Understanding MBA Acceptance Rates

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Monday, May 10, 2021
By Marco De Novellis
Photo by iStock
Applying for an MBA program? Learn how admission rates at top business schools affect your chances of acceptance.

Getting into a prestigious program requires a lot of effort and perseverance. You’ll need to submit a strong scores on an admissions test like the GMAT or GRE, write engaging application essays, and then ace the MBA admissions interview.

Thousands of people apply to MBA programs each year, and it’s not always easy to get into your number-one choice business school—that’s why it’s normal to apply to several target schools.

Applications to MBA programs have also increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning there are even more people applying to top MBA programs than there are openings available, and only a proportion of those who apply get admitted.

A business school’s MBA acceptance rate is the percentage of people who apply to a program and get admitted. For some schools, that percentage can be very low—less than 10 percent— while others are less restrictive, accepting higher percentages of applicants.

Understanding MBA acceptance rates—knowing how to use them, how to compare them, and which schools have the most competitive rates—can help you plan your application.

Which schools have the most competitive MBA acceptance rates?

BusinessBecause conducted independent research into MBA acceptance rates at top business schools for the 2020 MBA intake and found that the Stanford Graduate School of Business has the world’s most competitive MBA acceptance rate, at 8.9 percent.

Out of the 7,324 people who applied to the Stanford full-time MBA in 2020, just 651 were admitted.

Harvard Business School has the next most competitive acceptance rate, at 9.2 percent, followed by MIT Sloan School of Management, at 14.6 percent, and Columbia Business School, at 16.2 percent.

The average MBA acceptance rate for the elite “M7” business schools is 18.2 percent, according to BusinessBecause.

Well-renowned business schools with less competitive MBA acceptance rates include London Business School, at 34.7 percent, and Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, at 56.9 percent.

Out of the 1,482 people who applied to Georgetown McDonough’s full-time MBA program in 2020, 843 were admitted.

Why are MBA acceptance rates helpful?

MBA acceptance rates tell you how competitive a school is and how likely your application is to be successful.

Some MBA programs are more difficult to get into than others. If you’re applying to a school like Harvard or Stanford, you should know that getting admitted is difficult, and getting a rejection letter from these schools doesn’t necessarily mean you submitted a bad application.

You should have back-up options ready and consider applying to a list of schools with a variety of acceptance rates. If your admissions test score is significantly lower than the class average, for example, you might consider applying elsewhere.

Remember, not every admitted student makes it into the MBA class. You may be admitted to a program but decide to go to another school, defer, or cancel your application, so schools will always admit more students than they enroll.

What do MBA acceptance rates not tell you?

Acceptance rates are an indicator of program demand, but they don’t tell you everything about a program.

They don’t, for example, tell you about the quality of candidates applying for a program. One way you can assess the quality of your competition is to compare class average GMAT scores. The GMAT, the most common test for business school admission, demonstrates your academic readiness for an MBA program.

You can’t assume that the more competitive an acceptance rate is, the better the quality of the program on offer—just like you can’t assume that a top-ranked MBA program will provide the best quality experience for you.

Business schools around the world offer MBA programs to meet a variety of student needs. MBA programs may be targeted at a local audience, or designed for professionals focused on a specific industry.

These programs may attract fewer applications and have high acceptance rates, but they may also offer the best-fitting experience, network, and curriculum to match your individual career goals.

Choosing the program that best fits you is key. If you want to use your MBA to land a job in sustainability in Denmark, for example, it makes more sense to apply to the MBA at Copenhagen Business School than a big-name business school in the United States.

At the same time, don’t let a super-competitive acceptance rate discourage you from applying to your dream school. As applications increase, business schools are also increasing their class sizes, meaning more available seats in the class.

Plus, schools have dedicated admissions teams that carefully assess each application that comes in. If you submit a strong application, and can communicate why that specific program is the best fit for you, you have a good chance.

Marco De Novellis
Senior Editor, BusinessBecause & GMAC Media
The views expressed by contributors to AACSB Insights do not represent an official position of AACSB, unless clearly stated.
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