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Applications Down 4.5 Percent at HBS, But Applicant Quality Remains High

Harvard business school application

The release of the Harvard Business School (HBS) Class of 2020 profile statistics last week revealed that the Boston school—like many of its U.S. peers—saw a decrease in overall application volume, but median GMAT score and GPA remained unchanged from the prior year at 730 and 3.71 respectively. The admit rate, 11 percent, was also unchanged year over year. So though he was working from a smaller pool of 9,886 applicants (down from 10,351 last year), Managing Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Chad Losee did not sacrifice on quality.

Harvard Business School Application Slips for Class of 2020

HBS is one of many leading U.S. business schools to see application volume drop off in this most recent application cycle. A strong economy paired with concerns among international applicants about potential student and work visa challenges made for even more dramatic declines at schools like UNC Kenan-Flagler and Georgetown’s McDonough School, which reported double-digit drops of 18.3 and 16.2 percent respectively. Yield at HBS–which is to say the percentage of admitted students who chose to enroll–slipped from 91 to 90 percent. Still, HBS remains far and away the leader in this statistic.

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Applications are down 4.5 percent at HBS, but declines across other U.S. MBA programs was much more apparent.

At HBS, the 4.5 percent application volume decline was spread between both international and domestic applicants. International students make up slightly more of the HBS class this year, 37 percent compared to 35 percent last year. They hail from 69 countries as compared to 70 for the Class of 2019.

Another interesting development is the increase in GRE takers among admitted students. A record-setting 15 percent of the incoming class got there on the strength of their GRE scores, up from 12 percent last year. It’s only in the past couple of years that schools have begun to disclose the percentages of students who submit GRE scores in lieu of GMAT scores, which used to be the gold standard. But at HBS and elsewhere, a growing number of applicants seem to be taking schools at their word that they are indeed test agnostic.

There were not a lot of major shifts elsewhere in the statistics for the newest HBS class. The percentage of women is down by one point, slipping from 42 to 41 percent. U.S. ethnic minorities remained constant year over year at 26 percent of the class. The average age also remains unchanged at 27.

Applicants from Private Equity, Tech, Increase

In terms of prior work experience, there were again few shifts from the prior year. Slightly more students came in from private equity/venture capital (16 percent, compared to 15 percent last year), tech (also 16 percent, up from 15), and government/non-profit (7 to 8 percent). These upticks correlate with small declines in students from industrial/heavy manufacturing and other services. Military veterans make up 5 percent of the Class of 2020, on par with the Class of 2019.

And in terms of what students in this year’s entering class studied as undergraduates, again HBS showed little fluctuation. Economics/business majors make up the largest portion—46 percent, up from 45 percent last year. STEM undergrads also increased one percentage point, from 36 to 37 percent. Humanities/social science undergraduates made up just 17 percent of the class, down from 19 percent last year.

To view HBS’s complete Class of 2020 profile, click here.


This article has been edited and republished with permissions from our sister site, Clear Admit.

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