Admission Rates at Ivy League Business Schools

Can You Get Accepted to an Ivy League Business School?

Students outside of a school
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If you're planning to attend business school in order to obtain an MBA, few universities offer more prestige than those of the Ivy League. These elite schools, all located in the Northeast, are private institutions known for their academic rigor, outstanding instructors, and alumni networks.

What is the Ivy League?

The Ivy League isn't an academic and athletic conference like the Big 12 or the Atlantic Coast Conference. Instead, its an informal term used for eight private colleges and universities that are some of the oldest in the nation. Harvard University in Massachusetts, for example, was founded in 1636, making it the first institution of higher learning established in the U.S. The eight Ivy League schools are:

  • Brown University in Providence, R.I.
  • Columbia University in New York City
  • Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y,
  • Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.
  • Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.
  • Princeton University in Princeton, N.J.
  • The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia
  • Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

Only six of these elite universities have independent business schools:

Princeton University does not have a school of business but does award professional degrees through its interdisciplinary Bendheim Center for Finance. Like Princeton, Brown University does not have a business school. It offers business-related study through its C.V. Starr Program in Business, Entrepreneurship, and Organizations). The school also offers a joint MBA program with the IE Business School in Madrid, Spain. 

Other Elite Business Schools

The Ivies aren't the only universities with highly regarded business schools. Private institutions like Stanford University, the University of Chicago, and Duke University, and public schools such as the University of Michigan and the University of California-Berkeley all regularly make lists of the best business schools by sources like Forbes and the Financial Times. Some overseas universities also have programs that are competitive internationally, including the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai and the London Business School.

Acceptance Rates

Getting accepted to an Ivy League program is no easy feat. Admissions are highly competitive at all six Ivy League business schools, and acceptance rates vary from school to school and from year to year. In general, between 10 percent and 20 percent of applicants are granted admission in any given year. In 2017, the acceptance at top-ranked Wharton was 19.2 percent, but just 11 percent at Harvard. Non-Ivy school Stanford was even stingier, accepting just 6 percent of applicants.

There really is no such thing as a perfect Ivy League business school candidate. Different schools look for different things at different times when evaluating applications. Based on profiles of past applicants who were accepted at an Ivy League business school, a successful student has the following characteristics:

  • Age: 28 years old
  • GMAT score: 750+
  • Undergraduate GPA: 3.8+
  • Undergraduate degree: Earned from an Ivy League university
  • Extracurricular activities: Alumni participation, community service in an underserved area, membership in multiple professional associations
  • Work experience: Five to six years of post-undergraduate work experience at a well-known firm such as Goldman Sachs
  • Recommendations: Letter of recommendation written by a direct supervisor; letters of recommendation that speak directly about leadership potential or experience (with specific examples)

Other factors that can affect a person's chance of admittance include application interviews, essays, and portfolios. A poor GPA or GMAT score, an undergraduate degree from an obscure or noncompetitive university, and a checkered work history can all have an impact as well.

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