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DecisionWire Insight: Qualified MBA Candidates May Be Having Success at More Programs

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As we discussed earlier this admissions season, data from our MBA LiveWire tool reflect the well-publicized fact that application volume at two-year full-time MBA programs in the U.S. has been on the decline in recent years—but with no discernible impact on academic standards for admission to the leading MBA programs.

But surely the impact of declining application volume is evident somewhere in the application pipeline, right?

As MBA programs hold fast to their admissions standards with fewer candidates to choose among, we wondered whether this might translate to qualified candidates receiving admission offers from more schools. To explore this, we turned to data submitted via our MBA DecisionWire tool. DecisionWire allows MBA applicants to report the schools they applied to and the schools to which they were admitted (candidates can also report where they’ve decided to enroll, or seek advice from other Clear Admit community members about which program they should attend). We segmented DecisionWire entries by entry year, creating four groups: users who planned to begin an MBA program in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. We then looked at the number of admission offers reported by users in each group to see if there were differences.

Application and Acceptance Descriptive Statistics

As a quick statistics refresher, the mean reflects the average value of a variable, while the standard deviation is a measure of the overall variability of the data.  A smaller standard deviation means that scores are tightly clustered around the mean, whereas a larger standard deviation suggests more varied and widely ranging values for a given variable.

The first table below reflects the mean and standard deviation for the number of applications submitted by DecisionWire users over the past four admissions seasons. These numbers hold fairly steady over time, with DecisionWire users reporting an average of just 4 submissions.

Mean Applications and Acceptances of DW Users

The second table presents the mean and standard deviation for the number of admissions offers reported by DecisionWire users over the past four MBA admissions seasons. Here, we see an upward trend over time, with users reporting a slightly higher average number of acceptances over each of the four years. These year-over-year mean differences are statistically significant.1

Number of Offers Reported

The graph below reflects the percentage of DecisionWire users who reported zero, one, two, three, four, five, or six or more admissions offers in each of the past four admissions seasons.

It remains the norm for candidates to receive just 1 or 2 offers, with more than 50% of DecisionWire users falling into this range over the past four seasons. But, consistent with the steadily rising mean offers above, we do see some changes on the margins. Specifically, we see a shrinking percentage of DecisionWire users getting into just one MBA program, and a growing proportion of candidates reporting success at three or more schools (35.9% in 2015-2016 vs. 42.8% in 2018-2019).
Number of Admission Offers

The Takeaway

While MBA programs aren’t compromising on candidate quality, there are fewer applicants to choose among—and DecisionWire data suggest that on average, candidates may be receiving offers from more programs than they did a few years ago. If you’ve been on the fence about applying to business schools for a Fall 2020 start, this might be a great time to maximize your options.

A Final Note About DecisionWire Data

As we’ve mentioned before, there are a few important caveats to keep in mind when it comes to applicant-generated data on the Clear Admit site.

In general, members of the Clear Admit online community are focused on the most selective MBA programs in the U.S. and overseas. Because the majority of our site users are qualified for admission into even the most selective business schools in the world, this means that users posting to our Wire tools may be more successful in their admissions processes than the average business school applicant.

People are also generally more eager to share positive news than negative news, meaning that candidates who are not admitted to any of their target schools are likely less inclined to post to DecisionWire than those who were successful at multiple programs.

While our data do not capture the full breadth of full-time MBA applicants or outcomes, year-to-year differences (or lack thereof) can still be indicative of larger trends over time.


1 F(3,3615)=6.55; p < 0.001

Alex Kelly
Alex is Clear Admit’s Director of Content & User Research. She has been working in the MBA admissions space for more than 15 years in research, consulting, and writing roles. She holds an M.S.Ed. from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Utah.