Last fall, when business schools started releasing class profiles for their 2019 MBA intakes, the leading schools — as usual — were quickest to publicize their data. The top 25 full-time MBA programs are, by and large, admirably transparent with the commonly reported attributes of their students: average age, average undergraduate GPA, and average (or median) score on the Graduate Management Admission Test. Historically, most top schools also have been open about disclosing things like number of applications received and number of applicants admitted, two numbers that, together with the number of enrollees, allow for the calculation of acceptance rate and yield — two of the most important data points in the business school universe, as any would-be applicant (and most admissions officers) will tell you.
Because Poets&Quants was able to collect acceptance rate data for the top 25 schools so quickly last fall, we published it right away, knowing it would come in handy for readers working to meet first-round deadlines. And then we went about finding the acceptance rates for the schools ranked 26-50 — a process that took some time but that is now done. The biggest news in this story, therefore, is not about Harvard, Wharton, Stanford or the rest of the M7 super elites, nor the second-tier schools of the “S10” or even the schools at the lower end of the top 25, because they got their analysis in October.
Instead, here is the skinny on the rest.
20 OF THE LATTER 25 TOP 50 PROGRAMS REPORT INCREASES IN THEIR MBA ADMIT RATES
Of the 25 schools in the lower half of the top 50, 20 saw increases in their acceptance rates, with the largest coming at Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business, where the rate grew from 44.3% in 2018 to 59.0% in 2019, a 14.7-point increase that calculates to a 33.2% jump. MSU Broad is ranked 33rd by P&Q. Other lower-25 schools with big year-over-year acceptance rate increases: Arizona State University’s Carey School of Business (20% to 31%), Washington University in St. Louis Olin Business School (33% to 43.4%), Wisconsin School of Business (33.3% to 43.7%), and Purdue University Krannert School of Management (49.4% to 59.4%).
However, while the top 25 had three schools that saw actual decreases, the lower 25 had four: Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, University of Rochester Simon Business School, University of Pittsburgh Katz Graduate School of Business, and Boston University Questrom School of Business. Rochester Simon had the biggest drop, 3.9 points, or nearly 12%.
The lowest acceptance rate among the lower 25 schools is at No. 31 Penn State Smeal College of Business, which boasts a 19.8%, the only rate below 20% in the bottom 25. Smeal’s rate last year was 17.6%. The average rate for all lower-25 schools is 43.3%, compared to 30.7% for the top 25 schools.
MBA APPLICATION NOSEDIVE HITS ACCEPTANCE RATE, TOO
The ongoing application plunge affecting all U.S. business schools impacts other important metrics, acceptance rate perhaps most directly. Among the top 50 schools, 42 saw their rates go up in 2019, while only seven saw decreases (one school, Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business, has not reported enough data to make a comparison). The average increase in the top 25 is 4.3 percentage points, while the average increase in the lower half of the top 50 is 5.7 points.
Altogether, seven schools had greater than 10-point increases to their acceptance rates between 2018 and 2019: Wisconsin (33.3% to 43.7%), Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business (22.7% to 34.5%), Indiana University Kelley School of Business (38% to 49.4%), Washington Olin (33% to 43.4%), Purdue Krannert (49.4% to 59.4%), ASU Carey (20% to 31%), and Michigan State Broad (44.3% to 59.0%). The University of Georgia Terry College of Business almost made the list, having gained 9.2 points: 32.2% to 41.4%.
And the schools where acceptance rates have actually gone down? The University of Chicago Booth School of Business (-0.4 points), MIT Sloan School of Management (-0.6), Rice University Jones Graduate School of Business (-1.7), Vanderbilt Owen (-2.3), Rochester Simon (-3.9), Pittsburgh Katz (-1.7), and Boston Questrom (-1.0).
The picture isn’t any prettier, from a school perspective, for the top 10 programs, where acceptance rate climbed an average of 4.1 percentage points, with Tuck’s jump being the biggest. Overall in the top 10, the acceptance rate climbed to 19.7% from 17.2% last year. It has been on a steady incline since 2016, growing 5.2 points, or about 36%, in that span.
AS ACCEPTANCE RATES CLIMB, YIELD SHRINKS
Acceptance rates may be climbing, but yield has not followed. Thirty-seven of 50 schools saw declines last year in yield, which is the proportion of admitted students who actually enroll. The biggest yield slip came at UC-Davis Graduate School of Management, which saw its yield decline 16.3%, from 44.7% in 2018 to 37.4% last fall. In fact, three of the five worst year-over-year yield declines occurred in the top 25, with Dartmouth (-16%) and Columbia (-8.6%) among the hardest hit.
On the other hand, among the six schools with the biggest increases in yield, four are in the lower half of the top 50. All yield increases were led by Pittsburgh Katz, which saw a 10.5-point jump from 44.4% to 54.9%; that’s a 23.6% increase. Washington Olin (19.6%) and Rochester Simon (18.6%) also had notable jumps.
See the next pages for the complete table of acceptance rates, applications, admits, enrollment, and yield at the top 50 U.S. MBA programs.
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