Business schools have been streamlining their application processes but this has not made it any easier to get into a top MBA program. Average acceptance rates at the top-10 ranked schools by the Financial Times are a lowly 19.66%, according to a BusinessBecause analysis, and have barely changed from last year.
Harvard Business School, seen as a bellwether for big admissions changes, started the essay slashing trend back in 2011. HBS has reduced the number of mandatory application essays from four to zero; last year, HBS made its sole essay optional.
“The admissions process should not be a sort of ‘essay writing contest’,” says a spokesperson at HBS. “But I must confess, I don’t think anyone would call the HBS application process easy, even with just one essay.”
Quite the opposite.
HBS hopefuls must still craft stunning résumés and recommendations — and, if they survive the first cull, convince admissions committees at interview that they are mightier than the other 9,685 stellar candidates who submitted applications.
All of which has kept the door to the elite program — and dozens of others — firmly shut.
And keeping them bolted are the sizable increases in applications at a slew of top schools this past year. “Many schools have experienced a spike recently,” says Chioma Isiadinso, chief executive of admissions consultancy Expartus. Setting the trend is MIT Sloan School of Management, where applications spiked 35% last year.
Helping to keep application numbers buoyant are the impressive return on investment figures coming out of business schools.
Meanwhile, admissions tests have arguably become less daunting, encouraging more takers. Those with weaker quant skills can opt for the GRE over the GMAT, which consultants say has easier math questions. GRE test volumes are up by 13% since 2009.
More recently, top schools have made big bets on targeting more women and minority candidates and this may have contributed to the rise in application numbers from those groups, and thus overall selectivity.
At Michigan’s Ross School of Business, applications jumped 5% in 2015, helping Ross shave nearly 8% off its acceptance rate, which is now 28%.
This choosiness is important because business schools are often evaluated on the perception of how selective or “elite” they are.
Here are the average acceptance rates at the 10 most elite business schools: