are looking to mitigate their risks and maximize their returns. That’s one reason why the elite MBA programs net the most candidates. Take the “Big Three” – Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton. Combined they attracted 24,816 full-time applications for the Class of 2017. Compare that to Columbia, Northwestern (Kellogg), Chicago (Booth), MIT (Sloan), NYU (Stern), and Dartmouth (Tuck) which collectively accounted for 24,785 submissions. How big is the perception gap between some schools? Just look at Stanford and Michigan (Ross). Each enrolled 407 students, but Ross received 4,692 fewer applications.

And perception is paramount here. The top schools don’t draw the most applications just because they offer the largest class sizes. MBA programs are brands, often defined by intangibles. And students want to be associated with what they represent. The volume of applications may reveal brand appeal. And the percentage of rejected applications may signal brand stature. To understand which school brands are the strongest, you should think conversion rate: How many candidates actually accept school offers?


This is called yield. And it’s the market’s stamp of approval on schools. Here’s how this people’s choice rubric works. Say School A sends out 500 acceptance letters and enrolls 100 students. The school’s yield rate would be 20% — meaning 400 admits either chose another program or decided not to go to business school at all. If the numbers were reversed and 400 candidates accepted their offer, the yield would be 80%. In short, yield acts like a sales funnel, depicting each MBA program’s ability to capitalize on opportunities.

Even more, yield is a gauge of a school’s desirability – namely that it is a first choice and not a fallback. A higher yield suggests a stronger deeper commitment (i.e. “stickiness”) from applicants to a particular school. No doubt, adcoms assume a certain percentage of rejections when they make offers. In the end, yield can be a sign of a school’s ability to “walk the talk”– particularly after prospects visit campus and interact with school personnel and students. It can also reveal salesmanship – admissions teams who thrive at targeting the right prospects and sealing the deal with them.


Typically, highly-ranked schools excel in yield. For one, their brands, deeply rooted in tradition and lore, convey exclusivity and excellence. They possess a long track record of producing insiders, influencers, and innovators. Over the years, they’ve mastered the fundamentals and established a cultural identity. Such a foundation creates a virtuous cycle where talent replenishes itself year-after-year.

This cycle is reinforced by deep financial backing.  In terms of endowment, Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, Sloan, Columbia, and Booth rank among the wealthiest business schools, with a collective $9 billion dollars between them. When it comes to scholarship funding, Harvard, Wharton, Booth, and Stanford top the list as well. Bottom line: This financing enables top schools to draw faculty, go after the highest ceiling candidates, and invest in the amenities and expertise needed to stay on par with competing programs.

And let’s not forget geography. East coast stalwarts, for example, can pull candidates from a 50-million person megalopolis stretching from Boston to Wilmington. And California and Great Lakes schools enjoy a similar population advantage. In other words, these schools can afford to be more choosey, since they have the talent pool to support them (with international outreach only deepening their advantage). More important, their locales place them in greater proximity to thought leaders, employers, and alumni to further fuel their momentum.

  • CavScout

    Let’s start with GMAT, which is usually the most heavily weighted potion of the application, then let’s go to GPA (2nd most weighted), and from there we can typically see a higher portion of graduates coming from more distinguished undergrads.

  • LOL

    lol good one. people who choose to enroll at CBS usually have not gotten into places HBS, Stanford and Wharton. on the other hand a huge number of HBS, Stanford and Wharton enrollees have also been accepted to CBS but of course they choose HSW over CBS.

  • Buddy

    What countless data points show that Wharton generally admits more competitive candidates than CBS?

  • NYC_in_16

    Yeah, but I would say more than half of accepted Columbia ED applicants would forfeit the deposit and withdraw if they got into H/S/W. It isn’t a legally binding contract.

  • Fetty

    “if you study the data carefully”. lol, you mean, if you take a quick glance at it and don’t analyze it at all, just get completely misled by the #s with no ability to interpret or contextualize them?

    As already shown, by this “careful study” you would think UC Davis and Penn State are better programs than CBS.

    Not to mention, it is well known that CBS and Duke’s yields can’t be compared to other schools’ because they have binding, deposit-required early decision rounds where the yield is virtually 100%. No other top 10 school does this.

    Publications like USN have 100’s of people whose job it is to “study the data carefully”, and they do a pretty effective job of getting to the truth in their rankings.

  • LDM

    This analysis is misleading for the following reasons:
    1. Early decision distorts yield rates greatly (CBS DUKE)
    2. Acceptance rate is not indicative of selectivity. Columbia may have a lower acceptance rate than Wharton but based on countless data points, Wharton generally admits more competitive candidiates. UCLA also has a lower acceptance rate than Kellogg and Booth. Does this make UCLA harder to get into? Hell no.

    One must not forget that difference pool of candidates apply to different schools. Some weaker candidates simply dont apply to Wharton Booth or Kellogg but not to UCLA.

  • ivy

    If u study the data carefully., its harder to get into CBS than wharton ( lower admit rate), and CBS higher yield than wharton ( more people choose to goto CBS)
    Wharton imaintians higher tank in the US news by the higher GMAT score
    I think in the longer run – CBS alums do better
    5 sentence correction questions on the GMAT aint going to make u a billionaire or CEO

  • Duke Alum

    729/3424 gives you a 21.3% acceptance rate for Fuqua. Not 23%.

  • scott@personalmbacoach.com

    It is interesting to look at the data and try to draw some conclusions. For instance, I regularly have conversations with applicants about what schools they have “the best chance of getting into.” While the quality of the application and applicant’s stats / professional background are the most important in determining whether s/he is successful, there are some schools where acceptance rates can really help or hurt you. One has to read all of this with a careful eye as there is nothing here about how many qualified applicants get rejected from these programs. Do more unqualified applicants apply for a higher ranked school than a lower ranked school? There are different schools of thought on that, which can drive some of this data.

  • gobigred

    Don’t forget SUNY – Ithaca

  • Pantra Morita

    It is different, go visit and see for yourself

  • Orange 1

    NYU Stern yield is possibly lower because they are a safety school for some people. And when those individuals get into Columbia or Booth, that is where they attend.

  • 2cents

    See below… Same argument, but for those committed DC and the SouthEast, plus better targeted scholarships to fence sitters.

  • 2cents

    Yeah… I never really bought that argument on early decision. Getting rid of Early Decision would shift this application pool to what would be a first round, which typically already favors strongest interest students, so yes you’d probably have a handful more of these kids rejected early, and would have to push up admits on the back end to “fill” the class, but maybe that’s a difference of 2-3%? Further, you can still walk away like any other program that has a relatively large deposits amounts (1-3K, I walked away from one for a program I wanted more).

    I’d strongly argue that the yield difference has more to do with those who are NYC committed and the difference in the Ivy League tag. Also I’m not sure how the January program effects that.

  • Fu qua

    Fuqua has an early decision round. If you apply early and are accepted, you are contractually obligated to matriculate. This boosts their yield. Same can be said for CBS.

  • Fookwa

    how in the hell did Duke Fuqua get 62% yield when it’s no different than most other top 15, non M7 schools

  • Orange 1

    Columbia/Stern is like Michigan/Michigan State and UCLA/USC. The first is always going to win. As I have posted before, Stern could get a $1 billion gift and hire all of Columbia’s faculty, yet would never get to their level. Business school rankings are self-perpetuating.

  • adam markus

    The following statement is completely wrong: “Biggest shocker: Columbia’s yield is 26.8% better than cross-town rival NYU Stern.” There is nothing shocking about this. You should have checked with John first as he could have told you that Columbia has a non-refundable Early Decision Policy that is unique amongst the Top 10. That alone has protected Columbia’s yield and makes it one of the highest amongst Top 10 Schools. As any admissions consultant (including this one) could tell you, CBS always beats Stern amongst clients. This would generally be true of these universities overall as well since Columbia is part of the Ivy League and NYU is not. Don’t get wrong, Stern is great school, but by ranking and reputation it has consistently lost to CBS. And CBS’ unique yield control policy (a $6000 non-refundable deposit) gives it an edge when yield is taken into consideration.

  • Itsomenie

    That makes sense. I had not considered carefully that admission into one of these quality but just sub M7 schools likely also means admission into 1 or more M7 schools which would deflate the Yields. I had just for some reason expected their yields to be higher. Cheers!

  • Lyric808

    Why’s that? If you’re good enough to gain admission to these schools then you’ve probably got a couple of M7 offers in hand as well.

  • Not Really

    Not really. They’re all just below M7, I wouldn’t expect them to have the same yield as the M7. These don’t seem far off their historicals either.

  • Itsomenie

    The Yields at Dartmouth Tuck, Yale SOM, and NYU Stern are VERY shocking and disturbing IMO. Cornell at about 50% is in line with its traditional take and so not all newsworthy…