Has ‘The Window’ Reopened? Acceptance Rates, Yield & More At The Top 50 U.S. MBA Programs

Has 'The Window' Reopened? Acceptance Rates, Yield & More At The Top 50 U.S. MBA Programs

Getting into an elite, top-10 U.S. MBA program became dramatically easier in 2022. Will “the window” remain open for long?

Last spring, Poets&Quants reported that the window of opportunity to get into a “reach” business school in the United States had narrowed dramatically. Applications were up, acceptance rates were down, and yield — the percentage of admits who actually enroll — was on the rise across the board, all of which suggested that the leading MBA programs had fully recovered from the coronavirus pandemic and were returning to their normal, highly selective selves.

That was an assessment based on 2021 data. With 2022 data available this spring with the release of the U.S. News MBA ranking, it’s clear that declarations of “the window” closing were a bit premature.

At the elite B-schools of the top 50 U.S. MBA programs as ranked by Poets&Quants, acceptance rates have climbed back up, meaning more applicants are gaining admission even as class sizes have shrunk (in some cases severely). These elite schools (including all of the M7 schools), where applications plummeted in the 2021-2022 cycle, responded by admitting significantly more applicants (and watching their yield slip as more of those applicants enjoyed the luxury of choosing other schools).

Many lower-ranked schools, however, saw the opposite in 2022: They decreased their acceptance rates in 2022, in some cases dramatically. See tables below and the following pages for details.

EIGHT OF TOP 10 B-SCHOOLS SAW MBA APPS DROP BY DOUBLE-DIGIT PERCENTAGES

Did the just-concluded 2022-2023 cycle bring a continuation of this trend, with acceptance rates continuing to go up at the top-ranked as the MBA faces pressure to evolve from digital and other competition? Or did the numbers snap back again? And what happened at the schools ranked below the top 10, where in some cases applications were up and acceptance rates down? We'll have to wait to find out, as most B-schools don't release admission data from their full-time MBA programs until the fall.

As we await confirmation about what transpired in the recently concluded 2022-2023 application cycle, and as the 2023-2024 cycle officially gets underway, it's notable that 2022 acceptance rate data is remarkable for the encouragement it provides anyone considering an MBA at a top-10 school, every one of which saw their acceptance rate climb last year.

That includes U.S. News' No. 1 Chicago Booth School of Business, where the acceptance rate grew to 30.1% from 22.6%, an increase of one-third and the biggest jump in the top 10; and P&Q's No. 1 Wharton, where the rate grew to 22.8% from 18.2%, an increase of one-quarter. Notably, in 2021, none of the top-10 U.S. B-schools had acceptance rates over 30%; in 2022, three did, with Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business the highest at 33.4%. (Tuck, interestingly, is the only top-10 school that had a lower rate in 2022 than the last pre-pandemic year of 2019, when its rate was 34.5%.) Cumulatively, the top-10 acceptance rate climbed to 22.2%, just shy of the 22.3% recorded in the pandemic crucible year of 2020.

The clear cause of these climbing acceptance rates at the elite schools: a cratering of applications. Apps plummeted across the top 10, with eight of 10 schools seeing drops by double-digit percentages. Wharton's apps fell 13.9% from 7,338 to 6,319; Booth's fell 13.6% from 5,037 to 4,352; Stanford's fell 16.5% from 7,367 to 6,152. At Harvard, MBA applications declined 15.4% from 9,773 to 8,264; at UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business they dropped 17.1% from 3,841 to 3,183; and at Yale School of Management they fell 19.8% from 3,877 to 3,237. But the biggest decline was at MIT Sloan School of Management, where apps dropped by nearly a quarter, 24.8%, to 5,349 from 7,112.

A DIFFERENT PICTURE DOWN THE RANKINGS

The top schools responded to the loss of app volume by opening their gates a bit wider. But what about the rest of the top 25? For the second-tier schools, the outlook was not so dire, and their responses commensurate. Six of the 15 schools saw increases in applications: Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, Washington Foster Business School, Emory Goizueta Business School, Indiana Kelley School of Business, and Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business. Of these, all but Cornell Johnson and USC Marshall decreased their acceptance rates from the previous year; Emory Goizueta's 16-point drop to 37.1% from 53.1% was among the most dramatic of any top-50 school, a decline of more than 30%.

And what about the top 50? Widening the lens, the average acceptance rate among all the top 50 U.S. business schools in 2022 was 31.2% — actually a bit lower than 2021's average rate of 31.8%.

Why the difference? Lower class sizes are one reason. A return to pre-pandemic admissions standards, including reinstatement of entrance exam requirements, is another.

NINE TOP-50 SCHOOLS HAVE ACCEPTANCE RATES BELOW 20%

Of the 10 lowest acceptance rates in the P&Q top 50, a remarkable four schools are ranked outside the top 25. After Stanford (8.6%) and Harvard (14.4%), the next-lowest rate is at Rochester Simon Business School, ranked No. 30, at 14.7%. MIT Sloan (14.8%) is next, followed by B-schools ranked 35th, 31st, and 33rd, respectively: Ohio State Fisher College of Business (15.1%), Arizona State Carey School of Business (18%), and Penn State Smeal College of Business (18.5%).

More noteworthy stats:

  • Highest acceptance rate in the top 10: No. 9 Dartmouth Tuck, 33.4% (in 2021: Tuck 29.5%)
  • Highest in the top 25: No. 25 Georgetown McDonough School of Business, 50.9% (in 2021: Georgetown 48.1%)
  • Highest in the top 50: No. 49 Utah Eccles, 61.6% (in 2021: BYU Marriott 60.7%)

Nine schools in the top 50 have acceptance rates below 20%; in 2021 there were 10. Twenty-four schools are below 30%; in 2021 there were 27. In 2020 there were only 18.

Acceptance rates went down year-to-year at 22 schools overall; last year we reported that this happened at 21 schools. Among the biggest drops was Emory Goizueta's, from 53.1% to 37.1%, but bigger declines occurred at Rutgers Business School (from 43.9% to 26.1%, 17.8 points) and Michigan State Broad College of Business (from 44.7% to 23%, 21.7 points).

And the biggest jump? That happened at another Michigan school, the Ross School of Business, which saw its acceptance rate climb 7.9 points to 28.1%.

See the next pages for more on acceptance rates, yield, class size, admits, and applications at the top 50 U.S. business schools.

AND DON'T MISS LAST YEAR'S STORY ON ACCEPTANCE RATES AT THE TOP 50 U.S. B-SCHOOLS and MBA APPLICATIONS AT THE TOP U.S. B-SCHOOLS: WHERE THEY'RE UP, WHERE THEY'RE DOWN

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