Harvard, Stanford Earn Most Annual Business School Applicants

Business School Applicants

There are so many factors to consider when applying for an MBA program, it can often be overwhelming. Between cost, admissions requirements, location and program quality, narrowing down a select few to focus on for the application process is a challenge within itself. Nonetheless, between the time required to complete an application and the expense of application fees, it’s simply impossible to apply to every program you find interesting. Narrowing your focus to only your top choice schools can save time, money and a load of heartache.

While factors such as those mentioned above, like cost and location, are great ways to help narrow down your options, it is also helpful to take into consideration the competitiveness of each program. For many high-regarded MBA programs, the applicant pool can be so large that only a very small minority of applicants are accepted each year. While it may seem encouraged to “shoot for the stars,” understanding the real probability of your admission to a program can be a crucial factor in deciding whether or not to apply.

Thankfully, the U.S. News Short List, which focuses on particular data points from schools and degree programs around the country, recently compiled a list of MBA programs with the most applicants. As expected, these include some of the top programs in the country all ten programs with the highest applicant numbers were also included among the top 20 schools in the U.S. News 2017 Best Business School Rankings, and eight of them in the top ten.

While these are some of the top programs in the country, more applicants also means more rejections. All ten of these schools have acceptance rates lower than 25 percent, which means the majority of applicants are rejected. For many of these schools, the numbers are staggering. Of the 129 schools ranked this year by U.S. News, the average applicant number was 917. At Harvard Business School, which tops the list of largest applicant pool and the publication’s top-ranked business school in the country, there were 9,686 applicants for the fall of 2015.

Following HBS with the second most business school applicants is the Stanford Graduate School of Business with  7,899 applicants in the fall of 2015 and an acceptance rate of just 6.1 percent. The University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) placed third with 6,590 applicants and a 19.8 percent acceptance rate. Columbia Business School, ranked tenth best business school by the publication, received 5,829 applicants in the fall of 2015 and accepted just 18 percent of its applicants.

Also among the schools with the largest applicant pools were:


Certainly, if you have an extensive resume and strong GRE scores, among other factors, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be part of the small percentage of accepted applicants to these schools. However, full awareness of the probability of acceptance and competitiveness of each program can be important in narrowing down the schools you choose to apply to. Although these are schools with the largest pools, tracking down information about acceptance rate is a great idea for any program you are considering. For examplethe Muma College of Business at the University of South Florida, which had the fewest applicants in 2015, had a 100 percent acceptance rate. If your goal is to save as much time and money as possible as you begin your degree, focusing on schools with high acceptance rates such as this can only make this already complicated process that much simpler.

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About the Author

Alanna Shaffer

Staff Writer, covering MetroMBA's news beat for Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas.

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