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Columbia Is Latest U.S. B-School To Report Drop In MBA Applications

·4 min read

Columbia Business School has released its MBA Class of 2024 profile

U.S. business schools are hunkered down awaiting the end of the current storm of economic good news. Columbia Business School is the latest to report a marked decline in MBA applications in the last cycle — and the latest to offset the negative with a positive spin in other key metrics.

Like the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and others in 2021-2022, Columbia’s apps dipped significantly as many MBA candidates stayed in their high-paying jobs. CBS’s apps were down more than 350 to 6,177, a 5.5% decline; in response, the school increased admits by more than 12%, leading to a jump in acceptance rate to just over 22% from 18.6% in the previous cycle.

It’s Columbia’s highest acceptance rate in the last five years, dropping the school from the pantheon of most exclusive MBA programs — at least until more schools report their new data, and many likely join CBS in having wedged open the gates a little more while they await an economic downturn or other paradigm-changing event.

WOMEN IN THE MBA INCREASE TO 44%, A SCHOOL RECORD

Among the other elite B-schools that have reported similar declines in applications in 2021-2022 are the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and UCLA Anderson School of Management. NYU Stern School of Business last week reported a 10% decline in apps from the previous cycle. (Interestingly, one leading school, Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management, actually reported a big increase in apps, bucking the trend.)

Like most of its peers, Columbia made up for its drop in applications and corresponding rise in acceptance rate by sprucing up some high-profile numbers, increasing the proportion of women in its MBA to a new school record and setting more school records in the enrollment of both international students and U.S. minorities.

Columbia has been among the leaders in enrolling women in the MBA for at least the last two years, and it inched closer to gender parity this year with 44% of the class identifying as female, up from 41% last year. Likewise, the school has always had a strong international flavor, located as it is in the heart of New York City, one of the great cosmopolitan centers of the world — but this year, to offset what has unofficially been reported around graduate business education as primarily a dearth of U.S. domestic applicants, CBS welcomed an even greater percentage of foreign students, eclipsing the 50% threshold for the first time. See table above for details.

Even as apps have declined and the school bumped up its admits and acceptance rate to adjust, class size has remained fairly stable in both Columbia's intakes. Different from most of its peer schools, CBS has two intakes per year, in August and January. The former has gradually grown over the last four years, from 551 in 2019 to 571 in 2020, 614 in 2021, and 629 this year; the latter was also on the upswing, from 203 to 211 and 233 last year, but was capped at 215 for this coming January.

CBS also maintained its gaudy Graduate Management Admission Test average (729, with a range of 550 to 780) and rebounded from last year's slight dip in undergraduate grade point average.

Source: Columbia Business School MBA Class of 2024 profile

FINANCE IS TOP PREVIOUS INDUSTRY; BUSINESS IS TOP UNDERGRAD MAJOR

In 2020, the largest group of Columbia students came from the financial services sector, accounting for 30% of the entering students — hardly a surprise since Columbia sits in the middle of Wall Street. Consulting backgrounds made up 23% of that class, while marketing and media represented another 14%. Students from the tech industry made up 8% of the class, while those with healthcare backgrounds represented 4%.

In 2021, finance actually ticked up to 31%, consulting down t0 22%, marketing/media down to 12%, and tech up to 9%. Healthcare also ticked up to 5%. This year, finance ticked down to 29%, marketing/media down to 12%, and consulting, tech, and healthcare were all flat at 22%, 9%, and 5% respectively.

In undergraduate major, in the fall of 2020, the majority of Columbia’s new MBA class had majored in business (29%) or economics (20%), followed by engineering (17%), social sciences (14%), the humanities (8%), sciences (7%) and technology (3%). In 2021, business is the runaway leader at 37%, followed by economics (18%), engineering (15%), social sciences (13%), sciences (7%), humanities (6%), and tech (2%).

This year, business dropped slightly to a third of the class (33%), while economics grew to 20% and engineering to 16%.

Source: Columbia Business School MBA Class of 2024 profile

MINORITIES OF U.S. ORIGIN AT COLUMBIA BUSINESS SCHOOL

Source: Columbia Business School MBA Class of 2024 profile

DON'T MISS RANKINGS, RATES, ROI & MORE: THE M7 BY THE NUMBERS and ANOTHER M7 PROFILE SHOWS RENEWED STRENGTH OF THE MBA

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