B-School Acceptance Rates—What Are My Chances?

John Byrne - Tue, 07/11/2017 - 02:46
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“So What Are My Chances?” is the most pressing question every MBA applicant is thinking about as they start the business school admissions process. Sometimes it is asked outright, sometimes it is just hinted at, and sometimes it is not asked at all. But it is always there. And we, at Stratus, know that’s what you are thinking about, and yes, we can and do address it with each client.

My own standard answer goes something like this:

“Your chances of being accepted to any top business school is low. However, we don’t have a crystal ball, so we are not here to dissuade you from applying to your dream school. By all means apply. Rather, we are here to help you decide which schools would be good matches for you and, beyond the very top schools you are targeting, what other additional schools you should consider. We then will work with you to create the best applications you can, with the intention of increasing your chances of acceptance to the greatest degree possible.”

So, what does “low” really mean? It means your chances of acceptance are less than 1 in 5 for a top ten school, if you are an AVERAGE candidate (and in the next blog post I will define “average” because this is important).

Relying on our friends at Poets&Quants, the average acceptance rates vary quite a bit. The highest acceptance rate for a top ten school is Booth at 23.6% (which I don’t believe) to Stanford at 6.0%. My standard joke with regard to the Stanford acceptance rate is that next year Stanford’s acceptance rate will be zero as no one will meet its criteria. It’s funny because it’s true.

Of course, your chances of being accepted to at least one top school go up with each school you apply to, so let’s posit this question: what are my chances of being accepted to at least one top-ten school if I apply to all ten? Again, let’s assume you are an AVERAGE applicant (again, important) and you apply to the following schools (again, thank you P&Q):

To do this calculation, we have to pull out some business school math. So I contacted my old business school professor, Arnie Barnett at MIT Sloan to help. (To think that one of my favorite business school courses was statistics seems a little wacky, but so is Arnie who is a cross between Einstein and Stephen Colbert.)

So here is what he said about this question on probability:

“If events are independent, then the probability that all of them occur is the product of their individual probabilities. If the probability that an event does NOT happen is X, then the probability that it does happen is 1 – X. For example, the probability of three heads in a row is 1/2 * ½ * 1/2 = 1/8, so the probability of at least one tails when flipping a coin three times is 1-1/8 or 7/8 which is 87.5%.”

Phew! Now let’s apply this to the question of, if you apply to all top ten MBA programs, what is the probability that you get in to at least one school? The answer is 82.7%, which is better than I thought. While, if you apply to just the top 5 schools, the probability of getting into at least one is 58.8%.

The point not to be lost is that this calculation assumes you are an AVERAGE candidate, meaning that your GMAT, GPA, years of work experience, and your age are all at least the average of the rest of the class if not better. If that is not the case for you then these numbers look a whole lot different.

In our next blog, I will discuss what AVERAGE really means, what it doesn’t and how that affects your candidacy.

 

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