MBA Programs That Enroll The Students They Really Want

University of Chicago Booth MBA graduates.


The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School also closes a substantive share of candidates who receive an offer. The Class of 2020, for example, is comprised of 66.6% of the candidates who received acceptance letters, a share consistent with the previous two years (67.2% and 65.2%). Such numbers can stem from the advantages of a big urban Ivy: renown, rigor, and resources namely. However, Jibran Khan, a 2019 P&Q Best & Brightest MBA, would add a fourth R to the list: Relief.

“I greatly appreciated the flexibility of the Wharton curriculum, and the opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary academics combining Wharton with Penn’s other graduate schools. Thanks to Wharton’s waiver exams, I was able to waive out of a number of the general requirement courses subsequently focus more class time toward areas and courses of particular interest.”

Chicago Booth also joins Wharton and Columbia in bobbing above the 60% marker. Notably, Booth’s 60.1% yield reveals a marked improvement over the previous year’s pedestrian 52.8% rate. In reality, it was a return to normal, with the Class of 2018 posting a 60.2% yield. Beyond these three (along with Harvard and Stanford), no Top 10 program maintained a 50% or better yield during the 2017-2018 admissions cycle.

The Marriott School of Management is ranked 33rd among the top 100 U.S. business schools by Poets&Quants.

Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Business


That can be surprising in some quarters. U.C. Berkeley Haas, for example, slid from a 57.3% yield to 49.4%. That means that half of Haas’ accepted applicants eventually snubbed the school – a shocker for a culture-driven program whose appeal rests heavily with its four defining principles. The same could be said for Dartmouth Tuck, whose 46.9% yield is par for the course historically. At USC Marshall, home to the vaunted “Trojan Network,” the yield stood at 38.8%. Then again, these numbers represent a limitation to the yield metric. Haas, Tuck, and Marshall are regaled for their fervent alumni who are heavily involved in school activities and student career development and job placement. Such schools may struggle with the sales (i.e. yield) element, but excel in service and satisfactions thanks to their student-centered cultures.

Some schools excel in both the sales and service sides, however. Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Business is a case in point. On the front end, Marriott was a model of consistency, posting yields of 78.9%, 77.3%, and 79% over the past three years. Some of that can be attributed to the school’s mission, which combines faith, character, service, and scholarship. However, word has gotten around about Marriott. For one, Marriott consistently ranked among the top programs in Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2018 student and alumni survey – reigning as the top program for “Ethical Careers” and placing 2nd for “Inspiring Faculty.”

Marriott wasn’t alone among smaller programs that were able to lure the students they wanted most. In 2018, the University of Georgia’s Terry School produced a 71.2% yield, welcoming 52 of the 73 applicants who received acceptance letters. It was a huge turnaround, with yield being just 49% two years ago. Penn State’s Smeal School also continued its meteoric rise, jumping from 51.4% to 70.7% over its last three admissions cycles. One reason? Smeal fosters a strong community, bonds that transcend graduation…or graduation class.

“After speaking to lots of alumni and hearing all the stories about how they still attend tailgates together, go to each other’s weddings, and are there for childbirths and birthdays, I just knew this was the place for me,” writes Brad Grantz, a 2019 MBA To Watch and JP Morgan hire.


You could call yield a barometer of business school reputation and health. At the same time, it also reflects momentum, an inside look at which schools are on the rise in the eyes of applicants. Along with Georgia and Penn State, Michigan State fits that bill, with yield rising nearly 12 points to 58% over the past three years. Washington Olin and Minnesota Carlson have also been experiencing a bit of a Renaissance, inching up 6.2% and 5.8% respectively. Among Top 20 programs, Texas McCombs has made the biggest move as measured by yield, breaking the 40% mark during the 2017-2018 cycle.

Alas, there are far more business schools losing ground than gaining it. Five schools lost 10 points or more from 2016-2018, including Rice Jones (-15.4%), Arizona State Carey (-13.3%), University of Washington Foster (-12.5%), Texas A&M Mays (-11.5%), and UCLA Anderson (-9.9%). W. P. Carey’s yield is particularly conspicuous, as it recently dropped full-ride scholarships for all students in favor of financial aid for all.

In fairness, there are some variables that aren’t measured with yield. For example, schools dangle varying levels of financial aid, inducements that can tip the scales in favor of MBA programs with larger funding. At the same time, programs often target different populations, making side-by-side comparisons difficult. Moreover, yield – no different than GMAT scores or acceptance rates – is a metric that is carefully managed to avoid sharp drops that could hurt a school’s image. Such manipulations may include rejecting or waitlisting candidates whose profile projects them being better fits with higher-ranked programs. Who wants to be a safety school, after all?

Still, Yield is a valuable piece of the puzzle. High yields tip applicants off to destination schools, where options and culture possess the strongest pull. In contrast, below-average yields may indicate high-level programs where applicants may enjoy greater leverage in parlaying a world-class experience. Fact is, yield is an entry level metric that doesn’t really reflect the quality of the class. The candidates who turned down the offer have moved onto somewhere else. The sale has been made. The students filling the seats during orientation are the ones who want to be there. In time, that only makes the MBA experience all the better.

Go to Pages 3-4 to see how your target schools have fared in enrolling accepted applicants. 


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