Choosing a business school isn’t an easy job. There are many aspects of the application process to take into consideration, such as GMAT and GRE scores, essays, references and interviews, and of course, whether the business school is a good fit for you and your career progression.

But there’s another key component to think about when applying to business school: acceptance rates.

Acceptance rates represent how many applicants are admitted into a school’s MBA program, and they’re a great indicator of how competitive it really is to land a spot on your MBA of choice.

Some schools and their MBA programs are more difficult to land a spot than others. To help you narrow down your options, we’ve compiled a list focusing on the acceptance rates at the top 20 US business schools.

MBA Acceptance Rates – Top 20 US Business Schools

QS Rank Business School Location Acceptance Rate (%)
1 Penn (Wharton) Philadelphia (PA) 23.1
1 Stanford Stanford (CA) 6.9
3 MIT (Sloan) Cambridge (MA) 14.6
5 Harvard Boston (MA) 11.5
8 Chicago (Booth) Chicago (IL) 24.2
9 UC Berkeley (Haas) Berkeley (CA) 17.7
10 Northwestern (Kellogg) Evanston (IL) 27
11 Columbia New York (NY) 16.4
13 UCLA (Anderson) Los Angeles (CA) 30.5
18 Yale New Haven (CT) 25.2
19 Duke (Fuqua) Durham (NC) 22.9
20 Michigan (Ross) Ann Arbor (MI) 30.9
22 NYU (Stern) New York (NY) 26.1
28 USC (Marshall) Los Angeles (CA) 29.9
31 Boston (Questrom) Boston (MA) 49.6
33 Indiana (Kelley) Bloomington (IN) 49.9
35 Cornell (Johnson) Ithaca (NY) 38.3
37 Texas (McCombs) Austin (TX) 38.1
39 Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) Pittsburgh (PA) 42.8
45 Dartmouth (Tuck) Hanover (NH) 34.5

 

The most competitive top schools

Stanford Graduate School of Business is the most competitive school on the list, overtaking its Ivy League rivals with an acceptance rate of 6.9 percent. During the two-year full-time MBA program, students follow a core general management curriculum that includes the basics of business administration as well as a customizable curriculum with elective courses. The average GMAT acceptance score is the highest on the list at 734.

Harvard Business School follows Stanford as the second most competitive school in the US, with an acceptance rate of 11.5 percent and a GMAT score of 728. HBS’ MBA is a full-time, two-year residential program with different teaching activities and a busy social calendar.

MIT Sloan School of Management, ranked third best in the world according to the QS Global MBA Rankings 2020, is the third most competitive school on the list with an acceptance rate of 14.6 percent. Columbia Business School, Haas School of Business and The Wharton School follow closely, with 16.4, 17.7 and 23.1 percent respectively.

The least competitive top schools

Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon is the third least competitive school on the list, with an acceptance rate of 42.8 percent and an average GMAT score of 687. The school’s MBA program is known as having among the fastest ROI among the schools in our global ranking.

Questrom School of Business follows as the second least competitive school, with an acceptance rate of 49.6. Its full-time MBA offers a mix of traditional b-school courses with unique electives that help students expand their skill set.

However, Kelley School of Business at Indiana University is the least competitive program in our top 20, with nearly half (49.9) of applicants securing a spot on the MBA program. The school also has the lowest average GMAT score at 666.

 

Other top schools you may want to consider applying to because their acceptance rates are slightly more forgiving are Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, McCombs School of Business and Tuck School of Business.

How Should You Interpret MBA Acceptance Rates?

As is likely obvious from the list above, some MBA programs are far more difficult to get into than others. If you’re applying to schools like Harvard or Stanford, be aware that the numbers are stacked against you, no matter how strong your profile. And if your application is rejected, it doesn’t mean you don’t have the skills for another top business school.

Realizing this fact is key to analyzing and making productive use of acceptance rates from the business schools listed above. That is, you should use acceptance rates to guide your overall application strategy, manage expectations, and create an effective plan for admission.

Start by building your school list with acceptance rate (and other factors) in mind: aim to apply to some “reach schools,” or schools where the acceptance rate is quite low, and mix in “safety schools,” or backup choices where you have a higher chance of admission (based on higher acceptance rates and the strength of your profile). Fill out the middle of your list with “target schools,” or those programs where you have a high likelihood of winning admission, so long as you work diligently on your MBA application materials.

What You Can’t Learn From Acceptance Rates

The danger of obsessing over MBA acceptance rates—just as many obsess over MBA rankings—is that you will come away with a misguided impression of the business school. Acceptance rates can be useful for initial research, but they are not an accurate representation of a program’s quality, and they are certainly not an indicator, one way or another, of your fit with a program.

So How Can You Find the Right MBA Program for You?

Once you determine roughly which schools you are qualified to attend, we encourage you to focus on the practical questions that will help you figure out which program will provide value to your career. These are simple, practical questions:

  • Does the school have relationships with your target employers?
  • Is the alumni network interesting for your post-MBA career field and location?
  • Is the curriculum, both inside and outside the academic classroom, going to fill the gaps in your skills and experiences?
  • Are the faculty and research centers relevant to your interests?
  • Will you fit in culturally at the school?

Answer these questions, and you will be well on the way to moving past the early stages of school selection—and on to the real work of applying to the MBA program of your dreams.

Business school applicants like yourself understand that some programs are more selective than others—but just how difficult is it to get into a top business school? Checking historical MBA acceptance rates is the first and best place to start: while not a true measure of quality, a business school’s acceptance rate is the best measure of selectivity available.

Many programs publish their acceptance rates as part of the incoming class profiles that are produced each year. The following table draws from these profiles to offer a historical account of MBA acceptance rates, ranging from 2017 to present. Where exact acceptance rates are not published by the schools, calculations are made based on the estimated number of applications and the number of admitted students.

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