Graduate Acceptance Rates at Top Universities

When it comes to graduate admissions, students shy away from taking chances and for good reason. History has taught them that no matter how tailored their profile is, the admission process is always unpredictable. The selection criteria is a function of the total number of quality applications, a factor way beyond the control of a single applicant.

It is the number of the good, the bad and the meh,maybe candidates that determine which pile your application will belong to – the accepted or the rejected. That is precisely why, students are advised to apply to multiple schools, increasing the probability of getting the acceptance nod.

University admissions offices have a hard job to do. They have a requirement defined by a limited student body. If their strength is 1k and they receive 20k applications, they need to first start with some well defined hard parameters – TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, GPA scores. Or they could devise their own equation to pile up their definitely yes and their definitely maybe lists, involving other soft parameters like the SoP, Letters of Recommendations, Work Experience, Resume and so on.

Ultimately, it is an optimization process to ensure that they send out enough we are pleased to inform you letters such that the actual enrollment is as close to the required student body as possible.

As far as you are concerned, as an applicant, you are quite blind to the internal process. It is in your best interest to send out multiple applications to various schools spanning the list of your top, middle, and the back up, future alma maters. What also helps is building a knowledge base of the admission statistics at some of the top universities in the US. What is the acceptance rate? How many applications does it receive? What is the enrollment? …and so on.

It is important to keep in mind that acceptance rates, by themselves, can be misleading. A seemingly discouraging 5% acceptance rate, on 50k applications, is still significantly higher than a number like 30% on 5k applications. Number enrolled may also differ from the actual number of admits that are sent out. The correct term for the ratio of enrollment to admits is called admissions yield. For most of the top universities, it is over 50%.

Acceptance rate truly defines the ratio of the total number of admits to the total number of applications received. In this article, we will refer to acceptance rates, from the available data on the individual university websites, as the number enrolled to the total applications. Hence the actual acceptance rates will probably be much more promising than the ones reflected here.

Let’s look at the top ten graduate schools, for Engineering and Sciences, and their past statistics. Read Average GRE scores at top Universities in the US

Graduate Acceptance Rates at Top Universities


School Number of Graduate Applications Number of Enrollments Acceptance Rate
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(Data for 2016)
26,463 3,480 13%
Stanford University
(Data retrieved from MS statistics and Stanford University Common Data Set 2016-2017)
55,000 9,880 ~18%
University of California at Berkeley (UCB)
(Data for 2016)
39,730 3,605 9%
Harvard University (GSAS) ~12,000
(The Harvard Crimson 2009-10)
~ 4,000 ~ 33%
Georgia Institute of Technology
(Data for 2015)
17,191 5,551 32%
California Institute of Technology (Caltech) Not Available 1,226
(Graduate Studies Brochure)
Overall Not Available
26% for Department of Chemistry (Petersons)
University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA)
(Data from UCLA Graduate Programs Annual Report 2010-2011)
21,269 2,604 12%
Carnegie Mellon University
(Data from MS in Computer Science, for 2016)
Number Offered Admission: 1,144 16%
(Number Offered Admission/Number Applications)
Number Enrolled: 534
Princeton University
(Data for 2016-2017)
10,804 Number Offered Admission: 1,305 12%
(Number Offered Admission/Number Applications)
Number Enrolled: 646
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC)
(UIUC Graduate College Report (2016) and Enrollment Statistics)
25,786 10,428 40%

These numbers should not be taken as the standard for each admission year. Nor do they drill down to the picture of individual departments. They simply display the expected returns on your application investment. As mentioned before, it is wise to keep a wide range of university ranks, in your list.

Prepare your best, keep your fingers crossed and hope that the rest of the applications don’t even come close to your greatness!

Good Luck and for more information on graduate admissions, follow the link below.

Source: 1, 2

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  1. Alok kumar says:

    Hi Sameer,

    My Profile Details are as follows –
    Total Experience –5+ yrs in FEA (Design Domain) with Zuti Engg Solutin
    B.E Mechanical Engineering (Hons.) – 73 %
    12th – 53%
    10th – 71%

    My Work experience has been primarily in FEA modeling and analsysis of product design validation.

    I am planning to do 1 yr executive MBA from top most institutes in India so as to eye a lead or executive position in Product Companies or OEMS.

    Please suggesr me about colleges and admission process.


  2. TANMOY says:

    Hello Mr. Ashish,
    I have done graduation in 2004 (Bsc) and around 9 years of work ex in sales in pharmaceutical company. I am looking for an executive MBA program but really confused whether it is good decision for me or not. Could you please suggest any executive or 1 year regular programs for me?

  3. Anki says:

    My age is 30 yrs, have done in ELECTRICALS in 2009 and then MBA regular, unfortunately both were from avg colleges. Though I have 70% avg throughout the studies.
    Now I have almost 6 yrs of experience and currently working with a Mnc in sales profile…
    I wanted to explore option of second MBA regular/ executive MBA mainly for better growth, position…
    Kindly advice what can be best option, which colleges can I look for ( not looking for abroad option)

  4. Nitin says:

    Hi ,

    I’m currently working as a Sr. Manager (HR) for an ITES company in Mumbai. I head the HR Operations team (7 member team). My primary duties include global mobility, HR Information Systems, HR MIS, Payroll and Employee lifecycle management. I have a total work ex of 14 years (last 10 years being in HR). I’ve got admission to the INSEAD Executive MBA Program (GEMBA Program). My primary reason for pursuing an MBA is to develop my own learnings and thought process and relocate outside India. Cost of the program is expensive (~96 lakhs). Will this program help me get opportunities to either relocate outside India or move into a senior leadership position within HR/Consulting in India i.e. 2x/3x jump in compensation – so that I’m able to repay the education loan faster?

  5. Abhilash PB says:

    I am about to complete my CS Engineering, am confused whether to take up or MBA.Please can you suggest me which one is better as I’m interested in Business ….my 10th-72%
    If MBA where should I pursue?

  6. Harsh Dod says:


    My name is Harsh Dod. I am a recent MBA Finance graduate from Thapar University, India. I am interested in extending my Finance studies by pursuing a Ph.D. in management preferably from the UK. I do not have any prior work experience apart from my internships. I need guidance in building a stronger application. I will be really grateful if you can tell me a GMAT target score for LBS.

    Thank You!

  7. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Alok: Here’s a list of the best one year MBA programs in India:

    @Tanmoy: The good full-time options drop significantly when the experience reaches double digits. Some options to consider are IMD, IIMA PGPX. Of course, all the Executive MBA options are on the table as well. however they aren’t as impactful as full-time courses.

    @Anki: Start with this article examining the good and bad aspects of a second MBA:

    @Nitin: While the fee for the program is mind-numbing, you will probably not gain the same RoI from it as a full-time degree. Talk to folks with similar profiles who’ve attended the program and see if they were able to meet their goals.

    @Abhilash: The first question is easier to answer. Since you are interested in business, go for an MBA. For the second question, read this:

    @Harsh: The statistics of the program would be availabe on their website. For the PhD application part, this should help:

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