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HBS Enrolls Largest MBA Cohort Ever

Harvard Business School welcomed the Class of 2023 this week

Harvard Business School welcomed its largest class of MBA students in history this week, enrolling more than 1,000 students for the first time ever. In its Class of 2023 profile, made public today (Aug. 28), the school reported a cohort that is 1,010 students strong, a substantial jump from last year’s unusually low group of 732 students due to the pandemic. Roughly 100, or just under 10%, of the new first-year MBA students represent admits who were given deferrals last year.

Applications to the school’s MBA program rose 5% to 9,773 applicants, up from 9,304 a year earlier. That increase compares to Wharton, up 2.5% in apps last year, and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School, which saw applications plunge 20%. Wharton and Kellogg, however, experienced massive application boosts during the first year of the pandemic, respectively increases of 21% and 54% that broke their schools’ previous records.

The 2020-2021 admissions season resulted in Harvard’s largest MBA applicant pool since 2018 when 9,886 applied for admission. While HBS did not set a record in application volume, the increase meant that the school had 10.7 candidates for every available seat in the class. Though Harvard did not publish an acceptance rate, the school admitted an estimated 9% of its applicants, about 880 candidates, down from 9.2% last year when HBS admitted 859 candidates (see Deconstructing Harvard’s Large MBA Class: Surprises & Shocks).

Harvard set another record with this new class: An unprecedented 29% of the cohort entered with a GRE score, nearly a one-third increase from last year when 22% of the entering students were enrolled with a GRE score. Over the past four years, HBS has more than doubled the percentage of MBA students who were admitted with a GRE, showing increasing acceptance of the GRE as a viable alternative to the GMAT exam. In 2018, only 12% of the entering cohort had submitted a GRE test for admission.

Harvard maintained its 730 median GMAT score for the class, with a median of 41 on the verbal and 49 on the quant portion of the exam. Verbal scores ranged from a low of 28 to a high of 51, while quant scores ranged from 32 to 51. Overall, scores ranged from a low of 590 to a high of 790, just ten points shy of a perfect score. The successful applicant with the lowest GMAT scored 30 points last year’s low of 620. The median GRE score for this year’s class was 327, with a 163 on the verbal and a 164 on the quant. The verbal range went from a low of 147 to a high of 170, while the quant score ranged from 146 to 170.

A RECORD 46% OF THE NEW MBA CLASS ARE WOMEN

Harvard Business School’s Chad Lossee

Some 46% of the Class of 2023 are composed of women, also a record and up from 42% a year earlier. That compares to 52% at Wharton, 49% at Kellogg, 46% at Dartmouth Tuck, 48% at Duke Fuqua, and 40% at UVA Darden, all records as well as business schools strive to achieve gender parity. (Stanford, MIT Sloan, Columbia, and Chicago Booth, among others, have yet to report their incoming class profiles).

International students at Harvard Business School this year make up 37% of the class, up from 33% last year when COVID-imposed travel restrictions and difficulties in obtaining student visas depressed the normal level of international students in a typical Harvard MBA class. This year’s international contingent matched the percentage achieved by HBS in 2019 and 2018 for the classes of 2021 and 2020.

“It’s a really special class,” says Chad Losee, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid. “It’s been really joyful to see the class arrive at HBS and get settled. There was so much energy on campus the other day in the kickoff with the dean. It is really an excellent class. For most of these students, the past 18 months have been incredibly challenging, personally and professional, and a lot of them have had a big impact due to COVID on their countries and companies.”

Losee told Poets&Quants that he expects another 100 deferrals from last year to enter Harvard’s MBA program next year. As a result, next year’s class will also total more than 1,000 students. “When we allowed people to defer for any reason with the onset of the pandemic, over 200 did,” adds Losee. “Half of them are coming in this year and half will come in next year. So we added another section to the class. We will enroll a little over 1,000 next year and then after that will go back to our normal size of just over 900 students.”

‘I AM GLAD THE MESSAGE IS GETTING OUT THAT WE ARE TRULY AGNOSTIC ON EITHER THE GMAT OR THE GRE’

He attributes the increase in applications to several factors. “I think part of it is people seeing the long term value of graduate school and of MBA programs,” says Losee. “We have put forth a lot of effort in attracting people from the full range of talent. Some of it is tied to the job market and the opportunities they have.”

And Losee believed the substantial increase in GRE-enrolled students should put to rest any rumors that the school prefers the GMAT. “I am glad the message is getting out that we are truly agnostic on either exam,” he says. “So applicants should take the exam that allows them to put their best foot forward. We’re seeing more GRE scores partly due to the diversity of people who are coming in from all different kinds of backgrounds. The GRE is more widely accepted for other graduate schools and the effort we have made to communicate the value of the MBA is getting out.”

He also believes the increase in women is a reflection of the school’s efforts to recruit more female candidates. “We have seen increasing representation of women in our applicant pool and in our class for the past several years. We are excited about that number.”

The average undergraduate grade point average for the class remained stable at 3.69. Losee, however, put that number, along with standardized test scores, in perspective. “They help us triangulate who is ready for a rigorous academic program but both the test scores and grade point averages are only two data points in the holistic admissions process,” he maintains. The average years of work experience came to 5.0 years, slightly more than the 4.7 year average last year. That came to an average 60 months of full-time work experience for an enrolled student.

Harvard Business School Dean Srikant Datar welcomes the Class of 2023

STEM UNDERGRADUATE DEGREES NOW ACCOUNT FOR 41% OF THE CLASS

As is often the case, changes in the educational backgrounds of Harvard’s newest students also were largely inconsequential, though undergraduates with engineering and math backgrounds are definitely on the rise. The largest single chunk of MBA candidates majored in economics or business: 41%, exactly the same as last year. Some 21% majored in business or commerce, while 20% had studied economics in college. Students who majored in the arts and humanities (4%) and social sciences (13%) total 17%, down one percentage point from 18% last year.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) majors make up 41% of the Class of 2023, even with last year but up from 37% three years ago. Roughly 28% of the class majored in engineering, while 15% studied math or the physical sciences. The STEM bump is likely the result of 2+2 students who were admitted under HBS’ deferred enrollment program for younger applicants which typically accounts for about 100 enrolled students each year. The 2+2 program heavily favors STEM undergrads, with 57% of the latest admitted group having a STEM degree.

Harvard also disclosed that its newest class has undergraduate degrees from 137 domestic universities, up from 121, down, and 158 international universities, up from 111 a year ago. The disclosure of this data is meant to convey that the school is open to applicants from a wide variety of both public and private institutions, though HBS relies heavily on undisclosed feeder schools (see Who Gets Into Harvard & Stanford’s MBA Programs Might Surprise You).

Testing basics on Harvard Business School’s MBA Class of 2023

CONSULTING BACKGROUNDS IN CLASS UP, WHILE TECH WORK EXPERIENCE IS DOWN

The pre-MBA industry backgrounds of this year’s students also saw small year-over-year changes. The most notable changes? Students with backgrounds in consulting moved up by two percentage points to represent 17% of the class, up from a year-earlier 15%, while those from non-profit backgrounds, including the government and educational sectors, also rose two percentage points to 8%, up from 6%.

The largest industry represented in the class remains finance, with 27% of the students, exactly the same as last year. Some 15% of the class had jobs in venture capital and private equity, down a percentage point from 16% a year earlier, and 12% from financial services, up from 11%.

Students with tech backgrounds account for 11% of this year’s entering cohort, a two-point drop fro 13% a year earlier. Also down were students with media, entertainment and travel work experience who represent only 2% of the class, down three percentage points from 5% last year.

Healthcare and biotech students represent 7% of the class, the same as last year; 9% come from the consumer products and e-commerce industry, while 11% had been in the energy and manufacturing industries. MBA students from the military account for 5% of this year’s entering class, same as last year.

THE CLASS OF 2023 MAY WELL BE THE DIVERSE EVER AT HBS

For the only the second time, HBS broke out more detailed breakdowns of the ethnicity and racial backgrounds of the class. The school is reporting race and ethnicity in two ways: according to federal reporting guidelines—which allows each student to be represented in only one racial / ethnic group—and what HBS is calling “multi-dimensional reporting”—to more inclusively share students’ multiple racial / ethnic identities.

The Class of 2023 may well be the most diverse ever. HBS said “white” students, by the federal reporting standards, represent 47% of the class, down from 53% last year. The more inclusive multidimensional accounting pushes up the percentage of whites to 59%, still below the 66% of last year.

Asian Americans compose 24% of the class by federal guidelines, up from 19% a year earlier. By including MBA candidates who are multi-racial, HBS reports this number at 26%, up two percentage points from last year. Meantime, black and African-American students account for 12% by federal standards, up a single percentage point, and 14% by multi-dimensional reporting, also up a point. Hispanics and LatinX represent 11% of the class, up from 9% last year on both metrics.

‘ADVANCING RACIAL EQUITY IS AN IMPORTANT PRIORITY FOR OUR TEAM AND THE SCHOOL’

“Advancing racial equity is an important priority for our team and the school overall,” says Losee. “Some of the things that we know we need to do at HBS are for HBS but we also recognize the broader role that HBS plays in the broader business school and corporate landscape. Making sure we have people from diverse backgrounds is really important not just for our community but for the business world. There has been a lot of effort over many years and an increasing focus on that in the last year or two since George Floyd’s murder.”

Losee says admissions is also focusing on “socioeconomic diversity We recently launched a need-based application fee waiver and we are now looking at our financial aid formula for family backgrounds in awarding scholarships.” Some 13% of this year’s incoming class, he adds, is a first generation college student.

DON’T MISS: MEET THE HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL CLASS OF 2022 or SNEAK PEEK: MEET MICHAEL DANTAS IN HARVARD’S MBA CLASS OF 2023

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