MBA Acceptance Rates By Major

DATA VALUABLE…BUT INCLUDES SEVERAL BLIND SPOTS

Despite a push for STEM majors in MBA classrooms, such graduates enjoyed far fewer opportunities to attend a tier one school. Just 17% of science and math majors received acceptance letters – nearly half that of education majors – despite owning the fourth-highest GMAT averages. Engineering (15%), computer science (12%), and health and medical (7%) majors also face long odds of finding their way into a tier one classroom. Worse yet, just 16% of operations majors were ultimately given a shot at a Tier One, even though they collectively accounted for the highest GMAT average (737).

Alas, Atwell’s analysis contains some limitations. For one, it focuses squarely on undergraduate majors. Such expertise is generally supplemented by four to fivw years of work experience, which may come in other fields. As a result, the data may not reflect the proverbial apples-to-apples comparison. It also doesn’t factor in the difficulty of the major or the quality of the undergraduate institutions – though both are mitigated, to an extent, by GMAT averages. While the methodology’s genius is found in its clarity, it does skip over influential indices such as the volume of students per major, gender, and even yield (which can be 20% or more higher in tier one programs). Even more, the methodology doesn’t specify whether the data covers one year, such as the Class of 2018, or a succession of years–and after all, it is only a small sample of people.

Thankfully, Atwell didn’t stop his analysis with just tier one MBA programs. He also included what he considers tier two schools, which he defines as programs ranked 11th through 16th (Think Fuqua, Darden, Johnson, and Anderson). Again, the liberal arts reigned supreme.

HEALTH AND MEDICAL MAJORS STRUGGLE COMPARED TO PEERS

That starts with communication majors, where a whopping 61% of applicants were accepted – double the 35% average for tier two programs. Academically, Communication majors shined, bringing the highest undergraduate GPA (3.61) and 4th-best GMAT average (717) to bear among tier two applicants. Both numbers exceeded the tier’s GMAT (716) and GPA (3.42) averages. Liberal arts and economics majors also fared well, with each garnering a 45% acceptance rates.

That said, the quants tended to receive more love from the tier two MBA programs – a less exclusive set of MBA programs with admittedly higher acceptance rates. Take finance undergrads, for example. They represented a 43% acceptance rate, 24 points better than in tier one. In context, the increase in overall acceptance rate from tier one to tier two was 15 points. Science and math majors were also welcomed to a greater degree in the tier two. This major’s acceptance rate jumped from 17% to 42%, a spurt that was also found among accounting majors (20% to 38%). The percentage of computer science majors doubled to 23% as well.

However, the news was conflicting in spots. The percentage of engineering majors did rise 11 points to 26% — a number that belies the fact that this segment also notched the highest average GMATs among Tier Two applicants. The percentage of health and medical majors being accepted more than tripled to 25%. However, these majors also averaged a 688 GMAT – the third lowest score in any tier (including a 663 average by health and medical in tier three).

78% OF COMMUNICATION MAJORS ACCEPTED INTO TIER ONE PROGRAMS

The biggest drop? Think pre-law, where the acceptance rate fell from 29% to 17%.  At the same time, neither education majors nor social services even made the list, a testament perhaps to their limited number of applicants.

Atwell also drilled down to what he labels “tier three” – programs ranked 17th-25th (i.e. Emory Goizueta, Carnegie Mellon Tepper, Georgetown McDonough, etc.). Here, the liberal arts continue to head the pack. Communication majors, for example, managed a 78% acceptance rate, bolstered by a high GPA (3.51) and a respectable GMAT (706). Both numbers also eclipsed this ranking tier’s average GMAT (705) and GPA (3.42).

MBA Data Guru Wayne Atwell

Economics and political science majors were also coveted by tier three programs, with acceptance rates of 67% and 65% respectively. These majors even generated such appeal despite posting below average GMATs and undergraduate GPAs. Liberal arts and humanities also maintained a 57% acceptance rate, with an average GPA (3.43) and a below average GMAT (697).

ARTS AND ENGINEERING – UNLOVED…AND UNDERRATED

Five business-related majors – marketing, business, operations, accounting, and finance –performed well among the tier three, with accepted applicants running from 52% (finance) to 56% (marketing). However, finance represented the highest GMAT (704) and tied with business for the highest GPA average (3.46).

Sometimes, statistics creates strange bedfellows – and that is true of arts and engineering.  At each tier, they were consistently lumped together. In tier one, arts and engineering majors suffered 16% and 15% acceptance rates respectively with nearly identical GMATs (729 vs. 728) and GPAs (3.52 vs. 3.49). Come tier two, arts and engineering continued to be overlooked. Their acceptance rates – 27% and 26% respectively – continued to align, as did their GMATs (720 vs. 721) and GPAs (3.46 vs. 3.4). Sure enough, tier three came out to more of the same. Par for the course, both arts and engineering ranked near the bottom for acceptance rate at 35% each, with arts enjoying a wider gap in GMATs (722 vs. 713). Lesson learned: Both arts and engineering majors face an uphill climb to be accepted regardless of tier.

The same could be said for computer science, which topped out at tier three with at 31% acceptance rate….lower than health or medical which maxed out at 40% here. Ironically, Education majors are far less popular in tier three. Just 13% of applicants were accepted at this level, the result of owning the lowest GPA across the board.

For more detailed undergraduate major data, click here.

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