Amid App Decline, Michigan Ross Enrolls Most-Ever Women

Michigan Ross photo

It happened to Wharton. It happened to Dartmouth. It happened to UC-Berkeley, Yale SOM, Virginia Darden.

It even happened to Harvard.

Applications are down just about everywhere — Chicago Booth being, so far, a notable exception — so why would we expect Michigan to be any different?

In the end, they aren’t. Like most elite programs, the University of Michigan Ross School of Business saw a big drop in MBA applications this cycle, which negatively affected the school’s acceptance rate and yield. But it didn’t negatively affect everything. Despite losing more than 6% of application volume from last year and more than 14% in the last two years, Michigan enrolled 45% of women this fall — a school record — and held the line on other key fronts, including average GMAT score (719, down just one point) and average undergraduate GPA (3.50, same as last year).


Michigan Ross published its Class of 2021 MBA profile this week. What the profile doesn’t show is that apps at the school totaled 2,990 this cycle, down nearly 200 from last year and 14.2% from 2016-2017. Michigan Ross admitted 925 of those, an acceptance rate of about 31%, up 4 percentage points from last year. Since the 2015 cycle, app volume at the Ross School has dropped 6.8%, a total of about 217 applications.

However, in 2019, applications to Ross from U.S. citizens increased, and applications from candidates who identify as underrepresented minorities were up 10% to a 15-year high for the program. In the last two years, the school’s average GMAT increased by 3 points, from 716 to 719; in the last five, it has climbed 11 points, among the biggest improvement of any elite school.

And the Ross MBA’s percentage of women hit 45%, up from 43% each of the past two years and up an astonishing 13 percentage points since 2015. That’s a 41% increase in five years.

“We are proud of the quality and diversity of the applicants to the Michigan Ross Full-Time MBA program, and the impressive class we welcomed this fall,” says Soojin Kwon, managing director of full-time MBA admissions and the full-time MBA program at Michigan Ross.

“While our acceptance rate is up and our yield slightly down this year, the quality and diversity of the class are strong. This class has the highest number and percentage of women (45%) in our history, and ties a record we set in 2017 for the highest number and percentage of underrepresented U.S. minority students.”

While GMAT has steadily increased, the percentage of applicants who submit Graduate Record Exam scores plummeted this year to 12%, half what it was last year. It had been steadily climbing each year.

“The average GMAT score of the class — 719 — is in lines with our recent gains and reflects the rigorous academic capabilities we expect from our class,” Kwon says. “On the GRE front, accepting students with GRE scores has enabled us to attract a more diverse applicant pool, which enhances students’ learning, and is appealing to our recruiters. Moreover, students who were admitted with a GRE score have been among our top achievers academically and have landed some of the most coveted MBA jobs at companies such as Amazon, BCG, Deloitte, Google, and United Health.”


Two years ago, the top work background for incoming Michigan Ross MBAs was finance; this year, by a wide margin, it’s consulting, from which more than a quarter of the class (26%) comes. Finance is next at 16%, then “other” (12%), tech (11%), and education/nonprofit/government (9%).

In undergraduate major, a near-majority (42%) majored in business, which is in keeping with past cohorts. Another 30% have STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) backgrounds, while 28% came from the humanities.

“With 130 different undergraduate majors from art to physics, engineering, and law; immediate prior experience at 260 different employers everywhere from Alibaba to the White House; and 50 students already possessing a graduate degree, the Class of 2021 is among the most accomplished and diverse we have welcomed,” Kwon tells Poets&Quants. “Their personal experiences also add incredible diversity to the class — from adoptees to first-generation college students to students who are married and have children — including a few women who just had their first child in the last six months!”

Yet the impact of reduced applications, and the culprit, is evident. Two years ago, the incoming Class of 2019 hailed from 45 countries. A year later, that number had dropped to 40. And in this year’s intake? Only 33. International students simply aren’t applying to U.S. B-schools like they used to.


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