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Columbia’s GMATs Slide Five Points On Modest Decline In Apps

Columbia University

Columbia Business School said the average GMAT scores for its latest entering class slid five points to 727 on a relatively modest decline in 2018-2019 applications to its full-time MBA program. Columbia’s application falloff was far less severe than it was for its peer business school rivals, including Harvard, Wharton, Dartmouth, and Yale.

The school said apps fell by just 2.5% to 5,876 from 6,029 a year earlier. Columbia admitted 5,876 candidates for an overall acceptance rate of just under one in five applicants at 19.1%, a couple of percentage points above the 17.0% selectivity rate last year.

The school said it enrolled a Class of 2021 composed of 754 students in 11 clusters. Some 551 of the students, divided into eight clusters, started in August, while the remaining 203 students, sliced into three clusters, will start in January. To enroll its Class of 2021, which is just two students short of the year-earlier total of 756, Columbia had to accept nearly 100 more applicants. That sent its yield–the percentage of admitted students who enroll–to  67.2% from 73.5% a year ago.


Columbia’s modest decline in applications compares favorably to many other prestige MBA programs, including Harvard Business School (6.7%), Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business (22.5%) Yale’s School of Management (15.6%) and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School (5.4%). The only peer school to buck the downward trend this year is the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business which has reported a 3.4% increase (see Apps To Major MBA Programs Plunge Again).

Columbia, however, saw a fallback from its record GMAT score of 732 last year, according to its newly published class profile for the Class of 2021. But last year the school had the largest increase, eight full points, of any school in the Top 10. In fact, Columbia’s 732 average tied Stanford, Wharton, and Kellogg for the highest GMAT average in the world. CBS reported that the middle 80% of GMAT scores for its enrolled students also declined slightly from last year. In 2018, it was 700-760; this year it’s 690-760.  The lowest score admitted this year was 560 as opposed to 530 last year, while the top score both years was 790 out of a perfect 800 score.

The class profile did not reveal either the percentage of students who enrolled with either a GRE or Executive Assessment score. Columbia is only one of two prominent business schools, the other now being NYU’s Stern School of Business, that will accept an EA as an alternative to the GMAT or GRE. The undergraduate grade point average of the entering class is 3.6, with a middle 80% range of 3.2 to 3.9, exactly the same as last year.


Columbia did less well enrolling women in the Class of 2021. The percentage of women in the class slipped by a percentage point to 38% this year. That compares with a high of 47% at Wharton, 43% at Harvard, and 44% at both Yale and Tuck. Columbia said that 33% of its newest entering class is composed of minorities of U.S. origin, the same as last year.

On the other hand, the percentage of the class composed of “international citizens” increased by five percentage points to 47% from 42%. That is surprising and significant given that much of the decline in applications is attributed to a decline in international candidates who have become more concerned about getting a work visa and coming to the U.S. due to the current administration’s anti-immigration rhetoric.

“This year’s class profile shows that Columbia Business School did relatively well in the 2018-2019 application cycle by maintaining and growing its appeal to prospective international applicants,” says Linda Abraham, founder and CEO of Accepted.com, a leading admissions consulting firm. “Consequently, it experienced a smaller decline in volume than most of its peers.”


She added that the drop in the GMAT average this year could reflect the overall application decline or it could reflect something of a realignment. “Other than last year, CBS has not been engaged full-throttle in GMAT competition and has not been as GMAT-focused as other programs,” she says. “In other words last year’s CBS average 732 GMAT was more of an anomaly for that program than this year’s, which is still 3 points above the 2017 average GMAT.”

The average age of the class is 28, though the range is especially wide, with the youngest student entering at just 22 and the oldest at 51. The mid-80% range of ages is 25 to 31. The school did not report the total age range last year.