Applications to Harvard Business School‘s MBA program fell for the second consecutive year by 6.7% to 9,228 applicants in 2018-2019 from 9,886 a year earlier. Over the past two years, Harvard has lost 1,123 applicants, representing a 10.8% slide in applications, from 10,351 in 2017-2018 when applicants topped 6% the 10,000-mark for the first time since 2002.
Harvard becomes the latest school to report another fall in applications to its full-time MBA experience. While Harvard’s decline last year was well below Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, which saw a 22.5% drop, or Yale’s School of Management, which went down 15.6%, it fell within the median downturn for top 25 schools that have reported on their admissions numbers (see Apps To Major MBA Programs Plunge Again).
MBA admission consultants believe the decline at HBS was less severe because an increasing number of applicants who are satisfied with their careers are adopting a “Harvard, Stanford or Bust” approach. They apply to only those two schools and if rejected opt to stay in the workforce. Stanford has yet to release its admissions data for 2018-2019. At Wharton, MBA apps fell by 5.4%. Thus far, only two top 25 schools have reported slight increases: Chicago Booth, where applications rose 3.4%, and Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Management, which experienced a 6.5% rise.
Chad Losee, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid, attributed at least part of the latest decline to the elimination of the school’s round three deadline last year. “In the 2017-2018 application year,” he wrote in a blog post, “we received 9,886 applications overall, 551 of which we received in Round 3. So without Round 3, we received 9,335 applications in 2017-2018. This is the apples-to-apples number to compare with the 9,228 applications we received in 2018-2019 without Round 3.”
HBS ENROLLED A SLIGHTLY LARGER CLASS OF 938 DESPITE THE DOWNTURN
Forcing Harvard’s applicant pool into two rounds undoubtedly resulted in the loss of some high-quality candidates to peer schools, including Stanford which maintained its round three April 8th deadline some three months later than the HBS cutoff, some of Harvard’s applicants would have rushed their applications to meet the first and second rounds. Nonetheless, Losee put a positive spin on any impact from his decision to reduce HBS’ round three. He maintained that his admissions staff “heard from applicants that their experience was much better, as they were able to better plan for things like housing and visas. This was our goal, and we will have only have two rounds for the Class of 2022 as well.”
Despite the downturn, Harvard enrolled a slightly larger class than a year before, with 938 students in this year’s entering class, up from 930 last year. Losee told Poets&Quants that the acceptance rate for the class rose one percent to 12%, while yield–the percentage of admits who enroll at HBS–fell by a percent to 89%. The school kept its GMAT median for the class at recent levels–730–where it has been for at least the past five years. GMAT scores ranged from a low of 590–20 points lower than last year–to a high of 800, a perfect score on the test. The median quant score was 48, a point lower than last year, with a range of 38 to 51, while the median verbal score came in at 41, also a point lower, with a range of 31 to 51.
WOMEN MAKE UP 43% OF THE CLASS, UP TWO PERCENTAGE POINTS FROM 41% LAST YEAR
A record 20% of the enrolled class submitted a GRE score to gain entry into Harvard’s MBA program. That 20% level reflects an increase of a third from 15% last year and only 12% two years ago. HBS said the median verbal and median quant score for enrolled students with a GRE was 163, with a verbal range of 147 to 170 and a quant range of 145 to 170. The average undergraduate grade point average for the class is 3.7, while the average years of work experience came to 4.7 years.
Harvard also increased the percentage of women to 43% this year, up two percentage points from 41% a year earlier. Unlike several other peer schools, HBS did not experience a significant fall in international students. In fact, the school enrolled a class of international students that make up exactly the same percentage as last year: 37%, from 70 countries. U.S. ethnic minorities comprise 27% of this year’s entering MBA crop.
Changes in the educational backgrounds of Harvard’s newest students also were largely inconsequential. The largest single chunk of MBA candidates majored in economics or business: 43%, a decline of three percentage points from 46% last year. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) majors make up 38% of the Class of 2021, up a percent from 37% a year ago. Students who majored in the humanities and social sciences total 19%, up two percentage points from 17% last year.
(See following page for how the Class of 2021 compares with earlier HBS classes)