Applications for Wharton’s full-time MBA program declined 13.9% for the incoming class of 2024, but the business school met gender parity and maintained its record average GMAT score for the second straight year.
Wharton released its 2024 MBA Class Profile today, and it mostly maintained the impressive gains it saw in the previous profile as it emerged from the shaky ground of the pandemic. Except in application volume, that is.
This year, 6,319 prospective students applied for the 2024 class, down more than 1,000 from 2021 when Wharton received 7,338 applications. It is the lowest number of applications since 2019 (Class of 2021) when 5,905 prospective MBAs applied. Wharton enrolled 877 students, down 20 from the previous year.
OTHER BUSINESS SCHOOLS WILL LIKELY REPORT DOUBLE-DIGIT DECLINES
Wharton’s application decline is a harbinger of what applicants will find when class profiles are published by other business schools. That drop-off is the result of what had been a booming U.S. economy that kept young professionals in their jobs and out of graduate school. To keep young talent in place, many companies dangled pay increases and job promotions to prospective applicants.
Still, the extent of the decline in applicants at a school of Wharton’s prestige and reputation is striking. It was made more severe as a result of the lockdown in China that has all but kept Chinese students out of the U.S. higher education market as well as declining interest in the MBA from domestic candidates who preferred to stay in place than go to graduate school. While Wharton does not report an acceptance rate in its class profile, the school’s admit rate likely climbed closer to 25.0% from a low of 18.2% a year earlier. Wharton’s yield rate—the percentage of admitted applicants who actually enroll—in all likelihood fell to 50% or below from 67% last year.
The drop is a sharp reversal from the dramatic increase in MBA applicants that came with the arrival of the pandemic in 2020. In that year, Wharton saw applications soar by 21% to 7,158 from only 5,905 in the 2018-2019 admissions cycle, more than 400 fewer applicants than this past year. The current decline is expected to continue into the round one application deadlines in September. But with a recession looming, it’s possible that the application bust will end in a big round two season early in the new year.
GENDER PARITY & GMAT SCORES
In some continuing good news for the school, 50% of the 2024 class is women, marking the second straight year the school has reached gender parity in its incoming MBA class.
Last year, Wharton became the first elite business school to enroll a majority of women in its MBA program at 52%, a significant boost from the 41% enrolled in 2020. Then, Wharton seemed to be falling behind its peer schools when Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business incoming class enrolled 49% women, Stanford enrolled 47%, Duke Fuqua enrolled 46%, and Harvard enrolled 44%. (See The Leading Business Schools With The Most Women).
“As we do every year, we made a conscious effort to ensure female applicants felt wanted and welcomed at Wharton, and showed them the many resources and communities in our program where they can connect, collaborate and feel supported,” Maryellen Reilly, deputy vice dean of the Wharton MBA program, said in a statement at the time. “Diversity, equity and inclusion are central to our efforts, and while we are extremely proud to welcome this record number of women to our MBA community this year, we do hope that equitable gender representation soon becomes the norm among business schools, rather than the exception.”
Meanwhile, the incoming class also maintained Wharton’s record-high average GMAT score of 733 for the second straight year. Its average GRE scores were 162 in both verbal and quant, while its average GPA was 3.6, all the same as last year.
INTERNATIONAL, LGBTQ+, AND ETHNICITY
The class of 2024 also increased its percentage of LGBTQ+ representation to 8%, up 1 point from the previous class. That is an all-time high in this category, according to the school.
It largely maintained its international student base, with 35% international students from 77 countries – down slightly from the 36% and 83 countries for the class of 2023. That’s the third highest percentage since 2014, after falling to 19% in 2020 – a year greatly disrupted by the pandemic.
Eleven percent of the incoming MBA are first generation students. In terms of undergraduate majors, 34% were in the humanities, 34% in STEM, and 32% in business. That compares to 39% humanities, 33% STEM, and 27% business for the 2023 incoming class.
AVERAGE WORK EXPERIENCE
Incoming MBAs have an average work experience of 5 years, the same as the previous class. But, while the range of work experience was between 1 and 14 years for the previous class, the 2024 range was 1 to 24 years.
Consulting backgrounds account for 27% (compared to 28% in the previous class), followed by tech at 12% (up from 10%), and nonprofit and government at 11% ( up from 10%). Investment banking backgrounds, which made up the second largest group in 2021 at 14%, fell to just 8% this year, the sixth largest work category for this year.