Kenan-Flagler’s MBA program is currently ranked 19th on the U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best Business Schools. Relative to its peers on the same list, the graduate school has an unusually high admissions rate at 44 percent.
“Forty-four is on the higher end, certainly a little higher than we would like to see it,” said Lisa Beisser, senior admissions director for MBA admissions at the school.
Harvard University and Stanford University, both ranked first on the list, boast admissions rates of 11 and 7 percent respectively. Duke University ranks 14th and maintains an admissions rate of 26 percent.
Beisser said Kenan-Flagler’s high admissions rate is consistent with the school’s rate for the last several years and is the result of five years of declining application volume.
“We don’t like it from of a perception perspective,” she said.
Beisser said the school has been implementing new strategies to increase both application volume and yield — the number of admitted applicants who enroll — including the addition of new Chief Marketing Officer Michael Schinelli.
Schinelli said it’s common to find outliers in rankings and admissions rate data, but that Kenan-Flagler is striving for a lower rate.
He said the school has introduced a number of innovative techniques, including new high-tech mailers to send out to accepted students in place of the more traditional paper binders.
Each student admitted in December received one of these new mailers, accompanied by a customized website, tailored to the student’s interests. Schinelli said the high-tech mailers came at essentially no cost because they replaced the earlier binder format.
“A lot of the steps that we’ve taken have shown successful this year,” Beisser said. “There’s just been a lot of buzz and exposure to our school that hasn’t happened in the past.”
Beisser said she thinks a realistic admissions rate to aim for is roughly 30 to 35 percent.
“That would be much more in line with our peer schools,” she said.
Beisser said this year’s application volume is up 30 percent from last, even before the application deadline.
“That’s huge actually in the business school world,” she said, noting that an increase of 4 to 6 percent is considered a success.
But not everyone at Kenan-Flagler is convinced that a lower admissions rate is the key to a better ranking.
Kenan-Flagler Dean Doug Shackelford said the rankings are based on several factors, some of which may be subjective. He said the school does not aim to lower the acceptance rate simply to improve its spot on the list.
“Any school in the world who isn’t ranked No. 1 would like to be No. 1,” he said.
Sophomore Collins Allison, who was recently admitted to the school, said he didn’t think admissions rate mattered but that ranking holds weight in the competitive world of business.
“I’m not going to not apply to something because I see like an 8 percent (acceptance rate),” he said.
Shackelford said his primary concern is to admit the best students and provide the best education possible.
He said from there the rankings will follow.
“We don’t sit here and reverse engineer the rankings,” he said. “If we get that ranking, wonderful; if not, we’ll live with it.”