How competitive is to get into HBS?

The HBS MBA admission process is currently in the middle of round 2. Applicants have finished submitting applications, and are now awaiting interview invitations from the admissions office. A painful and anxiety-ridden time. The only consolation is that HBS is very transparent with its application process, disclosing the dates they release interview invitations; January 29th and February 5th this year.

Do you know the acceptance rate to the HBS MBA program? HBS discloses this data on its annual report.

Acceptance Rate

The acceptance rate has remained steady at 11-13% over the past five years. Not high, but not too low either. More than one in 10 applicants are admitted every year. Does that factoid give you a feeling of relief?

However, the competition looks totally different when you consider other factors: business background, age, nationality, etc. The most prominent one is nationality. The number of applications to the MBA program is generally affected by short-term macroeconomic trends, but is also affected by the long-term momentum of applicants’ countries.

Thirty years ago, in the heyday of the Japanese economy, the number of Japanese applicants increased dramatically. As a result, even though the overall acceptance rate was stable, the percentage of successful Japanese applicants decreased significantly. Although the number of admitted Japanese students increased, the increase in the number of applicants far exceeded it, making for brutal competition.

Now, we see the same thing occurring with rapidly developing countries – specifically China and India.


There are forty-five Indian and sixteen Chinese students in RC. The number of students from these two countries is increasing year by year. It is said that, however, there were 1,000+ applications from India and 500+ applications from China in 2013. That means, the acceptance rate for students from these countries was between 3-5%, much lower than the overall MBA program.

The key takeaway from these facts is, “Be careful. Average is just average. You may be on a different plane”.

Don't believe average

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