When it comes to selecting the right B-school, a lot of aspects need to be considered. One of the major aspects that applicants look out for is the acceptance rate of the B-school they are targeting. There are of course B-school rankings that let you know how competitive a particular institute is, but it is the acceptance rate that you really need to look out for!

So, the first and obvious question is where you can find this information. Most B-schools will publish it annually on their website, but it may not always be available so easily. Moreover, it’s not only the last year’s acceptance rate that you should be considering, but the past few years’.

So, here are the average acceptance rates for the top 25 B-schools over the past few years. Once you have had a look, we will discuss how to decipher the actual competitiveness of a B-school from these numbers.

MBA Program 2020 2019 2018 2017
Stanford 7% 7% 6% 6%
Harvard Business School 12% 12% 11% 11%
The Wharton School 25% 23% 21% 19%
Northwestern Kellogg 20% 27% 21% 20%
Chicago Booth 22% 24% 23% 24%
Columbia Business School 17% 19% 17% 17%
MIT Sloan 22% 15% 12% 12%
Dartmouth Tuck 35% 35% 23% 23%
Berkeley Haas 23% 18% 12% 12%
Virginia Darden 36% 36% 33% 25%
Yale SOM 30% 25% 20% 17%
Duke Fuqua 25% 23% 22% 22%
Michigan Ross 37% 31% 27% 25%
Texas McCombs 34% 38% 34% 28%
Cornell Johnson 40% 38% 33% 30%
UCLA Anderson 35% 31% 24% 22%
NYU Stern 29% 26% 23% 21%
Carnegie Mellon Tepper 27% 42% 35% 30%
UNC Kenan-Flagler 46% 53% 46% 37%
Emory Goizueta 46% 44% 37% 32%
USC Marshall 24% 30% 28% 29%
Georgetown McDonough 57% 61% 55% 48%
UW Foster 41% 36% 35% 22%
Rice Jones 36% 37% 39% 27%


Understanding B-school Acceptance Rates

Let’s say you have a really strong profile. You have a good GMAT score, some leadership experience from your job, got a couple of great referrals, etc. But you might still be rejected at a place like Harvard or Stanford. And this is because of the sheer competition levels in these MBA programs.

With the same application you might make it through NYU Stern, one of the top B-schools in the US. So, what you need to understand right off the bat is that getting rejected by the top B-schools doesn’t mean your application is lacking. This is why many applicants prefer to apply to some of the top 10 B-schools while also applying to some of the top 50 B-schools.

So, the acceptance rates of a B-school are basically a guide towards your applications strategy. It is also a great way to get a reality check. Even with an A+ application it’s difficult to make it to a place like Stanford where the acceptance rate is 7% and thousands will be applying!

With the help of the acceptance rates you can divide your target B-schools into two categories. First the ones that you want to reach and second the ones you think are fairly within your grasp. Such a list will help you understand where your application stands, and it will also help you build it for meeting your expectations.

Which are the Most and Least Competitive MBA programs?

Stanford is the one solid answer. Not only is its acceptance rate at 7%, the average GMAT score required is 735. Harvard is a close second with 11- 12% acceptance rates and average GMAT score of 725. In third rank is MIT, and other honorable mentions will include Columbia, Haas, and Wharton.

Basically, if you are planning to make it to any of these B-schools you will have to put in twice the amount of effort of a regular B-school. Surprisingly if you note the list of top B-schools, not all of these are at the absolute top of the list. However, certain factors such as placement opportunities, curriculum, and financial aid make these some of the most coveted B-schools.

If you want to escape this breakneck level of competition, there are quite a few top schools to consider. Tepper School of Business (Carnegie Mellon, Global Rank 39) or Kelly School of Business (Indiana, Global rank 33) are some excellent options to choose from. If you have an average GMAT score of 660 – 690, you can definitely try applying at these B-schools or similarly ranked ones.

Tuck, Cornell, and McCombs are some of the other top B-schools where the competition is high, but not as high as the Ivy League!

If you want to note the global ranks of the B-schools mentioned above, take a look at the list below:

Rank (Global) Business Schools City Country
1 Penn (Wharton) Philadelphia (PA) United States
1 Stanford Stanford (CA) United States
3 INSEAD Fontainebleau Multi-Campus
3 MIT (Sloan) Cambridge (MA) United States
5 Harvard Boston (MA) United States
6 London Business School London United Kingdom
7 HEC Paris Jouy-en-Josas France
8 Chicago (Booth) Chicago (IL) United States
9 UC Berkeley (Haas) Berkeley (CA) United States
10 Northwestern (Kellogg) Evanston (IL) United States
11 Columbia New York (NY) United States
12 IESE Business School Barcelona Spain
13 UCLA (Anderson) Los Angeles (CA) United States
14 IE Business School Madrid Spain
15 Cambridge (Judge) Cambridge United Kingdom
16 Oxford (Said) Oxford United Kingdom
17 ESADE Barcelona Spain
18 Yale New Haven (CT) United States
19 Duke Durham (NC) United States
19 Imperial London United Kingdom
19 Michigan (Ross) Ann Arbor (MI) United States
22 NYU (Stern) New York (NY) United States
23 SDA Bocconi Milan Italy
24 IMD Lausanne Switzerland
25 CEIBS Shanghai China
26 Copenhagen Copenhagen Denmark
26 Melbourne Melbourne Australia
28 USC (Marshall) Los Angeles (CA) United States
29 Erasmus (RSM) Rotterdam Netherlands
30 ESSEC (RSM) Paris/ Singapore NA
31 Boston (Questrom) Boston (MA) United States
32 NUS Singapore Singapore
33 Indiana (Kelley) Bloomington (IN) United States
34 Warwick Coventry United Kingdom
35 Cornell (Johnson) Ithaca (NY) United States
36 University of Hong kong Hong Kong SAR Hong Kong
37 Texas (McCombs) Austin (TX) United States
38 Mannheim Mannheim Germany
39 Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) Pittsburgh (PA) United States
40 IIM Ahmadabad Ahmadabad India
41 Frankfurt School of Finance & Management Frankfurt Germany
42 UNSW (AGSM) Sydney Australia
43 Nanyang NTU Singapore Singapore Singapore
44 IIM Bangalore Bangalore India
45 Dartmouth (Tuck) Hanover (NH) United States
46 EDHEC Nice France
47 St. Gallen St. Gallen Switzerland
48 Manchester (Alliance) Manchester United Kingdom
49 Georgetown (McDonough) Washington (DC) United States
50 HKUST Hong Kong SAR Hong Kong


Did the Coronavirus affect the Acceptance Rate of B-schools?

If you take a look at the list of B-school acceptance rates at the beginning of the article you will note that in the past one year at least 50% of the institutes have faced a good amount of growth in their acceptance rates. And much like any change in the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic did have a role to play in this!

So, if you are worried about COVID-19 bringing down your chances of getting an admit, that is most likely not going to be the case. The effects of the pandemic on the various industries have not led to a uptick in demand for MBAs. So, many B-schools have also offered extra seats in their programs, and others have also started providing online full-time MBA courses.

If you are planning to apply in this cycle, know that there might be changes ahead, so prepare yourself for the same. This is the time to be flexible, and by doing so you will be able to lock down on the B-school of your choice!

Need more help in shortlisting B-schools? Here is a video to guide you!

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