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HBS Will Enroll a Class of 720 Students, 200 Fewer Than Usual

Last month, in response to the circumstances surrounding the current public health crisis, Harvard Business School announced that it would take the unprecedented step of giving all admitted MBA students the option for defer enrollment. At the time, it wasn’t clear how many would take up that offer.

Now, the numbers are in. In a daily update on HBS’s COVID-19 response, the school revealed that it expects to enroll an MBA class of approximately 720 students this fall.

According to Poets & Quants, that number is about 200 less than HBS’s typical size of 930 or so students. The school’s most recent MBA cohort, for example, includes 938 students.

HBS says that of MBA students admitted to the Class of 2022, 700 confirmed that they would enroll as planned. The school then reached into its waitlist to increase the class size slightly. 

Accounting for a handful of students who may not actually end up enrolling due to “extenuating circumstances,” the school arrived at an estimate of 720 MBA students who will arrive on campus (or, failing that, begin attending virtual classes) in the fall.

In the update, dean Nitin Nohria and executive dean for administration Angela Crispi wrote that “the composition of the students who are joining us is similar to those who chose to defer, which means the class will have the diversity we strive for and the critical mass to carry on all of our usual curricular and extracurricular activities.”

Although HBS’s incoming class size is no longer an unknown, the new information raises as many questions as it answers. 

For example, what will enrollment look like at other top MBA programs, which had less flexible deferral policies? And will HBS see a drop in second-year students when it reaches its “next key milestone” of August 10, at which point the returning class confirms their plans?

Perhaps the most significant unknown, though, is what this shift means for future MBA applicants. 

HBS plans to “explore increasing our class size a bit” to accommodate students who deferred, but it’s possible that the influx of deferred admits could make HBS’s next admissions cycle tighter than usual. That depends, of course, on how many new MBA applicants the school sees next year as well.

How can MBA applicants best deal with that uncertainty? By focusing on what they can do to maximize their chances of admission: putting together an application that effectively communicates the unique strengths they bring. 

If you’re in the position of figuring out how to assemble the best possible application in these unpredictable times, we’re here to offer our extensive experience with the MBA admissions process. Contact us and we’ll be happy to provide a free MBA application assessment!

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Chioma Isiadinso

Chioma is a former Harvard Business School admissions officer and the CEO and Co-Founder of EXPARTUS, the first MBA admissions consulting company to use personal branding as a key part of the b-school application process. Chioma is the author of The Best Business Schools' Admissions Secrets, one of the leading books on how to successfully navigate the MBA admissions process.