Top US B-schools witness improved Acceptance rate, yield, and class-size

Many cases have come up for discussion on the destruction unleashed by the novel corona virus. If one were to categorize losses broadly, those of lives, jobs, and health wrap it up in a nutshell. The jury is still out on which sector was the most brutal hit, and one primary victim of the pandemic is the education sector. Graduate business schools have been up in arms trying to resolve the uphill task of imparting education remotely.

MBA aspirants turned ambivalent on pursuing their graduation in Management. One set of people believed in deferring their graduation plans until schools and universities opened classroom sessions. The other side made some pragmatic choices. As the economy nosedived and job opportunities tapered, some students decided to equip themselves with Management degrees in seeking greener employment pastures post MBA.

What do ‘acceptance rate’, ‘yield,’ and ‘class sizes’ mean?

The acceptance rate is the number of admissions offers the business school extends and the total number of applications. Yield is the ratio of admission offers students accept for enrolling in the program,and the total number of admission offers the business school makes.

Classsize is the total number of students enrolled in the program.

What is the 2021 MBA programs’ acceptance rate, class size, and yield at top B-schools in the US?

The good news

Many universities saw applications soaring for 2021 admission cycles. Since physical space is no longer a constraint in the virtual classroom, many MBA aspirants found new hope of realizing their B-school dreams. Universities and B-schools widened their berths by increasing the class size and enhancing acceptance rates. While many schools witnessed drops in admission numbers, suffering lower yields than previous years.

Acceptance rate

P&Q reports that the overall acceptance rate at the top ten schools has been rising steadily for the past five years. Since 2016, the rate has more than doubled.

As the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020, the acceptance rate soared thirteen percent, an average of more than twenty-two percent. Furthermore, applications — which were on the brink of decline — made a comeback marvelously. The total number rose to 57,187,touching the high figure of 2017. Both admissions and enrollments have peaked this year.

Stanford GSB once again had the lowest acceptance rate among all the leading business schools in the United States, and Harvard Business School, which dramatically reduced its class size last year, fell below 10% as well.

Among P&Q’s top 50 B-schools, Penn State Smeal College of Business recorded the lowest acceptance rate, of a little over twenty percent, with the University of California Irvine close behind at 20.3%.UC-Irvine Merage reported the most reduced acceptance rate among the top-fifty schools in the last cycle, a fall of more than thirty-six percent to twenty percent. The drop makes the Merage School, ranked 46th overall, more challenging to get into than most schools in the ranking.

Other schools in the Poets & Quants list of top twenty-five B-schools reduced their acceptance rate between 2018 and last year:

  • Columbia Business School
  • Carnegie Mellon Tepper
  • USC Marshall School of Business

Acceptance rate report for 2020

Increased in acceptance rate

 40 out of 52 schools; 21 of the top 25 schools

Decreasedin acceptance rate

23 out of 52 schools; 10 out of top 25 schools

Slump in yield

However, this scenario does not explain the drop in turnout at B-schools. Many schools and Universities offered deferrals to the incoming class in 2020. Students choosing to defer admission led to fewer enrolments for the class of 2020. The option to defer admission cascaded into lesser yield compared to previous years. Despite the deferral offer, Harvard produced the highest yield at 85.2% in 2020, followed by Brigham Young University Marriott School of Business at 76.3%, Columbia at 69.2%, and Stanford at 67%.

Thirty-seven of the fifty schools reported a slump in yields in 2019, while forty-five of the fifty-two witnessed the fall in yield in 2020. Twenty of the top twenty-five schools were from the list of those who lost in yield. Of the top twenty-five, Columbia Business School was the only school that dodged the yield drop in 2020.

MIT Sloan was Among schools that suffered a big-time drop in yields. The school saw 636 admissions to its MBA program, an 84% jump of students, but yielded only 68 more students.

Yield report




Decline in yield

37 out of 509(24 of top 25)

45 out of 52

Yield percentage



Average decline




Class size increased considerably at many schools for full-time MBA programs between 2019 and 2020. Out of fifty-two schools in Poets & Quants list, twenty-eight had boosted their class size from 2019, while twenty-one had shrunk their class size.

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School hiked its class size for the MBA program by ninety-two. UNC Kenan-Flagler’s hike, the most considerable increase in 2020, is 37% more than the previous year’s class size.

Harvard Business School made an unprecedented reduction in class size in 2020. HBS enrolled 732 students for its MBA class of 2022 as against 938 students for the class of 2021.

Class-size report for 2020

Increase in class-size

28 out of 52 schools; 21 of the top 25 schools

Decline in class-size

21 out of 52 schools; 10 out of top 25 schools

The bottom line

Some business schools pose a tighter application process compared with others. MBA aspirants must analyze some statistics involving the B-school’s admission process while applying for MBA programs.

Knowledge of the program/school’s acceptance rate and the yield rate is crucial to comprehend which business schools pose more competitive application screening.

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