Harvard Business School welcomed its largest class of MBA students in history this week, enrolling more than 1,000 students for the first time ever. In its Class of 2023 profile, made public today (Aug. 28), the school reported a cohort that is 1,010 students strong, a substantial jump from last year’s unusually low group of 732 students due to the pandemic. Roughly 100, or just under 10%, of the new first-year MBA students represent admits who were given deferrals last year.
Applications to the school’s MBA program rose 5% to 9,773 applicants, up from 9,304 a year earlier. That increase compares to Wharton, up 2.5% in apps last year, and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School, which saw applications plunge 20%. Wharton and Kellogg, however, experienced massive application boosts during the first year of the pandemic, respectively increases of 21% and 54% that broke their schools’ previous records.
The 2020-2021 admissions season resulted in Harvard’s largest MBA applicant pool since 2018 when 9,886 applied for admission. While HBS did not set a record in application volume, the increase meant that the school had 10.7 candidates for every available seat in the class. Though Harvard did not publish an acceptance rate, the school admitted an estimated 9% of its applicants, about 880 candidates, down from 9.2% last year when HBS admitted 859 candidates (see Deconstructing Harvard’s Large MBA Class: Surprises & Shocks).
Harvard set another record with this new class: An unprecedented 29% of the cohort entered with a GRE score, nearly a one-third increase from last year when 22% of the entering students were enrolled with a GRE score. Over the past four years, HBS has more than doubled the percentage of MBA students who were admitted with a GRE, showing increasing acceptance of the GRE as a viable alternative to the GMAT exam. In 2018, only 12% of the entering cohort had submitted a GRE test for admission.
Harvard maintained its 730 median GMAT score for the class, with a median of 41 on the verbal and 49 on the quant portion of the exam. Verbal scores ranged from a low of 28 to a high of 51, while quant scores ranged from 32 to 51. Overall, scores ranged from a low of 590 to a high of 790, just ten points shy of a perfect score. The successful applicant with the lowest GMAT scored 30 points last year’s low of 620. The median GRE score for this year’s class was 327, with a 163 on the verbal and a 164 on the quant. The verbal range went from a low of 147 to a high of 170, while the quant score ranged from 146 to 170.
A RECORD 46% OF THE NEW MBA CLASS ARE WOMEN
Some 46% of the Class of 2023 are composed of women, also a record and up from 42% a year earlier. That compares to 52% at Wharton, 49% at Kellogg, 46% at Dartmouth Tuck, 48% at Duke Fuqua, and 40% at UVA Darden, all records as well as business schools strive to achieve gender parity. (Stanford, MIT Sloan, Columbia, and Chicago Booth, among others, have yet to report their incoming class profiles).
International students at Harvard Business School this year make up 37% of the class, up from 33% last year when COVID-imposed travel restrictions and difficulties in obtaining student visas depressed the normal level of international students in a typical Harvard MBA class. This year’s international contingent matched the percentage achieved by HBS in 2019 and 2018 for the classes of 2021 and 2020.
“It’s a really special class,” says Chad Losee, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid. “It’s been really joyful to see the class arrive at HBS and get settled. There was so much energy on campus the other day in the kickoff with the dean. It is really an excellent class. For most of these students, the past 18 months have been incredibly challenging, personally and professional, and a lot of them have had a big impact due to COVID on their countries and companies.”
Losee told Poets&Quants that he expects another 100 deferrals from last year to enter Harvard’s MBA program next year. As a result, next year’s class will also total more than 1,000 students. “When we allowed people to defer for any reason with the onset of the pandemic, over 200 did,” adds Losee. “Half of them are coming in this year and half will come in next year. So we added another section to the class. We will enroll a little over 1,000 next year and then after that will go back to our normal size of just over 900 students.”
'I AM GLAD THE MESSAGE IS GETTING OUT THAT WE ARE TRULY AGNOSTIC ON EITHER THE GMAT OR THE GRE'
He attributes the increase in applications to several factors. "I think part of it is people seeing the long term value of graduate school and of MBA programs," says Losee. "We have put forth a lot of effort in attracting people from the full range of talent. Some of it is tied to the job market and the opportunities they have."
And Losee believed the substantial increase in GRE-enrolled students should put to rest any rumors that the school prefers the GMAT. "I am glad the message is getting out that we are truly agnostic on either exam," he says. "So applicants should take the exam that allows them to put their best foot forward. We're seeing more GRE scores partly due to the diversity of people who are coming in from all different kinds of backgrounds. The GRE is more widely accepted for other graduate schools and the effort we have made to communicate the value of the MBA is getting out."
He also believes the increase in women is a reflection of the school's efforts to recruit more female candidates. "We have seen increasing representation of women in our applicant pool and in our class for the past several years. We are excited about that number."
The average undergraduate grade point average for the class remained stable at 3.69. Losee, however, put that number, along with standardized test scores, in perspective. "They help us triangulate who is ready for a rigorous academic program but both the test scores and grade point averages are only two data points in the holistic admissions process," he maintains. The average years of work experience came to 5.0 years, slightly more than the 4.7 year average last year. That came to an average 60 months of full-time work experience for an enrolled student.