How Low Are MBA Acceptance Rates? Can You Get In?

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If you’re applying to business school, you already know it’s a challenging and selective process. Admissions committees look for the most competitive applicants to take on the challenge and rigor of business school. But just how hard is it to get into an MBA program? And, based on your GMAT score, GPA, and other qualifications, what are your chances of admission?

In this article, I’ll take you through the MBA acceptance rates at the top 25 business schools, how to find MBA admission rates for yourself, and tips on how to gauge your own chances of getting into a competitive MBA program.

 

How Hard Is It to Get Into Business School?

No one ever said getting into an MBA program would be easy. But exactly how hard is it?

The truth is, the difficulty of MBA admissions varies greatly by program, with MBA program acceptance rates at the top 25 business schools much lower on average (usually ranging from 10 to 30 percent) than those at mid-ranked schools (usually ranging from 35 to 50 percent).

MBA admissions rates at top 10 programs are consistently especially low, with Stanford’s acceptance rate well below 10% each year and Harvard’s staying steady around 10%.

It’s important to note that MBA admission rates have trended downward over the past five years. For example, in 2016 alone, MIT Sloan’s acceptance rate fell to just 11.7% (making it one of the most selective MBA programs in the country, even among other top-ranked programs) from 14.6% in 2015. The decrease in MBA acceptance rates at the top 10 most highly ranked business schools is primarily due to a corresponding increase in applications, with 2016 applications to top 10 schools up 4.4% from 2015.

MBA program acceptance rates at mid-ranked business schools, however, have stayed roughly the same overall, with many admitting a third to half of applicants. This means, then, that while it’s getting harder and harder to gain admittance to a top 10 MBA program, the odds are still favorable for many applicants to get into business school.

 

Try not to panic: while it's always challenging to get into an MBA program, it's far from impossible.
Try not to panic: while it’s always challenging to get into an MBA program, it’s far from impossible.

 

Top 25 MBA Acceptance Rates

Here are the MBA admissions rates at the top 25 business schools (according to the Poets and Quants ranking), as of the most recent data from 2016.

Note that while the top 20 business schools follow a similar pattern, with MBA acceptance rates nearly all at 30% of applicants or lower, the trend begins to shift as the list approaches schools 20-25, with the Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business and the Georgetown McDonough School of Business both admitting around 40% of applicants.

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That trend reflects a common pattern among mid-ranked schools (those usually ranked 26th to 50th in MBA rankings), with those MBA programs generally admitting about 35-50% of applicants.

MBA Program 2016 Acceptance Rate
1. Harvard Business School 10.7%
2. Stanford Graduate School of Business 6.0%
3. University of Chicago Booth School of Business 23.6%
4. Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management 20.1%
5. Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania 19.6%
6. MIT Sloan School of Management 11.7%
7. Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth 22.4%
8. Berkeley Haas School of Business 12.0%
9. Columbia Business School 14.1%
10. Yale School of Management 19.0%
11. Duke University Fuqua School of Business 22.1%
12. University of Virginia Darden School of Business 26.5%
13. University of Michigan Ross School of Business 26.3%
14. Cornell SC Johnson School of Business 27.6%
15. UCLA Anderson School of Management 20.7%
16. UNC Kenan-Flagler School of Business 36.4%
17. NYU Stern School of Business 23.1%
18. University of Texas McCombs School of Business 28.0%
19. Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business 30.3%
20. Emory University Goizueta Business School 33.1%
21. Indiana University Kelley School of Business 31.4%
22. University of Washington Foster School of Business 23.9%
23. Rice University Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business 26.6%
24. University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business 41.0%
25. Georgetown McDonough School of Business 44.6%

 

University of Michigan
University of Michigan

 

How to Find MBA Program Acceptance Rates

To find out about the MBA acceptance rates at programs you’re interested in, a simple Google search is often enough. When I Google “Stanford MBA acceptance rate,” for example, the most recent Stanford admissions rate (6.1%) pops up in the first box on the screen, along with the acceptance rates at comparable MBA programs like Harvard and Wharton.

If you can’t find the acceptance rate you need that way, you should be able to find the acceptance rate at your favorite MBA programs on their respective websites. Some sites provide more specific admissions statistics than you might be able to easily find elsewhere.

Emory’s Goizueta Business School, for example, lists the specific number of applications received each year, the number of accepted applications, and info about the backgrounds of various applicants (domestic vs. international, for instance).

For a comprehensive listing of MBA acceptance rates, try U.S. News and World Report or Poets&Quants. Here, you can compare the selectivity of various business schools at once, alongside statistics concerning tuition, enrollment, average GMAT scores, and other pertinent information.

 

MBA Admission Rates And Your Chances

You might know about a given MBA program’s selectivity, but how can you know exactly where you might fit in among other applicants? Let’s go through the ways you can gauge your own standing as you assess your odds of admission at MBA programs you’re interested in.

 

#1: How Do You Measure Up?

What are your top choices for business school looking for? You can often get a good idea of the traits and qualifications MBA programs are looking for by reading their admissions criteria.

Harvard Business School, for example, states that the MBA admissions committee is looking for applicants who demonstrate “habits of leadership” in community, school, and/or work environments; “analytical aptitude,” as reflected by your GMAT quant score as well as your academic history; and “engaged community citizenship.” For each of these listed criteria, think about how you might demonstrate that desired trait in a resume or personal essay, or elsewhere in your application. Obviously, highlight your strengths, and use each MBA program’s stated values to know what to emphasize.

If you’re early in the application process and something appears to be missing, think about how you might supplement your current qualifications to better reflect your fitness for the business schools of your choice. For example, if you majored in the arts or humanities and are lacking adequate demonstration of your analytical aptitude, consider taking a college course with a heavy quantitative component in order to demonstrate your success in that area to an MBA admissions committee.

 

#2: Using MBA Class Profiles

Nearly every business school releases a class profile each year that reflects important statistics about its incoming class of MBA students. Class profiles can be invaluable in learning more information about your chosen business schools.

You can use class profiles to see how you stack up against your peers and to help you gauge your chances of admission at a particular school. As you check out the class profile of a given MBA program, ask yourself, where do I fit in here, both in background and by the numbers?

Class profiles give you up-to-date information on the demographics of the latest incoming class, including stats on average age, gender, nationality, and race, as well as average GMAT and GRE scores, GPA, years of work experience, undergraduate major, and the like. At the latest Stanford Business School class, for example, the average GMAT score of incoming students is 737 and the average undergraduate GPA is 3.73.

Often, class profiles, in addition to average (mean) GPAs and GMAT scores, will provide middle 80% or total ranges of the GMAT scores of incoming students. These ranges can give you further perspective on where you stand with respect to your potential colleagues. At Stanford, for example, the total range of GMAT scores of admitted students is 590-790 according to Stanford’s current class profile.

While you should gauge your status primarily according to averages rather than outliers, GMAT score ranges do give you a better idea of precisely where you’d fit in among your fellow students if accepted. Are you at the lower end of the spectrum of GMAT scores among admitted students at your favorite business schools? If so, how much do you need to improve your GMAT score in order to reach the average? What about how much you’d need to improve for your score to stand out among applicants and boost your chances of admission? These are questions that class profiles can help you begin to answer.

 

#3: Be Realistic, But Not Cynical

As you determine your odds of getting into your chosen MBA programs, be realistic. Assess your qualifications honestly, and compare yourself realistically to other applicants in terms of your GMAT, GPA, academic background, leadership and community service history, and work experience.

Address any weaknesses you might have by trying to eliminate them (by prepping for and/or retaking the GMAT, for example), and if you can’t, consider how they might affect your chances at a certain school.


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In your assessment, however, try to avoid being pessimistic as well. The schools you should apply to should fit your qualifications well, with your potential colleagues similar to you in terms of their grades and standardized test scores. However, every MBA “wish list” can afford (and should contain) several reaches. Don’t be afraid to include them. You just might be pleasantly surprised!

 

When it comes to your chances of acceptance at a given MBA program, be realistic.
When it comes to your chances of acceptance at a given MBA program, be realistic.

 

What’s Next?

If you’re still deciding whether to get an MBA, our articles on what an MBA is and how long you might expect to spend in a program will be a great help.

To find out more about the history of the MBA and why you might want one, check out our article on what the acronym stands for.

Our guide to a good GMAT score for scholarships can help you if you’re looking to fund your time at business school.

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Author: Laura Dorwart

Laura Dorwart is a Ph.D. student at UC San Diego. She has taught and tutored hundreds of students in standardized testing, literature, and writing.

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