Harvard Business School Reports 4.5 Percent Decline in Applicants, Maintains Strong Yield

{shortcode-ac00db5f92efb1b9bf8afba3da9fc1409432112a}The number of Harvard Business School applications dropped by 4.5 percent last year, but other class demographics experienced little change, HBS reported in its latest class profile.

HBS received 9,886 applications for its two-year MBA program for the class of 2020, down from 10,351 the previous year. The class of 2019 figure, however, marked a 6 percent increase in applications from the year prior. In the past year, business schools across the United States have reported significant declines in the number of MBA program applicants partly because fewer international students are seeking to study in the U.S. as a result of the political climate.

Despite Harvard’s drop in applications, the Business School’s acceptance rate has held steady at 11 percent. In total, 930 MBA students started classes at HBS last week, marking a 90 percent matriculation rate for admitted students — the highest yield among business schools worldwide.

Gender and ethnic demographics have also varied little in the past five years. In all, 41 percent of students in the class of 2020 are women, a 2 percent drop from two years ago. In addition, 26 percent of students are U.S. ethnic minorities and 37 percent are international, representing an at least five-year high, with students hailing from 69 countries across the world.

While this year’s class median undergraduate GPA remained unchanged at 3.71, a higher percentage of the class of 2020 submitted GRE scores than years past. Though the GRE is traditionally submitted by applicants for other types of graduate programs, the GMAT has long been favored by students applying for business schools. Still, 85 percent of the class submitted GMAT results with a median score of 730 out of 800.


Though admitted students typically boast high GPAs and impressive test scores, HBS Dean Nitin Nohria said he has a different top priority when evaluating applicants: leadership.

In a Sept. 3 interview with Business Insider, Nohria said he wants candidates to answer the question, “What is it that other people would say that would describe you as a leader?”

"We are excited about leaders of all kinds," Nohria said. "They just need to be people who are pursuing a particular passion in which they are likely to be very good leaders.”

—Staff writer Grace A. Greason can be reached at


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