Acceptance Rate at Top US MBA Schools: Selectivity trends

One of the oft talked about parameters that a candidate and bschool rankings talk about is the Acceptance Rate. While words such as rate can at times spark thoughts of complex mathematical geniuses guiding your faith, this is a pretty simple metric.

Simply put, this is the number of offers rolled out by a school by the total number of applications received. So in a way, this is a pretty direct way of assessing how selective/discerning a school is and an indirect way of getting a probability of your selection if you were to apply there – indirect because this is a consequential metric.

My bad here for using a bit of a jargon. Consequential metric is something that is not an input parameter but more an output one.

Let me use an example. The build quality of say your mobile phone is the output parameter. A lot of input parameters such as the raw material quality, technology used, manpower skill etc go into determining this.

Likewise, a ton of parameters determine whether a school will look at your candidature favorably. But even so, it is a pretty good metric when you are starting off your research and school selection journey.

Mind you, this is different than yield – another metric that is talked about but less commonly so. Yield is the number of candidates who accept an offer of admission by the total offers rolled out. This number is sort of a way to assess a given school’s relative attractiveness. Perhaps the topic of discussion for a later post.

Given the attention around Acceptance Rates for the top MBA programs, we decided to do some historical analysis of this number for top US schools. We’ve used the selectivity data published by Poets & Quants as the base over which we carry out our analysis.

The intention here is two-fold: get a sense of the acceptance rates and also see if there is a positive/negative trend here. You may be able to extrapolate this into the near future to know where the business school acceptance rates may be heading.

Since we are talking of quite a lot of data, for the purpose of representation, we have divided it into 3 buckets as will be clear in the subsequent sections.

Acceptance Rate for the Top 10 Business Schools


Acceptance Rate for Top 10 MBA Programs

While it is a bit tough to generalize, one of the observations from the chart is that 6 of the top 10 schools had a slightly lower acceptance rate in 2013 compared to the preceding and succeeding years.

When we looked at the data at the next level, this was partly driven by the larger number of applications in 2013. This is also likely to be true for most years since the number of offers don’t tend to change year over year.

If a school has to increase the number of offers, they can do so only after doing the required infrastructure upgrades. It is also worthwhile noting that while Tuck seems to be opening a bit more, Duke seems to be going the other way round and the two are closing the gap.

The top 2, Harvard and Stanford, clearly lead the pack in being super selective again driven by the fact that those two received the highest number of applications across all the top 50 schools out there! Moving on.

Acceptance rate for the next league | Top 25 MBA


Selectivity Rate for Top 25 MBA Colleges

The first thing you should notice in this graph is that the scale here is changed. While the highest in the previous graph was 30%, it is 60% here. Not surprising since the demand for these is expectedly much lower than the top 10 (please note that the rankings may not be kosher here fully since we’ve had to consider several years as the rankings change over years and data for all years for all schools is not available).

On closer look, you can even surmise that looking at rankings alone can be pretty misleading. Schools such as UCLA/Yale/NYU are equally selective when it comes to taking candidates. This should mean that your decision to go to a school should be based on a far more exhaustive research than on rankings alone.

More about the fallacies of this approach here: How not to select business schools.

The general trend for last year seems to be of being more selective in several schools, again driven largely by the increasing number of applications.

What seems to be the gain for top schools in 2013, also appears to be a bit of loss for this set. Many in this actually saw a spike in acceptance rates driven by lower number of applicants here. Ideally, these numbers should not vary from year to year. If they do, there is likely to be some cause of concern.

The number of applications to Foster in 2014 for instance doubled compared to those in 2013 and 2012. These numbers can thus never be taken at their face value alone unfortunately making it tougher to base your decision on these alone.

Selectivity rate for the rest


Acceptance Rate for Top 40 Business Schools

The scale here changes again and the pack is clearly different from the top 10. So while rankings don’t tell you the entire picture, at a ballpark level, they are still not far off. We observe that the 2013 trend here continues to hold good.

The notable drop in Purdue’s acceptance rate is actually driven by reduction in the number of offers rolled out since 2012. Though we do not have concrete data, but it appears that 2012 was a bit of an aberration where Purdue accepted more students than it usually does rather than other years being a change of trend.

Illinois and GA Tech have benefited from the increasing number of applications year over year.
Read Selectivity Rates at the top business schools for MBA

In Conclusion

As a broad trend, it would be safe to say that while 2013 was a bit of an exception, in general the acceptance rate is going down for many schools driven in many cases by an increase in the number of applications.

This is an evidence to show that the sheen of an MBA degree remains lustrous whatever the naysayers assert. If it seems to intimidating for you to look at all the data and try to assess your probability of getting into a school, don’t worry, we have done the hard work for you (check MBA MAP).

Given the amount of investment an international MBA entails, even if it seems intimidating, there is definite merit in using data such to drive your decision making, and know how the MBA selectivity rates in 2017 or 2018 might look.

Update in 2018:
Here we have listed some of the latest measures of acceptance rates in the B-Schools mentioned above, as per Poets & Quants. We have covered the schools with largest variations.

The ones that went down in 2017 were – Chicago Booth to about 21%, Columbia to 16.5%, MIT Sloan’s to less than 12%, Michigan Ross’ to 25%, Yale’s to less than 17.5%, and Virginia Darden down at 24.5%.

The ones that went up in 2017 were – UCLA’s went up to 22%, UNC’s Kenan Flagler to 37%, Emory’s Goizueta to 41%, Indiana’s Kelley to 35%, Georgetown’s McDonough to 48%, Washington’s Olin to 40%, Vanderbilt’s Owen to 43%, Notre Dame’s Mendoza to 42%, Wisconsin to over 30%, Penn State’s Smeal to over 20%, Texas A&M to nearly 34%, Georgia Tech to over 31%, and Purdue’s Krannert to over 37%.
References: 1, 2, 3

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MG (Manish Gupta)
About MG (Manish Gupta)
Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Linkedin, Facebook or Email: mcb [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

14 thoughts on “Acceptance Rate at Top US MBA Schools: Selectivity trends”

  1. Electronics (VLSI) engineer with Masters (Research) from IIT. I am working in one of top 3 chip design companies. I have good package (13LPA) and it’s been 2 years since I joined. But I am not happy with the work I am doing. work is not challenging, no research work. My primary aim is to do better, and interesting work. I don’t seem to find such work in Indian offices. So, I am thinking about applying for M.S or Ph.D. Since I have already done a master by research, I know what challenges lies ahead in PhD. I am not able to decide if I am making right decision to look for better work abroad. I want to earn well while working, so I have decided to work in industry after my another MS or PhD. Is doing another M.S a frowned upon or will it degrade my credibility?
    Also, my mind is still not ready for PhD yet. I may need 6 more months to get mentally and technically ready. But I am thinking, I am wasting 1 more year in the same job which does not help me. Also, before I join M.S or PhD, I will probably get married. Should I apply for this year or next year? Can you share some of your insights and suggestions?

    • KNK, second MS is not a bad idea at all. That said, if you are seeking a technology focused career, a PhD can provide a better mileage. If you’ve made up your mind to do it eventually, better now than later.

  2. Sir, i have a cgpa of 7.6 and two papers published in the field i want to study. I have done internship in three companies related to my field. Will i be able to get into a universities like University of michigan for masters program. I have done my btech from VIT university.

    • Admits are pretty tough to predict guna. The research publications and VIT brand will help. Apart from this, GRE and your efforts to connect with the program faculty can help further. Work on those and you should have a good shot.

  3. I am 2013 Btech (ECE) passout.I did not get any job after my Btech.I wrote GATE 2014 but failed miserably.So i started preparing for other Government exam like SSC but did not get sucess.It’s been 3 years that i am unemployed.At presently I have a stong command over subjects to clear any banking and Gov exam.Of late i have started thinking that i should stick to my technical side as i am more interested in it.If i plan for higher education do i stand any chanches to do MS abroad(USA or Germany) ??What should i do in order to improve my profile and cover 3-4 year gap ?
    If i take steps mentioned below will i be able to cover up my gap?
    1. Write GATE 2017 and pursue Mtech.
    2.After 2-3 year experience from PSU

    • Jayant, the longer the break gets, worse the situation will be. So even if it means starting with a very low base, start! Nothing – MS/MBA/GATE will work out unless you get started with something to gain professional experience. You will have to gain a good solid 4-5 years of experience ideally to partly parry the blow of the current gap.

  4. Hi Sr.

    I am umesh Kalal form india, in maharashtra .
    I asked for you i am computer engineering.
    I next fields in MBA so which scope in after 6 year latter .

    10 Mark’s – 70.66
    12 Mark’s – 66.80
    MHT-CET Mark’s in 65
    Jee Mark’s 35

  5. Hello Manish,

    Thank you for sharing this useful information through your article.
    I completed my Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from India in 2012, and I started working in the Netherlands since 2013.So, I have total three years of global experience in Design and project management. To excel my career, I’m thinking to pursue MBA in general management or international marketing. MBA from the USA is a better option for me?

    • Aapurva,

      The choice of geography depends on what you want to do in your career. There are a lot of options in US/EU/Asia – not fair to dish out an advice without really knowing you and your profile better.

  6. Hello Sir,

    My profile:
    I have a GMAT score of 730. My GPA in Undergrad – 5.3/8
    I have a BS and MS from Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore. My education was funded entirely under a government scholarship
    I have about 1.5 years work ex as of December.
    I have a Publication in an international journal and a patent published.
    I lead a R&D in a non profit organization.
    I am planning to apply in Round 2 for september intake 2019 to – Kenan Flagler, Tuck, Emory, Cornell, Tepper, Yale, UCLA.

    I would request you to tell me if I stand a fair chance to get accepted or will the low work experience be a problem?

    Thank You


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