ASU CAREY & MIT SLOAN POSTED THE LOWEST ACCEPTANCE RATES EVER
On the other hand, if you want to know who’s hot, look no farther than ASU’s Carey School or MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Thanks to a decision to offer full-tuition scholarships to every admit, Carey saw its applications balloon by 161.6% last year to 1,159 from 443 a year earlier. That allowed the school to bring down its acceptance rate to a mere 14.3%, roughly on par with Columbia Business School.
By making it easier to apply and adding a third application round, MIT Sloan saw an impressive 34.2% increase in applications to its full-time MBA program. “Adding a third round opened up MIT Sloan to many applicants who wouldn’t have submitted earlier and clearly had an interest in Sloan,” explains Abraham. The jump brought down Sloan’s admit rate to 11.7%, from 14.6% a year earlier, the third lowest acceptance rate for any prestige MBA program in the world. Only Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, which further lowered its admit rate to a mere 6.0% from 6.1% a year earlier, and Harvard Business School, which maintained its 10.7% acceptance rate, were higher.
Then comes UC-Berkeley at 12.0%, Columbia at 14.1%, Arizona State at 14.3%, the University of Florida at 16.0%, Penn State at 18.1%, and Yale’s School of Management at 19.0%. Significant increases in the applicant pool at Yale in recent years, including a 5.8% jump last year, has now made the school’s full-time MBA program more difficult to get into than Wharton, Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, or the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
YEAR-OVER-YEAR CHANGES WERE LARGELY SMALL
With a few exceptions, of course, year-over-year changes in application flows and admit rates are small. Harvard last year was up just 0.7%, while Stanford saw a 2.7% increase. Wharton was up 1.4%, and Dartmouth Tuck rose 1.6%. Northwestern’s Kellogg School had a more sizable 5.9% jump, while Michigan Ross saw a healthy 4.6% gain that followed a bigger increase a year earlier.
Large increases or decreases in application volume have a cascading effect on school admission policies. “Increasing application volume and decreasing acceptance rates at top-tier schools represent a ‘daisy chain’ scenario that we expect will continue for the foreseeable future,” explains Dan Bauer, founder and chairman of The MBA Exchange, a leading MBA admissions consulting firm.
He points out that schools that attract a greater number of applicants each year continue to reduce their acceptance rates, while growth in application volume encourages those schools to raise their admission standards (e.g., higher average GMAT) as a way to allocate seats to candidates with the strongest credentials. Those changes, in turn, tend to bolster a school’s published rankings, which then help a school attract even more applicants, while the low acceptance rate motivates candidates to also consider schools with slightly lower rankings.
DESPITE INCREASES OR DECREASES IN APP VOLUME, RANKINGS USUALLY TEND TO BE STABLE
“Applicants typically work their way down the rankings, pursuing only those schools they would happily attend if denied by higher ranked programs,” adds Bauer. “The lower a school’s rankings the less likely it is to make an applicant’s target list. Schools with a declining number of applicants either lower their admissions standards and/or reduce their class size, which in turn drives lower rankings. And so, this bifurcation among business schools continues.”
While there are a few wild swings in the year-over-year acceptance and application volume stats, school rankings tend to be more static. “Any change will be glacial since the relative ranking of schools remains rather constant from year to year,” says Bauer. “As MBA programs teach their students, when supply continues to exceed demand, a company must adapt in order to survive and eventually grow. However, business schools experiencing an ongoing decline in their application volume have fewer options than traditional companies, which can merge with or sell to a more robust competitor. The remaining question is how — and how quickly — schools facing this challenge can re-invent themselves in order to gain market share and thus break the ‘daisy chain.’”
On the positive side, that daily chain effect will mostly impact ASU, which vaulted into the Top 25 of U.S. News‘ latest ranking as a result of its applicant surge, and MIT Sloan, which moved up to fourth place in the same ranking from fifth last year. On the downside, Illinois and Purdue already experienced rankings declines in U.S. News, falling one place to 40th and three places to 50th, respectively.