Harvard | Mr. Public Finance
GMAT 720, GPA 3.9
Harvard | Mr. Startup
GRE 327, GPA 3.35
Darden | Mr. Leading Petty Officer
GRE (MCAT) 501, GPA 4.0
Harvard | Ms. Almost Ballerina
GRE ..., GPA ...
Darden | Mr. Federal Consultant
GMAT 780, GPA 3.26
Stanford GSB | Mr. Rocket Scientist Lawyer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.65 Cumulative
Harvard | Mr. Polyglot
GMAT 740, GPA 3.65
Darden | Mr. Engineer Consultant
GMAT 730, GPA 3.47
Stanford GSB | Mr. Navy Officer
GMAT 770, GPA 4.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Systems Change
GMAT 730, GPA 4
Tuck | Mr. Consulting To Tech
GMAT 750, GPA 3.2
Harvard | Ms. Ambitious Hippie
GRE 329, GPA 3.9
Harvard | Mr. Milk Before Cereals
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3 (16/20 Portuguese scale)
Harvard | Mr. Sales To Consulting
GMAT 760, GPA 3.49
INSEAD | Ms. Hope & Goodwill
GMAT 740, GPA 3.5
INSEAD | Mr. Airline Captain
GMAT 740, GPA 3.8
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBB to PM
GRE 338, GPA 4.0
IU Kelley | Ms. Biracial Single Mommy
, GPA 2.5/3.67 Grad
Darden | Ms. Unicorn Healthcare Tech
GMAT 730, GPA 3.5
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBA Class of 2023
GMAT 725, GPA 3.5
Chicago Booth | Mr. Guy From Taiwan
GRE 326, GPA 3.3
Stanford GSB | Mr. Energy Reform
GMAT 700, GPA 3.14 of 4
Ross | Mr. Verbal Engineer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3
Ross | Ms. Packaging Manager
GMAT 730, GPA 3.47
Kellogg | Mr. Danish Raised, US Based
GMAT 710, GPA 10.6 out of 12
Wharton | Mr. Sr. Systems Engineer
GRE 1280, GPA 3.3
Chicago Booth | Mr. Semiconductor Guy
GMAT 730, GPA 3.3

The Most Selective MBA Programs

MBA students at the Stanford GSB

What are the most selective MBA programs in the world? Truth is, there’s no single metric to answer that question. Undergraduate GPAs, GMAT and GRE scores, college and employer feeders all get at selectivity. But there is a rather telling and critical pair of metrics: acceptance rates and applicants per available classroom seat. When it comes to admit rates, here are the top ten:

The Most Selective MBA Programs In The U.S.

SchoolAdmit RateApps Per SeatApplicationsAdmitsEnrolled
Stanford GSB6.9%17.67,342504417
Harvard Business School11.5%9.89,2281,058938
MIT Sloan14.6%12.55,200759416
UC-Berkeley Haas17.7%12.53,540628283
Duke Fuqua22.9%7.73,036695395
Chicago Booth24.2%7.54,4331,074593
Yale SOM25.2%9.33,194806345
NYU Stern26.1%10.13,518919350

* All data is for the entering 2019 cohort of full-time MBA students that will graduate in the Class of 2021. The University of Florida’s full-time MBA program at the Warrington School would have made the top-tier with an admit rate of only 17.3% but the entering cohort is just 34 students.


You’ll notice a number of surprises in these numbers that might seem counter-intuitive. Given the decline in applications to full-time MBA programs in recent years, Wharton’s acceptance rate is now below Duke University’s Fuqua School. Meanwhile, New York University’s Stern School of Business and Yale’s School of Management both sport admit rates below the much higher-ranked Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. In fact, the biggest shock of all is that Kellogg doesn’t make the top ten on acceptance rates.

And there are still more surprises when you look at the applicants-per-class-seat numbers. Not surprisingly, no school even comes close to Stanford Graduate School of Business. For every classroom seat at the GSB, there are 17.6 applicants. But it may shock you to know that both MIT Sloan and UC-Berkeley Haas have more applicants per seat than even Harvard Business School, 12.5 vs. HBS’ 9.8. Equally surprising is that of these top ten schools, Wharton is last, with just 6.9 applicants for every classroom seat.

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Year in and year out, no prestige MBA program is as selective as Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. It boasts the lowest acceptance rate of 6.9% and the highest number of applicants per classroom seat at 17.6. No other business school comes even close to those metrics. Another way to look at it is that 93% of everyone who applies gets turned down for admission. And when Stanford offers admissions to a candidate, 83% take the school up on its offer. That yield rate is second only to Harvard Business School’s 89%. Stanford’s average class GMAT score of 734 is higher than any other prestigious MBA program in the world. The class GRE scores are equally impressive: the averages are 165 for both the verbal and quant sections of the test, while the average analytical writing score was 4.9. Some 19% of the enrolled students submitted a GRE score at Stanford: Besides the high standardized test scores, undergraduate grade point averages are up there, too.  For the latest class, they average 3.7. Of the 417 students in the latest class, only three entered without any full-time work experience. Otherwise, incoming students averaged 55 months of full-time work experience.

Harvard Business School

Because of Harvard Business School’s much larger class size, more than twice as large as Stanford’s, the school can have greater latitude to take chances with candidates who might not sync with HBS’ high selectivity standards. For the cohort entering in the fall of 2019, the admit rate was 11.5%. It might surprise some that both MIT Sloan and UC-Berkeley Haas, with significantly smaller incoming MBA classes, actually get more apps per classroom seat than HBS but they do: 12.5 apps per seat at MIT and Berkeley versus 9.8 at Harvard. HBS may lose some dual admits to Stanford every year but no school is more successful at getting its admitted applicants to matriculate than Harvard Business School. The school’s 89% yield rate, down two percentage points in the past year, is the envy of the business school world. The class average GMAT score for the latest entering cohort was 728 (the median is 730), though the range went from a low of 590 to a perfect 800 score. The median quant score was 48, while the verbal was 41. The average undergrad GPA was 3.7. One in five students got in and enrolled with a GRE score. The median verbal and quant scores were the same: 163. Newly enrolled students at HBS average 4.7 years of full-time work experience and average 27 years of age. All 938 students in the Class of 2021 brought work experience to the game.

MIT Sloan School of Management

Most people assume its Harvard or Stanford at the top, almost always followed by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. But when it comes to admit rate, MIT Sloan comes next, with an acceptance rate of just 14.6%. Sloan receives more apps per available seat than even Harvard: 12.5 for every spot in a cohort of only 416 which is roughly the same size as Stanford’s entering MBA class. MIT’s other selectivity stats are predictably up there: The average class GMAT was 727 (with a 730 median), with domestic students averaging 732 vs. international students’ 722. MIT doesn’t provide a low and high score on the GMAT but rather the middle-80% which was 690 to 760. Some 24% of the students gained entry with a GRE score. Those scores averaged 162 for both the verbal and the quant, with 4.7 on the analytical writing portion of the test. All 416 students had previous work experience, with the average full-time workload of 61 months, and an average age of 28.

Columbia Business School

Never underestimate the appeal of getting your MBA in New York City at an Ivy League university. Columbia is unique in one respect: The school has not one but two intakes in August and January. The two cohorts, each comprised of four terms, merge in the fall of the second year to complete electives as a single class. It’s considerably easier to get into the January intake which attracts roughly 30% of the entire graduating class. For the August cohort, the acceptance rate is just 16.4%, with a yield of 66.0%. In fact, CBS gets as many applicants per class seat (8.8) at HBS for that intake. For the smaller January intake, however, the acceptance rate is a surprisingly high 52.1%, with a yield rate of 86.8%. The disparity is largely the result of far fewer applicants for the January intake that leads to the accelerated MBA. Some 234 out of 449 applicants were accepted with 203 enrolled for the January cohort. Combine both cohorts and the acceptance rate balloons to 19.1%. The average GMAT score for the larger August cohort for the full two-year MBA program at Columbia was 732, with a range of 560 to 790. Some 16% of the enrolled students submitted GRE scores for their applications. CBS does not disclose GRE scores which suggest it could be easier to get into the MBA program with a lower GRE. The class average GPA was 3.6. Of the 551 students in the August cohort, 529 had prior work experience which averaged 60 months. The average age of an August cohort student was 28 but ranges between 22 years and 51 (you read that right).

UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business

The small class size of just 283 students, similar to Dartmouth Tuck and Cornell Johnson’s two-year MBA program, plus its Bay Area location makes Haas a reach school for many. Haas accepted only 17.7% of its candidates, one of only five prestigious MBA programs in the world that admits fewer than one in five applicants. That is why Haas is tied with MIT for having the second most number of candidates per classroom seat available at 12.5. The average class GMAT is 725, with domestic students averaging slightly below at 721 and international students averaging a score of 730. Some 21% of the students get in with a GRE score. Class averages on the GRE were 162 on the verbal and 161 on the quant, with a 4.7 average analytical writing score. The average GPA was 3.67. All incoming students had prior work experience, with the class average at 68 months.

Duke University Fuqua School of Business

That Fuqua is not far behind Berkeley and Columbia and ahead of such schools as Kellogg and Tuck will surprise a lot of people who simply follow the rankings. But the data doesn’t lie. Fuqua’s acceptance rate of  22.9% makes the school’s MBA program more selective than even Wharton or Chicago Booth, with slightly more applicants per classroom seat than either of those two schools which are always at the top of MBA rankings. The average class GMAT score was 705, with domestic students in the Class of 2021 averaging 702 and internationals at 711. Fuqua does not disclose the lowest and highest scores, preferring to give the middle 80% which came to 660 to 740. Some 23% of the students submitted a GRE score to gain entry, with average verbal scores hitting 160, quant scores at 159 and analytical writing scores of 4.5. The average undergraduate GPA for the class was 3.5. All of the 395 students in the entering cohort had prior work experience which averaged 66 months.

University of Pennsylvania Wharton School

If you’re surprised that Wharton would accept more applicants than MIT, Columbia, Berkeley or Duke, all you need to know is what has happened to MBA application volume at this excellent school in the past two years. Applicants for the fall 2019 intake fell by 5.4% from 2018 and 11.8% from the school’s all-time high of 6,692 in 2017. In fact, last year was the first time in at least eight years that apps dipped below 6,000 at Wharton, and it corresponded with the lowest international student intake — 30% — in at least that span. Make no mistake: It’s hard to get into the school’s elite MBA program and the admit rate betrays the super high stats required for admission. The average class GMAT score was 732, just two points below Stanford, while the average undergrad GPA was 3.61. The range of GMAT scores for enrolled students went from a low of 540 to 790, though a year earlier Wharton enrolled a student with a 500 GMAT score. Given the school’s reputation in finance, it may not be surprising that only 15% of the latest cohort took a GRE to get into Wharton. The average verbal and quant scores on the GRE were 162. Students averaged five years of work experience, though some got in with no full-time jobs on their resumes while the student with the most experience had racked up 16 years of work.

University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Ever since David Booth reached into his pockets and gave the University of Chicago’s business school $300 million in 2008, Booth has been a school with momentum. It has used Booth’s money to sway many applicants who would have otherwise gone to Wharton, Columbia or other rivals to Chicago. With an acceptance rate of 24.2%, Booth is nipping at Wharton’s heels and already has more applicants per class seat than its Philadelphia competitor. The average class GMAT score for the latest entering cohort was 730, just two points below Wharton, with domestic students averaging 729 and internationals at 731. The lowest score was 610, while the highest was 790. The average undergraduate GPA was 3.58. Booth, given its quant/finance profile, had been a laggard in accepting the GRE. It now accepts GRE scores but is probably the only top U.S. school that quietly prefers the GMAT. Some 13% of the latest cohort got in with a GRE with an average verbal score of 163.3 and a quant score of 164.1. All 593 students in the latest intake had prior work experience with the average at 60 months.

Yale School of Management

Few MBA programs or business schools have made as much progress as Yale SOM in the past ten years. But the popularity of this MBA program is evidenced by the fact that it receives more applications per classroom seat, 9.3 apps per seat, than Wharton, Booth, Kellogg or Tuck. The latest acceptance rate of 25.2% put the school clearly in the top ten. The average class GMAT score for the Class of 2021 was 721, with domestic students averaging 719 and internationals at 725. The average undergraduate GPA was 3.64. Yale only provides the mid-80% range of GMAT scores which were 680 to 760. SOM has had a greater percentage of its students get into the MBA program with a GRE score than most rivals and that still is true. One in four MBAs, or 24%, submitted a GRE, with average verbal scores of 165 and quant scores of 164. The analytical writing average was 4.9. Some 327 of the 345 students in the entering cohort have prior work experience, with the average at 61 months.

New York University Stern School of Business

NYU’s Stern School of Business rounds out the top ten in selectivity, admitting 26.1% of the applicants to its full-time, two-year MBA experience. The average class GMAT of 721 gets a bit more support from international students who averaged 736, 21 points higher than the domestic average of 715. The lowest GMAT in the class was 600 with the highest 780. The average undergrad GPA was 3.52, with a range of a low of 2.84 and a high of 3.99. Some 18% of the latest cohort used a GRE to get in, with average verbal and quant scores of 162 and 160, respectively, and an analytical writing result that averaged 4.6. It’s worth noting that Stern reports that 4% of the entering class got in with an LSAT, an MCAT, or a DAT (Dental Admission Test). Some 338 of the 350 students in the Class of 2021 brought prior work experience to the program, with the average being 62 months.

Rounding Out The Top 25 Selective MBA Programs In The U.S.

SchoolAdmit RateApps Per SeatApplicationsAdmitsEnrolled
Northwestern Kellogg27.0%8.03,7791,019474
USC Marshall29.9%8.91,899568214
UCLA Anderson30.5%8.22,820860343
Michigan Ross30.9%7.12,989924421
Dartmouth Tuck34.5%17.22,032701284
Washington Foster36.0%7.1836311117
Virginia Darden36.5%6.52,183797336
Texas McCombs38.1%7.51,941740260
Rice Jones37.3%5.8625233107
Cornell Johnson38.3%5.41,535588282
Georgia Tech Scheller40.1%10.144417885
Carnegie Mellon Tepper42.8%6.31,269543200
Washington Olin43.4%5.251422398
Minnesota Carlson47.9%4.935917274
Emory Goizueta49.7%5.5742370135

* All data is for the entering 2019 cohort of full-time MBA students that will graduate in the Class of 2021.

Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management

We’re as surprised as you might be that this world-class M7 school would have an acceptance rate that puts it just outside the top ten. But with an admit rate of 27.0%, it’s just a wee bit less than a full percentage point behind NYU Stern. Some context may be in order, however. Last year, applications to Kellogg’s two-year residential MBA program plunged by 15.5%, a more severe decline than many other rival programs. The slip made no difference in the quality of the class that entered in 2019, however. The average class GMAT was 730, with a low of 620 and a high of 780. The average undergraduate GPA was 3.64. About 12% of the cohort got in with a GRE, though Kellogg does not disclose those numbers. And it’s worth mentioning that these reported stats are for the two-year MBA, not the school’s accelerated one-year program which undoubtedly has a higher accept rate just as Columbia’s January cohort. All 474 students in the Class of 2021 have prior work experience with the class average hovering at 60 months.

University of Southern California Marshall School of Business

Now, this is a real surprise. But if you have been following the rankings, you will already have known that Marshall has been the biggest rankings success story in the past five years. This year, the school’s MBA program was ranked 17th by U.S. News, its highest ranking ever. Strong rankings performances, one after the other, bring more applicants and that is how Marshall has brought down its acceptance rate to under 30%, an admit rate that is more choosy than Dartmouth Tuck, Michigan Ross, and UVA Darden, among others. The school now gets nine applicants for every available seat in his entering MBA cohorts. That is even better than Northwestern Kellogg. Rankings aside, Marshall’s location in California helps as well. The average class GMAT is now 708, with an 80% middle range of 680 to 740. The average undergraduate GPA of the class is 3.54. Some 29% of the latest cohort got in with a GRE. The average verbal score on the GRE was 161, with a 159 average quant and a 4.5 on the analytical writing portion of the test. All 215 students in the entering class brought prior work experience to the program, with an average of 72 months, a bit higher than most other top business schools.

UC-Los Angeles Anderson School of Management

We’re not sure why but UCLA is often overlooked by many applicants given the quality of the school, its faculty, and students who are among the most welcoming MBAs we have met over the years. On the other hand, only ten MBA programs can be in the top ten. Anderson is thought to be strong in real estate (ranking sixth in U.S. News specialty rankings), marketing (10th), and finance (11). The school accepts 30.5% of its applicants, with 8.2 candidates for every available classroom seat in a class of 343 students. If UCLA’s MBA were top ten, only one other school would have a smaller entering class: UC-Berkeley which takes in just 283 students. The latest class GMAT average is 717, with domestic students bringing with them a 714 average and international students at a 724 average. The mid-80th percentile range is 680 to 750. Some 10% of the latest class got into Anderson with a GRE, with the 163 the average for both verbal and quant and a 4.7 on the writing portion of the test. Some 338 of the 343 students had work experience before going for their MBAs at UCLA with an average 62 months.

University of Michigan Ross School of Business

If you want insights into MBA admissions overall, a good place to find it is the admissions blog by Soojin Kwon, managing director of full-time MBA admissions and program. Her goal is to make admissions, often a black box mystery to many, as transparent as possible. Her insights might very well help you swing the odds in your favor at a school that accepts 30.9% of its applicants, with 7.1 applicants for every classroom seat. In 2028-2019, Ross received 2,989 applications to its full-time MBA program, admitted 924 candidates, and enrolled 421 students, roughly 50 fewer students than Northwestern Kellogg. Ross moved some of the flexibility and accommodations it made to applicants during the height of the pandemic to the 2020-2021 admissions season by adding a fourth-round and agreeing to accept MCATs and LSATs in lieu of the GMAT or GRE. The class GMAT average at Ross is 719, with international students scoring slightly higher at 727 and domestic students at 715. The mid-80th percentile range is 680 to 760. The average undergraduate GPA is 3.45, with a mid-80th range of 3.o to 3.82. The GRE exam has become highly popular for Ross admissions, with 34% of the latest class having entered the MBA program with a GRE. The average GRE verbal score is 160, while the average quant was a point lower at 159, and the average analytical writing score was 4.4. Some 418 of the 421 students in the incoming class entered with full-time work experience, with the average being 65 months.

Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business

After falling out of the top ten in U.S. News‘ annual ranking in 2019 (and maintained in 2020) to 12th place, Tuck suffered one of the largest percentage declines in MBA applications among the top U.S. business schools. Applications for Tuck’s MBA program in 2018-2019 plunged 22.5% to 2,032, their lowest level in recent memory. The alarming decline sent the school’s acceptance rate soaring to 34.5% from 23.3% only a year ago. Those numbers spell opportunity for applicants to get into one of the best MBA experiences in the world. The school’s latest admit rate stands in stark contrast to the fact that Tuck gets 17.2 applicants for every one of its fewer than 300 classroom seats. That is second best, behind only Stanford’s 17.6 and well ahead of Harvard at 9.8 or Wharton at 6.9. In the 2018-2019 admissions cycle, the school received 2,032 applications, admitted 701 candidates and enrolled a class of 284 students, roughly the same incoming class size as UC-Berkeley’s Haas School. Those numbers show that Tuck remains solidly in the consideration set of the most qualified applicants but Tuck’s yield–the percentage of admits who enroll–is just 40.5%. Translation: About six of every ten applicants admitted to Tuck turned the school down. The Class of 2021 posted a 723 GMAT average, a record for the school, with the range of a low of 620 to a high of 780. Tuck publishes its average GMAT V and Q scores which are 42 and 48, respectively. Both domestic and international students had the exact same class average. At the same time, the average undergraduate GPAs held steady at 3.52, though Tuck enrolled one student with a 2.35 while the high for the class was a perfect 4.0.  In other words, the class is as academically accomplished as any before them. Some 21% of the incoming Class of 2021 got in with a GRE score, the average of which was 163V, with a range of 150 to 170, and a 161Q, with a range of 154 to 170. Every incoming student has full-time work experience on his or her resume, with the average coming in at 64 months.

University of Washington Foster School of Business

Boosted by a strong Seattle economy, led by such major MBA employers as Amazon and Microsoft, Washington’s Foster School has had tremendous momentum in the past ten years, having made significant rankings gains that have drawn more and more applicants to its small full-time MBA program. For its Class of 2021, the school accepted 36% of its applicants, drawing 7.1 candidates for each of its 117 classroom seats. Some 836 young professionals applied to the school which admitted 311 of them to get to that 117-student intake. Only four other MBA programs in the U.S. Top 25 have smaller incoming classes. The GMAT score for that group of students was 695, a class average lifted partly by international students who came in with GMAT scores of 707 vs. the domestic average of 688. The mid-80th percentile range? A 640 to a 730. About 21% of the entering class submitted a GRE score to Foster, with the average verbal score of 160, quant was 159, and the writing portion 4.4. Foster’s incoming class tends to have a little more full-time work experience than many of its peers: an average 78 months. The school did not enroll a single full-time MBA student who lacked at least some full-time work experience.

University of Virginia Darden School of Business

A white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 captured headlines throughout the world, has helped to suppress applications to Darden’s MBA program. That is good news for candidates who want to take advantage of the MBA program that rightly boasts the best MBA teaching faculty in the world. Year in and year out, the Darden MBA program has consistently ranked at the very top in teaching as well as in having one of the best educational experiences. The decline helped to push Darden’s acceptance rate to 36.5%, a historical high for the school that in the mid-1990s would admit fewer than 20% of those who applied. For the Class of 2021, Darden received 6.5 applicants for every classroom seat. Some 2,183 candidates tossed their hats into the Darden ring. The school accepted 797 of them to enroll a class of 336 students. Darden, however, has been making steady ranking gains of late as Charlottesville puts the rally that cost one person her life in its past. So don’t expect the door to this superb MBA experience to stay as open as it has been. The class average GMAT score for the students who will graduate in 2021 was 713, with internationals bringing an average score that was ten points higher at 723 and domestics at 709. The mid-80th percentile was 660 to 750. Some 23% of the latest entering class submitted a GRE score, with the average verbal score at 161 and a quant of 160, while the average writing score was 5. Some 336 out of the 365 the students brought full-time work experience, with the average hitting 63 months.


About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.