10 Business Schools With the Lowest Acceptance Rates

The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College, The Short List: Grad School and The Short List: Online Programs to find data that matters to you in your college or grad school search.

Even supremely qualified MBA hopefuls sometimes struggle to stand out in the applicant pool at highly selective U.S. business schools, since these institutions tend to attract a greater number of strong candidates than they can admit.

Competition for spots at top-tier MBA programs is intense even in ordinary times, but selectivity at some increased recently due to the coronavirus pandemic and its associated economic downturn.

[Read: The Relevance of an MBA Education During the Coronavirus Pandemic.]

Applications to U.S. business schools surged during the COVID-19 crisis, according to a survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council, which revealed that 69% of full-time MBA programs received more applications for entry in fall 2020 than for fall 2019. But while a majority of surveyed B-schools saw an uptick in fall 2020 MBA applications, that was not universally true. Also, some MBA programs enrolled a larger class size than usual for fall 2020, while other programs had fewer new students than normal.

The average fall 2020 acceptance rate among the 138 ranked full-time MBA programs that provided this data to U.S. News in an annual survey was roughly 58.9%. Meanwhile, the average rate among the 10 most selective full-time MBA programs that provided this data was about 19.1%. Five schools that were included in the 2022 U.S. News Best Business Schools rankings did not submit the statistical survey for this edition — including the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management — so their admissions figures were not included in these calculations.

The Stanford University Graduate School of Business in California once again had the lowest acceptance rate for full-time MBA applicants: 8.9%. At the opposite end of the spectrum, three ranked B-schools had an acceptance rate of 100%.

Each of the 10 schools with the most daunting admission odds had an acceptance rate below 25%.

[READ: How to Get Into Multiple Top Business Schools.]

Six of those 10 schools placed within the top 20 of the Best Business Schools rankings, while each of the remaining four schools fell within the top 60 of the rankings.

Although B-schools that reject a significant proportion of applicants tend to perform well in the rankings, acceptance rates are only a minor ranking factor. In the Best Business Schools ranking methodology, the percentage of prospective full-time MBA students that were admitted for entry in fall 2020 accounts for only 1.25% of a business school’s overall score.

The 10 schools where getting in was hardest in fall 2020 are scattered across the U.S., with four in California, two in New York, one in Pennsylvania, one in Arizona, one in Massachusetts and another in North Carolina. Six of the 10 schools are private, while four are public.

Below is a list of the 10 business schools that reported the lowest acceptance rates for full-time MBA applicants in fall 2020. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.

School (name) (state) Full-time acceptances Full-time applications Full-time acceptance rate U.S. News business school rank
Stanford University (CA) 651 7,324 8.9% 1
Harvard University (MA) 859 9,304 9.2% 5 (tie)
Columbia University (NY) 886 6,532 13.6% 7 (tie)
Pennsylvania State University–University Park (Smeal) 98 488 20.1% 33 (tie)
University of California–Irvine (Merage) 95 469 20.3% 57 (tie)
Arizona State University (W.P. Carey) 117 527 22.2% 30
University of California–Berkeley (Haas) 860 3,696 23.3% 7 (tie)
University of Southern California (Marshall) 768 3,159 24.3% 16 (tie)
University of Rochester (Simon) (NY) 286 1,169 24.5% 33 (tie)
Duke University (Fuqua) (NC) 838 3,362 24.9% 12

Don’t see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News Business School Compass to find admissions statistics, complete rankings and much more. School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.

U.S. News surveyed 486 schools for our 2020 survey of business programs. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News’ data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Business Schools rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel or have room to grow in specific areas that are important to them. While the data comes from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News’ rankings of Best Colleges, Best Graduate Schools or Best Online Programs. The acceptance rate data above is correct as of May 11, 2021.

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10 Business Schools With the Lowest Acceptance Rates originally appeared on usnews.com

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