Unusually High Admissions Rate at UNC Kenan-Flagler

While we often hear about the extremely low acceptance rates at MBA programs at Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business—11% and 7%, respectively—we don’t often discuss the cases on the other side of the dial, particularly among well-ranked schools.

The University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School finds itself in just that position, with a high MBA admissions rate of 44%, according to a recent story in the Daily Tar Heel.

Senior MBA admissions director Lisa Beisser acknowledges that the percentage is higher than Kenan-Flagler would like, particularly from a perception point of view, and that a realistic admissions rate to aim for would be 30-35%. “That would be much more in line with our peer schools,” she says.

Kenan-Flagler’s new dean Doug Shackelford, who began his term on February 1st of this year, doesn’t seem worried about lowering the admissions rate to improve the school’s ranking by key media outlets.

“Any school in the world who isn’t ranked No. 1 would like to be No. 1,” he says in the Daily Tar Heel, noting that the rankings are based on many, often subjective, factors.

The school introduced a new branding campaign in 2013 which emphasizes the ampersand symbol, distinguishing Kenan-Flagler as a place where students master both “the science & heart of business.”

The change in tone may have led to the dramatic 30% increase in application volume this year. Beisser says that most schools would consider a 4-6% increase a success, so “That’s huge actually in the business school world.”

Whatever the cause, right now Dean Shackelford is focused only on attracting the best students and providing the best management education possible.

“We don’t sit here and reverse engineer the rankings,” he tells the Daily Tar Heel. “If we get that ranking, wonderful; if not, we’ll live with it.”


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