Top MBA Acceptance Rates: New and Historical Data

Business school applicants like yourself understand that some programs are more selective than others—but just how difficult is it to get into a top business school? Checking historical MBA acceptance rates is the first and best place to start: while not a true measure of quality, a business school’s acceptance rate is the best measure of selectivity available.

Many programs publish their acceptance rates as part of the incoming class profiles that are produced each year. The following table draws from these profiles to offer a historical account of MBA acceptance rates, ranging from 2017 to present. Where exact acceptance rates are not published by the schools, calculations are made based on the estimated number of applications and the number of admitted students.

Acceptance Rates at Top US Business Schools, 2017-2020

MBA Program2020201920182017
Harvard Business School*12%12%11%11%
The Wharton School*25%23%21%19%
Northwestern Kellogg*20%27%21%20%
Chicago Booth*22%24%23%24%
Columbia Business School17%19%17%17%
MIT Sloan*22%15%12%12%
Dartmouth Tuck35%35%23%23%
Berkeley Haas23%18%12%12%
Virginia Darden36%36%33%25%
Yale SOM30%25%20%17%
Duke Fuqua25%23%22%22%
Michigan Ross37%31%27%25%
Texas McCombs34%38%34%28%
Cornell Johnson40%38%33%30%
UCLA Anderson*35%31%24%22%
NYU Stern29%26%23%21%
Carnegie Mellon Tepper27%42%35%30%
UNC Kenan-Flagler46%53%46%37%
Emory Goizueta46%44%37%32%
USC Marshall24%30%28%29%
Georgetown McDonough57%61%55%48%
UW Foster41%36%35%22%
Rice Jones36%37%39%27%

*Contains estimates

How Should You Interpret MBA Acceptance Rates?

As is likely obvious from the list above, some MBA programs are far more difficult to get into than others. If you’re applying to schools like Harvard or Stanford, be aware that the numbers are stacked against you, no matter how strong your profile. And if your application is rejected, it doesn’t mean you don’t have the skills for another top business school.

Realizing this fact is key to analyzing and making productive use of acceptance rates from the business schools listed above. That is, you should use acceptance rates to guide your overall application strategy, manage expectations, and create an effective plan for admission.

Start by building your school list with acceptance rate (and other factors) in mind: aim to apply to some “reach schools,” or schools where the acceptance rate is quite low, and mix in “safety schools,” or backup choices where you have a higher chance of admission (based on higher acceptance rates and the strength of your profile). Fill out the middle of your list with “target schools,” or those programs where you have a high likelihood of winning admission, so long as you work diligently on your MBA application materials.

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What You Can’t Learn From Acceptance Rates

The danger of obsessing over MBA acceptance rates—just as many obsesses over MBA rankings—is that you will come away with a misguided impression of the business school. Acceptance rates can be useful for initial research, but they are not an accurate representation of a program’s quality, and they are certainly not an indicator, one way or another, of your fit with a program.

So How Can You Find the Right MBA Program for You?

Once you determine roughly which schools you are qualified to attend, we encourage you to focus on the practical questions that will help you figure out which program will provide value to your career. These are simple, practical questions:

Answer these questions, and you will be well on the way to moving past the early stages of school selection—and on to the real work of applying to the MBA program of your dreams.