Yale Endures Another Rough MBA App Cycle

Apps are down at Yale SOM, and so is almost everything else. Yale photo

By just about every measure included in a class profile, Yale School of Management saw declines in this fall’s numbers: on average Graduate Management Admission Test score, on acceptance rate, on yield, on GPA — even on percentage of women in the class. All of those declines can be traced to one cause: Applications are down in New Haven, just as they are at most other business schools in the United States.

Applications to the full-time MBA program at Yale SOM declined 15.6% between 2018 and 2019, from 3,785 to 3,194. That’s more than twice the decline the school experienced last fall; the 591-application deficit is the largest of the 15 schools examined by Poets&Quants in a preliminary study of this year’s class profiles. Domestic applications sank 13%, and apps by foreign nationals dropped 19%, though apps by international passport holders (including dual citizens) actually rose 20%.

Bottom line: In the last three years, apps to Yale SOM have gone down more than 22% from their high of 4,098 in 2016-17. And the latest numbers come despite the school receiving the fifth-most applications it has ever received.

“It will be interesting to see what this upcoming year will bring,” says Bruce DelMonico, Yale SOM’s assistant dean for admissions. “We had one of the highest application volumes in school history again, the fifth-highest, so we’re still in a very strong position. We will obviously be OK, but we are obviously mindful of what’s happening in the marketplace and the changes in graduate management education and so we want to be responsive to that. Part of that is trying to make sure that we are out there and getting the word out so that strong candidates know what’s distinctive about a Yale MBA. Part of it is being responsive to the changing demands, however they may evolve.

“We’re looking at all that. And we obviously have a new dean, who is very interested. I met with him last week, and obviously he wants to know how things are looking and what we can do. In the grand scheme, we’re confident that the value proposition of the MBA is there, and that it’s something that there will be a demand for. But at the same time, we’re not taking it for granted that just because ‘It’s Yale and everything will be fine.’ We want to be responsive to the markets.”


Yale SOM’s Class of 2021 is 345 strong, down two spots from last year, with 42% women (down from 43% the last three years) and 44% international passport holders (a number that includes dual citizens and U.S. permanent residents), including representatives of 47 countries. That’s down from 51 last year. One number that did tick upward was the percentage of under-represented students of color, which increased 1 percentage point from 12%, while the total students of color ticked up 2 points, to 29%. DelMonico says the class also has enrolled the highest-ever number of military veterans — 18, up from just 10 last year.

Bruce DelMonico. Yale SOM photo

Roughly 11% of Yale’s new class are pursuing joint degrees, same as last year, while the school welcomed 17 Silver Scholars — SOM’s deferred admissions program. That’s an increase of one from 2018.

Perhaps the most significant way in which Yale SOM’s metrics improved in the Class of 2021 was in Graduate Record Exam scores, where the school saw a one-point improvement in the average Quant score, to 164, to go with maintaining a 165 in the Verbal; that moved Yale’s overall score up a point from last year, to 329 — likely among the top overall scores of any B-school, if history is any guide.

“We’ve tried to be very conscious of the fact that we want to make sure that the standards are the same for GMAT test takers and GRE test takers, and I think we are,” DelMonico says. “We are very much on the high end in terms of GRE scores. And the byproduct of that is, we want to be careful not to have different standards for different test takers.

“Despite being, for many schools — ourselves included — a somewhat challenging year, I thought the class that we put together was as strong as any we’ve assembled in the past,” DelMonico adds. “And so I’m really excited about that, and I think there are some really nice strengths, and we maintain our global profile. And we’ve actually increased our military presence in the class, which I think is wonderful, and the joint degree numbers and underrepresented students, underrepresented students of color numbers are strong, based on the historical past as well.”


Average work experience for members of the Class of 2021 is 5.1 years, up from 4.8 last fall. Most (20%) hail from financial services jobs, with consulting (19%) a close second and nonprofit (15%) a close third. The nonprofit number is up 3 percentage points and easily the highest of any top school. Thirty percent have STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) undergraduate degrees, up from 29% last year, while 28% studied in the humanities/social sciences, 23% have business degrees, and 19% have economics degrees. The latter two categories represented 21% each of the Class of 2020.

But GPA is down, to 3.64 from last year’s record high of 3.71; average score on the GMAT is down three points, to 721; acceptance rate is up 5 percentage points in one year, to 25%, and nearly 8 points since the school notched its record low in 2017; and yield is down, to 43% from 45%.

“I think one of the things we’ve been doing when it comes to GMAT is, we’ve been working on developing other metrics in evaluating candidates,” DelMonico says. “You know, we regress on various dimensions to see what is predicting success and what’s having the greatest impact. And so we’ve tried to — over the last few years, especially — take a more balanced approach in how we’re looking at candidates, and I think that’s a byproduct of that.

“I think if we were trying to change GMAT scores, our pool would certainly still support that. Even though the applications declined this past year, we still had the fifth-most number of applications in the school’s history. So it’s not as though we didn’t have a lot of candidates that we could choose from that had high GMAT scores, but we’re trying to broaden the base of what we’re looking at and trying to have, as I said, a more balanced approach.”


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