Harvard MBA – Acceptance Rate, Ranking, and More

Besides the far-reaching cultural impact of a Harvard Business School degree and the power that it represents, Harvard’s storied program provides practical training and global access to the greatest minds in business, management, and leadership. 

Harvard Business School gives graduates the tools needed to implement substantive change in the world through organization, finance, and strategy.

The school’s Case Method involves collective problem-solving, cultivates strong negotiation and debate skills, and exposes students to a wide range of practical world issues. 

FIELD projects allow students an immersive experience implementing the techniques they’ve learned as they address real business problems while paired with a company.

Joint degree programs give students the flexibility to pair their MBA degrees with law, dental, public policy, life sciences, engineering, or even medical degrees.

Established in 1908 (with the revered Harvard Business Review beginning publication a little later in 1922), Harvard’s program balances its traditions with innovation. 

Now with expanded online executive training programs, summer institutes, and research centers worldwide, Harvard Business reaches out beyond its MBA students to provide a diverse slate of training opportunities.

Harvard MBA Acceptance Rate

Harvard University
Dariusz Jemielniak (“Pundit”), Baker library, CC BY-SA 3.0

Harvard Business School’s acceptance rate hovers these days around 10%, tending lower over time. 

Average GMAT and GPA scores tick a bit upward each year; the Class of 2023 averaged a 3.69 GPA and a median total GMAT of 730.

The GMAT range, however, spanned from 590-790, demonstrating Harvard’s discretion in admissions criteria evaluation. 

High test scores or GPAs do not guarantee acceptance, and a score out of line with the median doesn’t end a candidate’s chances, either.

While no single key to acceptance stands out in the profiles of Harvard Business students, a robust academic career helps set a better foundation from which to begin. Work experience in a relevant field also helps an application folder stand out.

The admissions department explains its more nuanced criteria in its list of common traits shared by successful applicants. 

These characteristics include a track record of leadership, highly analytical verbal skills, strong ethical standards, and demonstrated community responsibility.

Harvard MBA Tuition

For a single student and based on room and board for the school year only, the 2021-2022 HBS total cost of attendance comes in at $111,542. HBS reports an average of $84,000 need-based scholarship money per student awarded over two years.

Additional scholarship funding through various Harvard fellowships, both specific and general, can offset costs. 

The Financial Aid office can help students find external funding as well; students with external scholarships should inform the financial aid office, as those scholarships may affect their eligibility for need-based funding.

The financial aid department assists graduates in navigating loan reduction or forgiveness programs

Students whose careers require lower starting salaries than most MBA graduates would receive can get help through the Social Enterprise Loan Repayment Program, or other similar programs and fellowships.

Harvard MBA Requirements

Harvard Business School
Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

Harvard Business School’s three-part application process requires a range of written materials, along with an interview. Requirements begin with a four-year undergraduate degree, though no specific major is mandatory.

Students start the application process with transcripts, a resume, and test scores. The GMAT or GRE can serve as an admissions test; in recent years, applicants have submitted GRE scores with increasing success.

Two letters of recommendation should reflect the candidate’s character and suitability for the program. Letters from people well-acquainted with the candidate in a work or academic context make the most effective and persuasive contribution to an applicant’s folder.

Candidates must also complete an essay as part of these initial application materials. 

No words limit and a freeform topic make the essay the perfect place for applicants to share their reasons for attending Harvard Business School, along with any information about their circumstances that would not be covered by the other parts of the application.

Once Harvard admissions review the initial application folders, select students will be invited to interview. Required for continuing the application process, the interview indicates a positive direction, but it does not guarantee admission.

The third step must be completed within 24 hours of the admissions interview. Harvard admissions require an essay reflection to be submitted post-interview, with details to be provided.

Required application fees can be waived based on need. Students whose undergraduate degree programs were taught in a language other than English must also submit a TOEFL or similar exam score.

Harvard MBA Notable Alumni

Harvard Business School alumni succeed in business roles from corporate CEO to startup entrepreneur. Alumni have also gone on to be President of the United States, serve as Mayor of New York City, and serve time as some of the most notorious criminals in the country.

Harvard Business trained presidents and CEOs of JP Morgan Chase, Levi Strauss, GAP, Facebook, Nestle, BBC America, Goldman Sachs, Corning, General Motors, Boeing, Morgan Stanley, Kraft, and ConAgra, among many others. 

Founders of Rakuten, AutoTrader, Zynga, York Capital, Angie’s List, the Carlyle Group, Net Impact, and the Blackstone Group all graduated from Harvard Business School.

Senators, mayors, governors, and political party leaders number among Harvard Business alumni. Also among the graduates are several of the most notorious convicted insider traders.

Harvard Business graduates influence daily life in America in countless ways, from the historical to the practical. Robert McNamara, architect of the VietNam War, Ford executive, and later President of the World Bank—one of the single most influential minds of the 20th century—earned an MBA at Harvard, as did Dan Bricklin, inventor of the electronic spreadsheet.

Harvard MBA Ranking

Harvard and MIT’s Sloan School of Business Management share the number 5 rank at U.S. News, appropriate since Harvard’s partnership with MIT allows its students access to some MIT programs and facilities. 

U.S. News places Harvard in the top spot for management and in second place for international business and for nonprofit management programs.

Financial Times puts Harvard’s Business School at the top of their global rankings for MBA programs; QS also ranks Harvard at number one globally, ahead of the London Business School, Stanford, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

The Economist provides detailed data used as criteria in their ranking, including Harvard Business alumni’s 60% increase on pre-MBA salary, and the 94% of graduates who receive a job offer within three months of graduation. The Economist gives Harvard Business School an overall ranking at #4 among U.S. programs.

Using starting salary, perception in the business sector, and executive careers within Fortune 1000 companies, Fortune selected Harvard as the top full-time MBA program in the country. Their research indicated that 96% of the Class of 2021’s graduates seeking employment received job offers after graduation.

Should You Attend Harvard for an MBA?

Harvard Business School provides exceptional training for motivated students with outstanding verbal skills, analytical aptitude, and a desire to improve institutions of all kinds. 

To determine whether or not the program makes a good fit for a candidate, Harvard Business offers current college students virtual experiences and an in-person one-week summer residential program to get a sense of life as a Harvard MBA student.

For students ready to gain real-world work experience before starting their MBA coursework, Harvard Business offers the 2+2 Program, in which accepted students defer their matriculation until after completing two years of paid work at a program-approved organization or company.

Students interested in making a difference as leaders in nonprofit and social sector organizations can participate in Harvard Business School’s Leadership Fellows program. 

Students in this program gain valuable leadership experience, while participating organizations benefit from Harvard MBA-level leadership for half the expected salary cost.

In the Leadership Fellows program, Harvard Business places recent graduates in high-level management and leadership positions within organizations focused on public benefit, with Harvard subsidizing the graduate’s salary by half for one year.  

With many options for study, work placement, and improved salary potential after graduation, Harvard Business School might prove a more practical choice than it might at first seem. For the right candidate, the program can open almost any door.