The gangbuster growth of business school applications during the recession appears to be a thing of the past for two-year full-time MBA programs. This year, application volume was down at 21 of the top 30 full-time MBA programs, according to data collected by Bloomberg Businessweek. The decline in applications is a trend that appears to be accelerating, with eight additional schools reporting declines in application volume this year over 2010. Applications were down at seven of the top 10 business schools, including the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, Harvard Business School, and Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.
Stanford saw the biggest dip in application volume of the top 10 schools, with 586 fewer applications this year, an 8 percent decline from 2010. Still, some of the top 30 schools managed to buck the downward trend. Dartmouth University's Tuck School of Business, University of Michigan's Ross School of Business and University of California, Los Angeles' Anderson School of Management, reported substantial increases in applications, with each school receiving more than 200 applications over last year's total.
The downward spiral in application volume at the top 30 schools is mirrored in the business school world at large: 67 percent of two-year full-time MBA programs surveyed by the Graduate Management Admission Counil (GMAC) reported a decrease in applications this year, up from 47 percent in 2010. A skittish economy, coupled with candidates unwilling to leave their jobs, may be causing some to hold off applying to business school, GMAC noted in its latest survey of application trends. "The impact of economic uncertainty on admissions trends for full-time MBA programs may still be underway," GMAC said in the report.
The smaller pipeline of MBA applications this year meant that getting into some of the top business schools has become easier. Two-thirds of the top 30 business schools admitted a larger percentage of applicants this year, up from one-third the year before. The University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management had the biggest slip in selectivity of the top 30 schools, admitting nearly 41 percent of students, up from 30 percent in 2010. More typical were the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business and Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Management, both of which saw selectivity slip five percentage points. Even Stanford, the most selective of the top 30 business schools, became slightly easier to get into, accepting 7 percent of all applicants, up one percentage point from 2010.
The following list provides a more comprehensive picture of how application trends shook out at each of the top 30 schools, with a breakdown of application volume, selectivity, and yield or the percentage of accepted applicants who ultimately enroll. The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, where applications fell more than 5 percent this year, to 6,442, declined to supply selectivity and yield figures and is not included in this slide show. The schools are listed from least selective to most selective.
Photograph: MCT via Getty Images