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Harvard | Mr. Comeback Kid
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Yale | Mr. Lawyer Turned Consultant
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Harvard | Mr. Tech Risk
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Chicago Booth | Mr. Whitecoat Businessman
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MIT Sloan | Ms. Digital Manufacturing To Tech Innovator
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IU Kelley | Mr. Advertising Guy
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Harvard | Ms. 2+2 Trader
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Harvard | Mr Big 4 To IB
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Stanford GSB | Ms. Engineer In Finance – Deferred MBA
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Chicago Booth | Mr. Corporate Development
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UCLA Anderson | Mr. Second Chance In The US
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Harvard | Mr. Harvard 2+2, Chances?
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Wharton | Ms. Negotiator
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Columbia GMATs Soar 8 Points To A Record 732

Columbia Business School Ethan Baron photo

Columbia Business School today (Sept. 6) reported that the average GMAT score for its incoming class of MBA students hit a new record of 732, up eight points from last year’s 724 average despite a decline in applications.

In common with other highly ranked business schools in the U.S., Columbia said that applications fell 2.6% to 6,029 for the Class of 2020, compared to 6,188 a year earlier. The drop is below many of Columbia’s peer schools, including Wharton which has reported a 6.7% decline and Harvard Business School which saw a 4.5% drop (see MBA Apps Take A Shocking Plunge).

The application number reflects candidates for Columbia’s January and August intakes. The 756 enrolled students, versus 753 last year, is divided into 11 clusters.

But the big news in Columbia’s new MBA class profile was the increase in the school’s average. In the past five years, the average class GMAT at Columbia has risen by 16 points from 716 for the class entering in 2013. Even though applications are on the decline, several business schools have managed to up their reported GMAT scores. At Wharton, for example, average GMAT score was up two points to 732. At UVA’s Darden School of Business, where applications plunged 16.7%, the newest class average hit a record 718, five points higher than the previous record holders in the Class of 2019. And at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, where apps fell 8.5%, the incoming class’ average GMAT jumped four points to 720 (see Meet The Michigan Ross Class Of 2020).


Columbia’s new average, which puts its students at the 96th percentile of all GMAT test takers, puts the school in a tie with Wharton and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management for what will likely be second place, behind only Stanford’s Graduate School of Business which last year posted a 737 average. Columbia said the range of GMATs in its newest class went from a low of 530 to a high of 790, exactly the same as last year. The middle 80% range was 700 to 760 versus 690 to 760 a year earlier. Columbia did not disclose GRE scores or the percent of students who enrolled with a GRE.

In recent years, admission officials acknowledge that there has been something of an arm’s race on both GMAT scores and the percentage of women a school can enroll in a full-time MBA class. GMAT scores are an important metric in U.S. News’ annual MBA ranking, a factor that has fueled ever higher GMAT averages. Ranked ninth for its full-time MBA program by U.S. News this year, the boost in the school’s GMATs could allow the school to rise higher on next year’s list. Many of the top-tier schools are closely bunched together and small changes in metrics can result in more notable gains and declines.

More business schools, meantime, have shown a willingness to get closer to or to reach gender parity to equal the representation of women in medical and law schools. In publishing its latest class profile today, CBS saw a slight decline in the percentage of women in the class. Women make up 39% of the Class of 2020, a two-percentage point drop from the Class of 2019 in which women represented 41% of the class. That compares with a record number of women at Kellogg this year—46%—while USC Marshall achieved gender parity this year with 52% of its incoming class composed of women. Last year, Wharton and Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business had enrolled the largest classes of women among the highly ranked MBA programs, both at 44%.


Despite a decline in international candidates in its applicant pool, Columbia was able to keep its non-U.S. student contingent stable. A spokesperson for the school told Poets&Quants that international applications declined 6% year-over-year. Yet, internationals represent 42% of its incoming class, down just a single percent from 43% last year. CBS reports internationals by the primary citizenship cited by applicants. That compares with 37% reported by Harvard Business School and 34% reported by Wharton and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. Minorities of U.S. origin also were stable at 33% of the class, compared with 34% a year earlier.

Columbia also managed to eke out an increase in the average undergradute GPA for its new class of MBAs: A 3.6 versus a 3.5 last year. The lowest GPA this year was 3.2, while the highest was a 3.9. Columbia said the average incoming student boasted five years of work experience and was 28 years old, with the middle 80% range of three to seven years and an ge of 25 to 31.

Not surprisingly, the largest single batch of new students hail from the world of finance, with 25% of the incoming class having worked in financial services and another 7% in private equity (see chart below). Students with consulting backgrounds make up 23% of the class, while those who had worked in marketing and media represent 11% of new MBA candidates. Some 8% had worked in technology, 5% for nonprofits, 4% for real estate, 3% each for healthcare and the military or government, and 2% each for energy and manufacturing firms.

Pre-MBA industry backgrounds of Columbia’s Class of 2020. Source: Columbia Business School


And when it came to undergraduate majors, students who studied business in college topped all others at CBS, accounting for 29% of this year’s incoming class, followed by economics 19%), engineering (17%), social science (15%), the humanities (8%), sciences (7%), and technology (2%).

Undergraduate majors of the Class of 2020 at Columbia Business School. Source: Columbia Business School