HBS Apps Up 6%, Topping 10,000 Mark

hbs application increase

HBS students at graduation

Applications to Harvard Business School’s MBA program rose by 6% this past year to top the 10,000-mark. HBS reported today (June 8) that 10,351 candidates applied for admission in the 2016-2917 application season, up from 9,758 a year earlier. The last time HBS received more than 10,000 applications was in 2002 when just 31 more people applied to the MBA program.

The healthy 6% jump compares with a 12% rise at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and a 13% increase at Yale University’s School of Management. Most business schools have not yet reported on their application volumes for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Harvard’s increase, however, did not significantly change the school’s acceptance rate which equals 10.5%, slightly less than last year’s 11%. If rounded up, as HBS reported the number, it comes to 11%. The school made offers to 1,087 applicants this year and enrolled an incoming class of 941, just a tad below the 942 on HBS’ preliminary profile list from last year.

Yield—the percentage of admits who intend to enroll—inched up a single percentage point this year to 91%, the highest yield rate for any prestige business school in the world. HBS says that its yield rate is calculated each year by removing from the equation admitted students who postpone to a future year for such things as joint degrees, military service, or medical reasons. Some 58 admitted candidates postponed this year, while so far another 88 decided against enrolling. HBS counts 2+2s admit decisions in the year in which those students enroll.


hbs application increase

A Harvard MBA from the Class of 2013, Chad Losee is managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid

This is the first class admitted and enrolled by Chad Losee, who succeeded Dee Leopold as managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid last year. If HBS observers were looking for tea leaves as to new trends, they would have a hard time discerning any change in admission policies under Losee.

One possible new direction: He seems to like econ and business majors. The percentage of incoming students with economics and business undergraduate degrees rose four percentage points to 45% of the class. Students from the humanities and social sciences fell to 19%, down from 21% a year earlier, while students with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) backgrounds also slid two percentage points to 36%, from 38%.

Otherwise, in a preliminary class profile that amounts ot a sneak peek of incoming cohort this fall, he disclosed that the composition of the class will remain virtually the same as it was last year. Women will account for 42% of incoming students, down from the record 43% last year, but international students (35%) from 70 countries and U.S. ethnic minorities (26%) are exactly the same. The average age of is 27, same as last year.


Despite fears that international applicants were worried about the election of Trump and his less welcoming immigration policies, HBS’ ability to admit and enroll students from overseas appears unaffected. “Concerns about international enrollment dropping and making MBA programs easier to get into aren’t reflected in these numbers,” says Linda Abraham, founder and CEO of Accepted.com, a leading MBA admissions firm.

“It will be interesting to see if other MBA programs report similar increases in overall numbers or experience a drop, especially from international applicants. I find it surprising that HBS is seemingly unaffected by the anticipated drop in international interest in U.S. MBA programs. But clearly it so far seems immune.”

So far, many second-tier schools are reporting declines in international students but the top-tier schools, including Yale SOM, have not seen a falloff in applications from candidates overseas.


Yet, there were signs that it has become harder to gain a seat in a Harvard MBA class. Though the median GMAT score for the class at 730 remains unchanged, the middle 80% range of scores between 700 and 770 is slightly higher than it was a year ago at 690 to 760. “It does reflect the steady, continuing increase in GMAT scores as well as increased competition to get into HBS,” adds Abraham. “It’s getting harder and harder.”

For the second consecutive year, HBS chose not to reveal the full range of GMAT scores it will enroll. Under Dee Leopold, the former managing director of admissions and financial aid, the lowest and highest GMAT scores had always been disclosed. The median grade point average for the incoming class is 3.71.

The industry backgrounds of Harvard’s Class of 2019 will also be roughly the same as it was a year earlier. The exceptions? A one percentage point increase in students from consulting to 16%, from 15% last year. Losee had worked in consulting for Bain & Co. before taking on the job of admissions chief. Healthcare also showed a percentage point rise to 7% as did “other services,” inching forward to 7% as well.


Students from consumer products, non-profit and government jobs, as well as the energy industry all declined by a single percentage point to 6%, 7%, and 6%, respectively. New students from venture capital and private equity remained the same at 15%, as will the number from financial services at 11%, and technology and communication industries at 15%.

These are preliminary numbers, of course, and can change slightly once the class matriculates in late August of this year.

(See following page for all the stats and how they compare with the previous years)

  • what’s the real yield %?

    The question is yield… Enrolled 941, offers 1,087 –> 941/1,087 = 86.6%
    Do you know why the yield reported is 91%?

  • Not that I can vouch for all those gymnastics in the numbers but I love your analysis!

  • C. Taylor

    OK, so I couldn’t resist.

    HBS 90th percentile is 780, meaning 10% or more scored 780 (see my preceding post here). Based on the GMAC distribution data, between approx 800 and 1,100 people score 780 or higher each year, the world over.

    So HBS is admitting 94 or more 780+ scorers each year. Based on that, HBS is admitting between 8% and 12% or more of the worldwide population of 780+ scorers.

    But wait, not everyone targets an MBA. GMAC says only 2/3 test scores were sent to MBA programs. Assuming an even distribution of scores between programs HBS is then admitting 13% to 18% of the worldwide pop. of 780+ scorers going for an MBA.

    But wait, GMAC says younger people–who are more likely to target master programs–tend to score higher. So assuming GMAC’s numbers are accurate, HBS could easily be admitting 15% to 30% of the worldwide population of 780+ scorers going for an MBA.

    But not everyone applies to HBS. If we assume 50% apply to HBS, then HBS could easily be admitting 30% to 60% of all applicants who score 780+.

    What is the exact number? Can’t tell you. But I’d bet at least 20-25%. And 50% plus is very reasonable. Score a 780+ and you are doubling or quadrupling your odds–or better.


  • Just read the story: “Harvard’s increase, however, did not significantly change the school’s acceptance rate which equals 10.5%, slightly less than last year’s 11%. If rounded up, as HBS reported the number, it comes to 11%. The school made offers to 1,087 applicants this year and enrolled an incoming class of 941, just a tad below the 942 on HBS’ preliminary profile list from last year.”

  • C. Taylor

    Hey Guru,

    An appropriately selected average in the context of ‘the middle 80%’ would be the median (aka 50th percentile). So the middle 80% is referring to the scorers between the 90th percentile and the 10th percentile scores.

    As 4201 was probably getting at–and you here surmised–the actual percentile at 780 might be the 85th percentile, but a high number of 780 scores also puts the 90th percentile at 780. It would be rare that exactly all 780 scorers are included.

    So what this means is 10%–or more–of the population in question scored at or above 780. It could be 15% who scored at or above 780. However, the standard approach is to present either the 10th and 90th percentiles, or the 25th and 75th percentiles. In the context of being admitted, the middle 80% might be more significant than the middle 50%.

    The next level of transparency we’d all enjoy would be to provide admits some average of acceptance rates at each score. Say over the last three years.

    Better than that, simply set hurdle rates and stop this GMAT inflation nonsense. E.g. 600+, 720+.

  • GMAT quant question

    Applications increased from 9,759 to 10,351.
    same acceptance rate.
    enrolled students decreased from 942 to 941.

    looks like more students declined offers from HBS.

    Why the yield increased from 90% to 91%?

  • crm023

    Nvm, I was able to find the answer. Getting all the questions right gets you a 51 raw score

  • hbsguru

    “What happens if you get every question right?”
    A buzzer goes off and the lights flash and a guy in a huge bow tie comes out from behind a curtain and gives you a handful of discount coupons at Disney Land.
    No big deal but when you get home there will be lots of scouts from quant hedge funds in your driveway telling you to skip business school and just start making money.

  • crm023

    When you say “perfect quant score”, what do you mean? I was under the impression that the highest possible GMAT raw score was 60 for verbal and 60 for quant. Yet I’ve never seen anyone get higher than 52 on quant and 50 on verbal. What happens if you get every question right? Would that correspond with a 60 raw score?

  • 4201

    A higher education institution be transparent? Surely you jest…

    Good points, though. There’s a lot of money to be made if someone can crack the admissions data problem in a more rigorous way.

  • KimUN

    in recent years, HBS is pretty much a high school, you feel so when you visit them, unlike Stanford, MIT, or Wharton, where you meet much mature people and likable personalities. It is quite sad to see this race for a higher numbers on the expense of the quality.

  • hbsguru

    thanks, some useful data and ~data but I’m sticking w. the program in the case of the 800 GMAT, altho, sure, this is mostly much ado about a very tiny cohort.

    As to 800’s: Derrick Bolton, the famous Stanford Adcom, once said that admit rate for 800 scores at Stanford in previous year (a while ago) was 0-3. This was a while ago, but point is, there were only 3 800 scores. I see perfect Q scores on GMAT all the time, but perfect Q AND V scores are pretty rare, altho sure, if anyone has any data, ahem, from official sources, please do say.
    I respect MBADATA guy but his 16% admit figure for 800 GMATs at HBS is a projection and based on self-reporting by applicants. That can become more random-y at the end of a Bell curve and 800 is the dead end dot.
    Dunno, if I had an 800 GMAT and was admitted to HBS, not sure how motivated I’d be to post on MBADATA (ditto if I got dinged).

    As to the bigger categories, GMAT 780-790-800 [not 760+ which you analyze, and is a way bigger group], and the very group HBS is on record as saying =
    either 93 or 103 admits, it would an interesting question what success rate is for that group. All we need to know is how many of ALL applicants had GMATs over 770.
    Kellogg once published, a long time ago, a breakout of total applications/admits for GMAT scores at every step from 690-800. One of these days when I really clean house, I’ll try to come up with that. I seem to recall percent admits on steps 750, 760, 770, 780, 790, 800 (e.g. all applicants with that score vs. admits) kept going up. There may not have been ANY 800s. that year, btw.
    Anyway, in this age of so-called transparency and consumer service, B schools could do the world a big favor and be more open with data like that.

  • 4201

    I think you’re greatly overestimating the admit rate for the atmospheric GMAT cohort. The best data I can find suggests a 16% admit rate for an applicant with a score of 800:

    And this really doesn’t surprise me for a few reasons:
    1. Math. 760 – 800 scores represent the top 1% of applicants; this is about 2,400 people given the number of test takers annually (247,432 in 2017). You can bet that almost all of these people are applying to HBS, which means that mathematically, if HBS were only turning away half of the people with these astronomical GMATs, they’d have a full class without even dipping into the sub-760 cohort. Alternatively, suppose that 780-800 scores represent a quarter of the 760-800 cohort. That would mean that the top 10% of admitted students (103 by your estimate) is about 17% of the approximately 600 applicants with 780s and up.
    2. Optics. I’m sure if HBS wanted, they could have a much higher median GMAT overnight. But would this serve them well? Having an even higher median GMAT score would likely even further discourage a large pool of potential applicants with comparatively low scores. This would hurt their application numbers and therefore their admissions rate.
    3. Practicality. By the GMAC’s own admission, two students’ scores have to differ by at least 41 points before one can conclude a difference in the abilities measured by the GMAT. This means that scores of 730 and 770 are statistically identical outcomes.

  • Hahaha

    If you are Asian-American, don’t bother applying to HBS. You have a better chance at Stanford and Booth.

  • hbsguru

    ” I would guess the admissions rate for applicants with an 800 is around
    20%, which is to say the 800 kid is about twice as likely to get in
    compared to the applicable pool at-large.”
    I think admit rate for 800 GMATs could be more like 50 or even 100 percent, and the rate of the entire 780, 790, 800 cohort (94 admits) is more like 30-40 percent. Altho just guessing. At HBS, you can always, and often for very quirky and odd reasons, flunk interview, and about 40 percent of those interviewed do, not sure high GMAT score buys you much mercy if interview is not to HBS liking.

  • 4201

    This is splitting hairs a bit, but I would venture to guess that the top 10% of the distribution actually includes quite a few 780s in addition to the 790s and 800s. Suppose for example that in a group of 1,000 people, the top 10 people get 800s, the next 10 got 790s, and the next 100 people got 780s. The top end of middle 80% range would still be 780 with 20 people inside the range and 80 people outside the range.

    To answer your last question, I would guess the admissions rate for applicants with an 800 is around 20%, which is to say the 800 kid is about twice as likely to get in compared to the applicable pool at-large.

  • hbsguru

    also above figures in story suggest that there were ~105 kids who were admitted to HBS AND DID NOT ATTEND.
    Any guesses on what those kids did?
    — attended some “other” business school,
    — took holy orders,
    –framed admit letter and put in basement while continuing to work on killer dating app,
    –thought about becoming admissions consultant (since they now ‘knew’ the drill),
    –OTHER ???

  • hbsguru

    atho story is unclear if that is 80pct is of ALL admitted or ALL enrolled class, but we move on.
    What conclusions can you draw from that?
    A. 10 pct of admitted/enrolled group have GMATs over 780 and 10 pct of group have GMATs under 700
    (bear in mind, 10pct of group is either 94 or 103 kids, either way, that is a lot of kids w. +780 GMATS!!!, ahem that means 790 or 800!!)

    B. More of that missing 20 percent is probably on the over 780 side because, duh, what HBS means is not “MIDDLE” GMAT score but average GMAT score, and hello, a 640 score brings down the average a lot more than a 790 brings it up. And WOW, not matter how you shake it, 94 or 103 kids w. GMATs over 780 is mind blowing and if that turns out to be more like 150 kids, well . . . .
    C. Come on, HBS means median score, and that means well just 94 or 103 kids in the class with GMATs over 780.

    D. They mean “780 or above” for the top 10 pct. Not over 780, viz. 790 or 800.

    E. The person who compiles these numbers for HBS is some moderately paid, normal person in the adcom who is trying to do a good job but is not in danger of being hired away by leading quant derivative trading firm. And neither is SK.

    F. I am creating a problem where none exists just to be cute. “Middle” GMAT scores means if you list all the GMAT scores of the admitted group from highest to lowest, and number them 1-941, well the middle 80 pct means numbers 95-857 with 10 pct above that 10 percent below that, that means 94 kids w. GMATs either 790 or 800 and GET OVER IT.

    Folks, I have always said that GMATs count and are counting more — and the rise of midddle gmat 80%

    from 690-760 to 700-770 is something of a big deal. I see a fair number of 760 in my practice and 770 is not a shocker, I do see some 780s and above but the fact that that group now makes up 10 percent of the HBS class, is a mild shock.

    ANY GUESSES??? I think it is higher than 11 percent.

  • Princeton Graduate

    Oh, thanks for the note, wise guy. We certainly didn’t know that.

  • M7Bound

    These numbers indicate that Harvard was and always will remain the perennial powerhouse in terms of attracting the most interest from candidates. Bravo!