An analysis of GPAs & GMATs at Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton

📅 written
Clearadmit published an article recently taking a look at the data from their ApplyWire feed. In it, they made this claim (emphasis ours)(source):
The average GMAT score self-reported by ApplyWire respondents is approximately 9 points higher than the mean GMAT score for the most recent incoming class as reported by the top 18 programs.We discovered the greatest gaps between school-reported scores and scores reported to ApplyWire for applicants to the following schools: Michigan / Ross, INSEAD, Columbia Business School, and Dartmouth / Tuck. Applicants to Michigan / Ross reporting on ApplyWire averaged a GMAT score of 721, as compared to a mean score of 708 reported by the school for its most recent incoming class. At INSEAD, the reported average for incoming students this year was 707—also outdistanced by the ApplyWire reported score of 720 for current applicants to INSEAD. And the average scores for applicants to Columbia and Tuck as reported to ApplyWire—both 731—were a whopping 14 points higher than the average scores reported by the schools themselves for their latest enrolled classes.On the other hand, applicants targeting Northwestern / Kellogg reported an average GMAT score to ApplyWire that is actually two points lower than the school’s published current median score of 732. Applicants to Yale SOM, for their part, seem right on target: Current applicants to Yale SOM report an average 730 GMAT score via ApplyWire, identical to SOM’s own published average for the current Class of 2019.
CA acknowledges some of the problems with their dataset:
Of course, since ApplyWire only recently launched, we should note that any conclusions are based on a small sample size and not necessarily reflective of the entire applicant pool.
Comparing the numbers of people who report their desire to apply with the numbers of people who are actually accepted strikes us as a bit strange, but we’ll never knock a foray into a good dataset. Anyway, their analysis got us thinking: can we use these data to examine the common claim that GMAT and GPA are creeping ever-upward at top b-schools? Yes. Yes, we can.

The analysis

We got our data from ClearAdmit’s LiveWire service, which tracks actual application statuses (applied, invite received, rejected, etc.). In all, we got about 10k good data points from the ~14k or so available. There’s an important caveat with this data: it’s completely self-reported, and it’s a trivial portion (and a self-selecting one, at that) of the overall applicant pool. This means whatever conclusions it brings ought to be taken lightly. We’re still working on a more thorough answer here (if it’s possible, given the limitations of the data set), but in general, our goal is to examine the scores of the people who received 1st-round invitations to interview this year versus years prior. Unfortunately, this means the number of data points available is even more limited, so remember to consider this little more than data-porn at best.

GPA and GMA data at Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton

In addition to being sweet, the below chart is interactive. What you should see is 3 clusters of data points, each representing entries into CA’s LiveWire marked “Interview Invite” at Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton in round 1. GRE scores aren’t included, and any GPA that was on a non-4.0 scale was normalized to a 4.0 scale. Since the LiveWire data is sort of dirty, expect some mistakes in our normalizations (but none that should move the needle on the trends). Notes: The embed is kind of lousy on mobile, but you should still be able to zoom/pan around with swipe gestures. Also, if you don’t see 3 clusters of data points (like this post’s cover image), either zoom out or refresh the page.
Pro-tip: Use your mouse/swipes to scroll, pan, zoom and rotate!

Other interesting questions

CA raised a few other points we haven’t really examined. We’ve included them here for context, but let us know in the comments if you think we should examine any of these claims as well.

Consulting is popular

Consulting dominated as an intended career path for applicants to a dozen of the 18 top programs we analyzed. More than half of applicants to Northwestern / Kellogg and Dartmouth / Tuck report that they intend to target jobs in consulting after graduation, and between 40 and 49 percent of applicants to 10 other schools also cited consulting as a post-MBA goal. Fifty-three percent of ApplyWire entries for Dartmouth / Tuck indicated consulting as a post-MBA choice. Northwestern / Kellogg was a close second, with 52 percent of prospective candidates ticking the post-MBA consulting box. Applicants to Wharton, Yale School of Management, INSEAD, Michigan / Ross, and Chicago Booth also expressed strong interest in consulting. “It’s not surprising to see consulting at the top, especially at places like Kellogg, Tuck, and INSEAD, which are traditional consulting powerhouses,” says Clear Admit Co-Founder Graham Richmond. “At first, it might seem more surprising to see consulting also top the list of intended post-MBA careers for applicants to places like Wharton and Booth—historically recognized for their strength in finance. But the reality is that the MBA is a generalist’s degree, and consulting can be extremely broad in its focus.”

Tech is big in CA

While interest in consulting outpaced interest in technology at most leading programs according to ApplyWire data, applicants to Berkeley / Haas and UCLA / Anderson proved the exception. Thirty-eight percent of those applying to Haas indicated technology as their post-MBA goal, compared to 33 percent who indicated consulting. Of applicants to Anderson, 42 percent expressed an interest in tech post-MBA, as compared to just 33 percent who cited consulting. “The field of technology continues to be very attractive to those considering the MBA degree,” Richmond says. “Because the industry is constantly evolving, it presents many opportunities for MBA grads to make a real impact. Not only that, many schools are rapidly ramping up their offerings to meet this developing demand.” If you’re contemplating a career in technology and want to learn more about the MBA programs that send the most students into the field, see Clear Admit’s report, Tops for Tech: The Best Business Schools for Careers in Technology.

Investment banking’s lost that 80’s glitz

Investment banking—a top draw for MBA grads a decade ago—has lost its luster since the financial crisis of 2008. Today, only a small percentage of prospective MBA applicants cite banking as an intended post-MBA path. Indeed, at Wharton, known historically as a finance powerhouse, only 5 percent of ApplyWire respondents noted post-MBA banking plans. At Columbia Business School (CBS), interest was slightly higher. Of ApplyWire respondents applying to CBS, 13 percent indicated an interest in pursuing banking. But even this seems low when you take into account that school’s proximity to Wall Street. “Banking, as an industry, continues to struggle to attract the MBA elite, despite the very attractive salaries on offer,” notes Richmond. “Not only has it failed to recover completely from the financial crisis of 2008, but it now faces stiff competition from the emerging technology sector, which is where more and more MBA grads want to be.” Interestingly, one in five applicants to UVA / Darden shared on ApplyWire that banking is their intended career path—more than at any other program we examined. Of course, almost half of Darden applicants shared that they’re gunning for consulting gigs after graduation.

About admitbrain

admitbrain is the largest source of objective data on MBA admissions & MBA admissions consultants on the web.

Find your consultant