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)