It’s not magic that enabled Harvard Business School to enroll its largest-ever MBA class this fall for the second year in row, despite failing to evade the application decline that afflicted most of the leading business schools in the United States in the 2021-2022 cycle. No — it’s something far more mundane: deferrals.
Harvard on Thursday (September 15) announced a class that exceeds 1,000 students for the second straight year — and, at 1,015, exceeds even last year’s record of 1,010. It happened because of deferrals from the pandemic year of 2020. Like last year’s class, the new MBA class — bigger by nearly 40% than the record-low pandemic intake of two years ago — is comprised of about 10% students who took deferrals.
“When we allowed people to defer for any reason with the onset of the pandemic, over 200 did,” Chad Losee, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid, told Poets&Quants last year, adding that half of those enrolled in the Class of 2023 and half were expected to enroll this year. (Losee confirmed this year’s deferrals number in a brief blog post.) But with coronavirus deferrals now expended, such large class sizes will become a thing of the past, Losee added: “We will enroll a little over 1,000 (in 2022) and then after that will go back to our normal size of just over 900 students.”
SOMEONE WITH A 540 GMAT GOT INTO HARVARD
The deferrals and large class size might deflect attention from the fact that, like its peers and other leading B-schools in the United States, Harvard's MBA applications were down big this year. Apps to HBS declined by 15.4%, a drop-off of more than 1,500 apps from 9,773 last year, and down more than 20% since the Class of 2019 set a record with 10,351.
Harvard's year-to-year application decline is on the larger side among those top B-schools that have reported a number so far this year. At Michigan Ross the loss was 9.3%; at NYU Stern, 10%; at the Wharton School, about 14%; and at UCLA Anderson, steepest among all schools that have so far reported, 20%. Harvard's decline was much higher than Duke Fuqua’s (6%), Georgetown McDonough's (5.4%), and Virginia Darden’s, which was just 3.5%. So far one top-25 B-school, Cornell Johnson, has reported actually growing its apps this year.
Despite the drop in applications, Harvard maintained its 730 median Graduate Management Admission Test score for the class, with a median of 42 on the verbal (up from 41) and 48 on the quant portion of the exam (down from 49). Verbal scores ranged from a low of 29 to a high of 51, while quant scores ranged from 34 to 51. Overall, scores ranged from a low of 540 — 50 points lower than last year's lowest score — to a high of 790, just ten points shy of a perfect score. Two years ago the lowest score from a successful applicant was 620.
Meanwhile, the percentage off those who opt to submit a Graduate Record Exam test score continued to grow, up to 30% from 29% last year, a new record. The median GRE score for this year’s class was 326, down 1 point from 2021, with a 163 average on both the verbal and the quant. The verbal range went from a low of 147 to a high of 170, same as last year, while the quant score ranged from 146 to 170. Last year's quant range was 150-170.
2022: BEST YEAR FOR WOMEN MBA ENROLLMENT?
Harvard's 46% women fits right in with the group of schools that all others look to as trailblazers, and makes 2022 potentially the best year ever for women's MBA enrollment.
Last year among the top 25 U.S. B-schools, 15 reported 40% or more women in their full-time MBA classes, including all but one of top 10 schools. This year the leading B-schools appear poised to repeat the feat, if not improve on it. Among the schools that have so far reported, Wharton stayed in the hallowed land of parity at 50% (from 52% the previous year); Dartmouth is at 45% women; and Columbia Business School is at 44%.
UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business — the only top-10 U.S. B-school below 40% women in 2021 — reports a school-record 46% this year.
In terms of international students, Harvard's 38% is the most for the school in recent history, up from 37% last year and in 2019. While most of its Class of 2024 students hail from the U.S. (62%), the number is down 5 percentage points in two years; meanwhile 14% of the new class comes from Asia, up 3 points in two years, and 9% from Europe, up a point from last year.
See the next page for more data from the new Harvard MBA class profile, including data comparisons with previous years.
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