Harvard Business School Acceptance Rate, Deconstructed

by Stacy Blackman Consulting, Apr 19, 2021

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The Harvard Business School acceptance rate is the second-lowest of all MBA programs worldwide. It’s eclipsed only by Stanford GSB, in part because the GSB has a much smaller class size.

Poets & Quants recently shared the acceptance rate and yield data for the M7 MBA programs to illustrate the strength that HBS has in attracting applicants and students. HBS's acceptance rate in 2020 was 11.5%, up from 10.4% a year earlier, per the US News rankings.

To help demystify the Harvard Business School acceptance rate drivers, we decided to evaluate SBC client data from the 2019-2020 season.

Our findings show that the admit patterns by HBS have become increasingly reliant on qualitative aspects, in addition to application essay strength and a broader range of demonstrated applicant attributes.

Indeed, an applicant’s personal narrative is often the most influential factor in the admissions decision process.
It can be even more predictive of admit success than rigid categories such as college type, test score, or employer. Discussing motivations, life lessons, setbacks, growth, doubts, and realizations are all ways to show a depth of character. When you do this, you activate the holistic and multi-faceted admissions criteria that HBS has come to value.

Recent SBC Clients Admitted to HBS

To preserve anonymity for our client pool, we’ve deconstructed each of our client profiles across these criteria: nationality, industry, employer, college, GPA, test score, and other distinguishing factors.

Our consultants have shared client attributes for each of these criteria. We’ve aggregated the outcomes for HBS admits according to personal, extracurricular, and professional domains.

These visuals showcase the kaleidoscope of qualities found in HBS admits across a sampling of recent SBC clients.

 

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Overcoming the Harvard Business School Acceptance Rate Odds

In deconstructing the success factors for our HBS admits, we have seen that highlighting personal qualities and triumphs is essential. Our review concluded that neither past academic background nor test scores could reliably predict whether candidates got admitted or rejected.

Furthermore, success appeared linked to how “interesting” the candidate appeared to admissions officers. Applicants conveyed this through both their overarching story and positioning as well as execution through detailed anecdotes and nuances.

Life interests, values, and personal identity are critical influencers for the HBS admissions process and essential to overcoming the challenging HBS acceptance rate odds.

As a recent All-In package client and now HBS admit shared, “Don’t underestimate yourself or compare yourself to others too much. Recognize that your values, your lived experiences, and your interests are what make you YOU. Focus on letting that shine through your application.

And definitely don’t NOT apply because you feel like you’re not qualified enough. Do not let the competition scare you. Just focus on what you can control— building and communicating the strongest application you can.”

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Stacy Blackman Consulting is the only MBA admissions firm with a complete panel of former Admissions Officers from every M7 program and the elite European MBA programs. If you are looking for guidance on your MBA application, we can help with hourly and comprehensive consulting services. Contact us to learn more.