Tougher to Get Into A Great B-School

by on March 16th, 2014

graduationYou’ve probably read that applications to MBA programs have been trending down in recent years. So you might think it’s slightly easier to get into a ranked business school.

Forget it!

A new analysis of application volume and acceptance rates at the top 50 U.S. business schools shows that at the vast majority of MBA programs, applications are up and acceptance rates are predictably down. This past year it was tougher to get into a highly ranked business school than it was the year before.

Eight of top ten schools report lower acceptance rates this past year

In fact, the more ambitious your target schools were, the more likely it was that you faced more competition than you would have if you applied in 2012. Eight of the top ten schools were harder to get into in 2013 than in 2012. The only Top 10 exceptions–and the increase in the acceptance rate for these two exceptions was so small as to be inconsequentialwere Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business and UC-Berkeley’s Haas School. At Tuck, the admit rate climbed ever so slightly to 20.8% from 20.4%, while at Haas, the acceptance rate inched higher to 14.3% from 13.8%.

At the University of Chicago’s Booth School, MIT Sloan, and Columbia Business School, acceptance rates fell significantly. Booth went to 21.0%, from 23.0%; MIT to 13.1%, from 15.6%, and Columbia to 18.1% from 20.8%.

Some of the biggest changes, however, occurred outside the Top 10. The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, for example, saw its acceptance rate fall to 33.7% from 40.6% in 2012. The latter number was something of an aberration for Ross caused when the school decided to shut down its co-signer loan program for international students. Ross decided to admit more candidates to offset the expected decline in offers from prospective students who decided not to go to Michigan because of the loan issue.

The schools with the lowest acceptance rates? Stanford, where 93 out of every 100 applicants gets dinged; Harvard, which turns down 89 of every 100 candidates; MIT Sloan, which rejects 87 of every 100; Berkeley, which says ‘no’ to 86 out of 100 candidates; NYU Stern, which turns away 84 of every 100, and Columbia Business School, which passed on 82 out of every 100 prospects. The trend is obvious: MBA candidates love to study on the West or the East Coasts, in the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, or New York City. It doesn’t hurt that all these schools are among the very best in the world.

Application volume was up at 33 of the top 50 business schools in the U.S.

All told, 30 of the Top 50 schools reported lower admit rates, while 20 had increases, generally just a fraction or two above what they had reported in 2012. There was no major falloff at any of the Top 50 schoolsat least not discernible by examining year-over-year data.

When it came to application volume, the same story held true. The vast majority of Top 50 schools33 full-time MBA programsreported receiving more applications in 2013 than they had in 2012. Generally, the highest ranked schools did better. Nine out of the Top 10 MBA programs reported application increases, with the only exception being Duke University’s Fuqua School. But even at Duke the decrease was inconsequential: 3,150 applications in 2013 versus 3,161 applications in 2012a difference of only 11 applicants.

The more highly ranked MBA programs also reported the largest single increases: Chicago Booth was up 10.6% in a single year, Northwestern Kellogg was up 9.9%, while MIT Sloan saw a 9.6% jump in applications.

The data reveals another fact that may be surprising to some: many of the top 50 full-time MBA programs are quite small, with annual intakes that number less than 100 students. Some 14 of the top 50 welcome entering classes that are fewer than 100 students. The smallest: 38 incoming students at the University of Florida’s Hough School of Business and just 49 at the University of Georgia.

Acceptance rates & application volume at top 50 U.S. MBA programs

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 5.27.17 AM

Source: Poets&Quants, business schools reporting to U.S. News


Ask a Question or Leave a Reply

The author John Byrne gets email notifications for all questions or replies to this post.

Some HTML allowed. Keep your comments above the belt or risk having them deleted. Signup for a Gravatar to have your pictures show up by your comment.