This year, exactly two U.S. business schools in the top 25 avoided the ongoing and much remarked-upon downturn in applications to full-time MBA programs. One of those schools, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, is also among the schools that have weathered the slump best since it began three years ago as its new class profile shows.
Along with Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, Chicago Booth actually gained applications in 2018-2019. But Rice’s gain only partially reversed a major loss from the year before; the Booth School, on the other hand, is among just three schools — Columbia Business School and USC’s Marshall School of Business are the other two — that have confined the overall damage in lost apps since 2016-2017 to single-digit percentages. While every one of the top 25 has seen some decline in the last three years, Booth’s has only been 5.2%, reflecting a loss of 244 total apps, from 4,677 to 4,433.
This cycle, Chicago Booth is comfortably on the sidelines as the application drama continues to play out. The school’s 4,433 applications are 144 more than last cycle, a 3.4% increase. Expanding the view out to the last four years, including the 2015-2016 cycle that occurred before the downturn, Booth has gained 273 apps, or 6.6%. The school’s 5.2% decline since the slump began — coinciding with the rise of anti-immigrant rhetoric from the Trump administration that has severely depressed interest in U.S. B-schools among international candidates — is third-best out of 25 leading schools, behind only USC’s loss of 5% and CBS’ loss of 2.2%. See the chart at the bottom of the page for details and links below that for our reporting on the application decline at individual schools.
Chicago’s downturn-defying application data allowed the school to do something else most other elite schools couldn’t: lower its acceptance rate. Booth’s selectivity dropped to 22.5% from 22.9% — not dramatic, but a rare achievement in the current graduate management education environment.
BOOTH CLASS PROFILE SHOWS INTERNATIONAL ENROLLMENT STILL HASN’T RECOVERED
The source of the MBA malaise for most U.S. B-schools is a slackening of interest from foreign shores. That problem hit Chicago Booth last year when the school lost 16.7% of its international class representation in one cycle despite growing enrollment. In 2016-2017, the Booth School had reported a school-record 36% international students in a class of 580; a year later foreign enrollment had shrunk to just 30% in a class of 591. This fall, even though the international number is still a less-than-optimal 31% — Booth and its peer schools would prefer to be closer to 40% — at least the school halted the slide. However, the number of countries represented in the class continued its decline, down to 49 from a peak of 59 two years ago.
In its newly published profile for the 593-student MBA Class of 2021, Chicago Booth also reports the first decline in average score on the Graduate Management Admission Test in four years, to 730 from last year’s 731, as well as a decline in the percentage of women in the class, from a school record of 42% achieved in 2015, 2016, and 2018 to 40% this year. The school maintained its 3.60 average undergraduate GPA, which is just a hair shy of its school-record 3.61 set in 2017. Minorities — including U.S. citizens and permanent residents who identify as American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, or multi-ethnic — declined to 27% of the total class, down from 31% last year.
In another interesting development, for the first time the Booth School is reporting a significant jump in the number of applicants submitting Graduate Record Exam scores in place of or in addition to GMAT results. For years Booth reported this as a very small percentage of applicants — 7% in each of the last three years. But this year the number jumped to 13%.
BUSINESS DEGREE HOLDERS DOMINATE BOOTH’S NEW MBA CLASS OF 2021
Last year, 25% of new Booth MBA students had majored in economics in their undergraduate studies, while another 24% come to the school’s MBA program with business degree. This year those majors are flipped, with 29% coming to the Booth MBA program with a business undergrad degree and 22% with an economics degree. Additionally, 20% have engineering degrees, down from 24% last year; 15% have liberal arts degrees, same as last year; and 9% have physical sciences degrees, up from 7% last year. Like last year, MBA candidates with law degrees compose 1% of this year’s incoming class.
In the Class of 2020, when it came to pre-MBA work experience, the largest contingent of students — 29% — came from finance, including 8% from private equity and venture capital and 21% from financial services. The consulting industry accounted for 24% of Booth MBA students, while technology represented 9%, a group equal to the candidates with work backgrounds in government and nonprofits. Roughly 6% of the class came from healthcare, 4% from consumer products, and 2% each from accounting, media/entertainment, and manufacturing. Fast forward to the Class of 2021 and finance is king again at Booth, with the same proportion in financial services (21%) and PE/VC (8%); consulting is next with 25%, followed by technology (10%), nonprofit/government (10%), “other” (9%), healthcare (5%), consumer products (3%), energy (3%), and 2% each in accounting, manufacturing, and arts/media/entertainment.
Geographically, the vast majority of Chicago Booth students hail from the U.S. — 69%. After that, 13% hail from Asia, 11% from Central and South America or Mexico, and only 3% from Europe. The Middle East accounts for 2% of Booth MBA candidates, and Canada and Africa account for 1% each.
DON’T MISS APPS TO MAJOR U.S. PROGRAMS PLUNGE AGAIN
AS WELL AS OUR REPORTING ON THE APP DOWNTURN AT THE LEADING SCHOOLS: