For high flyers wishing to push their careers to the next level, an MBA from one of the world’s most prestigious business schools can open doors like few other qualifications.
But before you settle down behind your rosewood desk in that penthouse office, you first have to get on the course, and that’s no easy task.
The application process
At the first stage you’ll need a stellar resume and some very high calibre recommendations. The requirement for multiple essays as part of the application process has been dropped by many of the big MBA schools, but that hasn’t necessarily made getting in any easier.
“The admissions process should not be a sort of essay writing contest,” a spokesperson at Harvard Business School told the Business Because blog. “But I must confess, I don’t think anyone would call the HBS application process easy, even with just one essay.”
If the first hurdles are passed, you’ll probably have an interview – an hour-long process during which you must prove that you are a cut above the thousands of other applicants who all want the same place you are fighting for.
So now you know what you’re up against, here’s a list of the top 10 business schools in the world (compiled by the Financial Times) and the percentage of applicants who make it through the selection process.
Stanford – Graduate School of Business
6% of applicants accepted
Harvard Business School
11% of applicants accepted
Berkeley University – Haas School of Business
13% of applicants accepted
MIT Sloan Executive Education
15% of applicants accepted
Columbia Business School
18% of applicants accepted
University of Pennsylvania – Wharton Business School
20% of applicants accepted
University of Chicago – Booth School of Business
24% of applicants accepted
London Business School
26% of applicants accepted
Institut Européen d'Administration des Affaires (INSEAD)
31% of applicants accepted
University of Cambridge – Judge Business School
33% of applicants accepted
Despite the intense competition and high failure rate, the number of applications for the leading MBA courses has risen sharply in recent years. Harvard Business School received 9,534 applications for the MBA class of 2016. MIT Sloan has attracted the biggest jump in applications, with an increase of 35% in 2015.
A wider welcome
While competition for places on a prestigious MBA is getting stiffer, the schools are working to make their intake more diverse.
Progress has been slow, but the intake of women rose from 32% in 2011 to 36% in 2015. Harvard Business School and Chicago Booth are ahead of the pack with 41.5% female students in their classes.
The rewards for getting onto a prestigious MBA programme are substantial. The chart below, published by The Economist, shows the return on investment for some of the leading MBA courses one year after graduation.
The chart shows that the returns on a top MBA may not be immediate. But a recent Financial Times survey shows that three years after graduation, salaries increased 70-145%.
In short, if you get in, you’ll get on.