11% Accepted Applicants Don’t Join HBS – Where Do They Go?

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MIT Sloan loses nearly 40% of its accepted applicants. Chicago Booth, too, loses nearly 40%. Tuck and Ross, almost 50%.

And these are some of the best MBA programs around.

Yield - MBA Admissions
Source: Poets & Quants

Where do these accepted applicants go?

Most to higher-ranked and rival schools such as HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia, and Kellogg. And a small fraction drops out i.e. doesn’t join any school (for reasons to be covered later in this post).

It’s understandable that a Sloan admit is very likely to prefer HBS over Sloan, but why does an HBS-admit, sometimes, not join HBS despite its unmatched brand equity.

HBS, too, loses its accepted applicants, albeit much less (11%). In numbers, 115 accepted applicants (not including those who sought deferral) did not join HBS in 2014.

Where do they go?

(Note: Admission policies of schools and guidelines for standardized tests can change. Refer to their website for the most updated information.)

To Stanford

HBS loses its accepted applicants predominantly to Stanford, and vice versa. Although it has the ultimate brand equity and alumni network, Stanford offers an unparalleled entrepreneurial ecosystem especially in technology domain and a sunny, warm Californian weather, a far cry from long, harsh North-Eastern winter.

It’s not to say, though, that Stanford lacks in popularity. Far from it. It’s a popular program, too. Otherwise, smaller factors such as weather are unlikely to matter. Will a dual admit to UCLA and HBS prefer UCLA because of better weather? Highly unlikely! Popularity of the program comes much, much ahead, for most.

According to this article in Poets & Quants, roughly 150 applicants every year make it to both HBS and Stanford, and they split nearly evenly among the two schools.

However, this recent survey by Bloomberg points toward a skewed (2.5:1) preference for Stanford at least for the class of 2014. These preferences, though, keep swinging one way or the other every few years, if not every year, but the bottom-line is that HBS loses most of its accepted applicants to Stanford.

To other schools

Yes, they choose other schools too. According to Bloomberg survey, 22% of dual admits to HBS and Stanford, in fact, enrolled in a different school.

That’s significant.

The high percentage may be surprising, but the reason for, isn’t: most of these accepted applicants get too attractive a fellowship to refuse, even at the cost of HBS and Stanford.

To nowhere

Few don’t join HBS not because of pull from other schools, but for other reasons:

1. Their current employers offer an insane raise, bonus, promotion, responsibility, or geography to retain them.

2. Some are ambivalent about attending an MBA program right from the start, but they apply, nevertheless, thinking that they’ll cross the bridge when it comes. In such cases, extenuating factors such as lack of fellowship may trip the cart.

3. They may be entrepreneurs, and may have made significant progress in their venture since applying to the program. Leaving the venture at this stage means giving it up altogether and wasting months or even years of effort.

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