MBA Acceptance Rates By Major

Education majors get a bad rap. As undergrads, their classes are considered a breeze. After graduation, they rake in as much as a Denny’s shift manager. They may get summers off, but is it really worth the disrespect and dysfunction? Why do it?

For one, you enjoy far better odds of getting accepted into a top MBA program.

That was one finding from Wayne Atwell, a 2016 graduate of NYU Stern. Currently a McKinsey associate, Atwell runs a blog called MBA Data Guru, which takes a deep dive into school data supplied by GMAT Club. This January, he sifted through past class data to produce a snapshot of which undergraduate majors increased applicants’ odds of getting into business school.


Sure enough, education majors notched a 33% acceptance rate among Tier One schools, which Atwell defines as Top 10 MBA programs (i.e. Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, Booth, Sloan, Haas, etc.).  This was 13 points higher than the average acceptance rate among tier one programs, which stood at 20%.

What distinguishes education majors? Along with acceptance rate, Atwell also supplies undergraduate GPA and GMAT averages. Turns out that education majors boasted the highest GPAs at 3.71, a tenth of a point higher than runners-up accounting and social sciences. Even more, this number is .18 better than the average GPA accepted by tier one schools (3.53). However, the GPA doesn’t tell the whole story. Strangely, educators finished with the second-lowest GMAT average at 711 among the tier one. This is 26 points below the GMAT high (737) and 17 points under the average (728).

jeremy shinewald mbamission

mbaMission’s Jeremy Shinewald

Jeremy Shinewald, a Darden MBA and founder of mbaMission, has a theory on why educators are so popular among tier one programs. A twenty-year veteran of MBA consulting, Shinewald believes the appeal of education majors comes down to basic supply-and-demand.

“They are so underrepresented in the group,” he explains in an interview with Poets&Quants. “They bring a valuable experience. At many schools, there are only a handful of teachers applying. It is a demographic that admissions feels can really add something to the classroom so they give them a very careful look. They don’t have the same propensity to get lost in the shuffle the same way that a finance or consulting professional might.”


Liberal arts majors have grown accustomed to being the butt of academic jokes. When acceptance letters are divvyed out, the joke is on everyone else – at least among the tier one schools. Pre-Law majors rank second to Education for highest acceptance rate at 29%. This occurs despite a pedestrian 723 GMAT and a 3.37 undergrad GPA – with the latter ranking next-to-last among the 17 majors measured by Atwell.

This trend continues past education and Pre-Law. Liberal arts and humanities, social services, and political science each boast a 24% acceptance rate. Among them, social services and political science furnished the second- and third-highest GMAT scores (with Social Services adding the third-highest average GPAs). What’s more, economics and communication ranked 6th and 7th, with economics majors excelling on the GMAT and communication majors faring better in undergraduate GPA.


What do these majors have in common? For one, they are communications-driven, with a heavy persuasive element critical to impressing adcoms. That is only part of the story, says Shinewald, who believes applicants trained in liberal arts fields bring something rare to the admissions table. “With liberal arts students in general, they have a broad context from which to draw and inform discussion,” he shares. “The liberal arts graduate will have a broad understanding of the world, its history, geography, literature, and culture. That is something that is harder to add to add to an individual’s profile organically.”

Shinewald adds that a liberal arts background gives applicants a certain edge in business as well. “An MBA who is leaving business school with a liberal arts background may have a better understanding of the world around them and that could lead to a variety of benefits in business in terms of managing and relating to other people. It helps them make decisions that have a much, much deeper context with a more vast understanding of all of the stakeholders involved.”

Which majors potentially hinder getting accepted? Think business-related majors. Just 20% of accounting majors are accepted by tier one MBA programs, despite owning the second-highest GPA averages. By the same token, finance and business majors are accepted at a 19% and 18% clip, though both performed slightly below the 728 GMAT average (though both finished above the 3.53 average GPA). In addition, just 9% of marketing majors who applied to tier one schools were ultimately accepted. However, this number can easily be explained: They represented the third-lowest GMAT average and the lowest undergraduate GPA.

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