Round 1 Admissions Trends: What We’ve Learned So Far

Posted By SWatts on Mar 11, 2016 |

Round 1 Admissions Trends: What We’ve Learned So Far

Many candidates who are gearing up for Round 2 are wondering, “What has Round 1 taught us about MBA admissions so far?” Here are some take-aways so far…

Essay lengths. The fact that many top business schools chose to present once again short essay questions, with responses limited to 400 words or less, and/or fewer numbers of essays means that they have chosen once again – just like last year – to shift greater importance to your recommendation letters, resume and statistics (GPA and GMAT score). With less essay space, you have less opportunity to “make your case” to the admissions committee and you also have less opportunity to explain any weakness in your profile. Regardless of whether you have a weakness to explain or if your main task is to sell your strong credentials to the admissions committee, you will need to use all of the application items beyond your essays excellently so that all application components work in concert and can help you persuade the admissions committee that you will be an excellent choice for their school. Make sure your recommendation letters, application form and resume are of first-rate quality.

Common recommendation forms. Many Top-10 programs, including Harvard, Stanford, Wharton and Columbia, have chosen to use once again the “common recommendation form”, which focuses on two standard recommendation questions that recommendation writers should respond to. In many cases, the allotted words for a response is quite minimal – in some cases only 550 words total for the whole recommendation. This means that what is said in that very brief space is exceedingly important. Make sure your recommendation writers use the space wisely!

Here are the two standard questions from the “common recommendation form”:

1. How do the applicant’s performance, potential, background, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples.

2. Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response.

GMAT scores. Just like last year, some schools like Wharton and Columbia seem to be weighing the GMAT score more heavily. So if you get a 640, should you try to apply to those schools, hoping you can override the GMAT score? In most cases, it will serve you well to retake the GMAT exam and to attain a score closer to the 700s.

Interviews. Over the past four years, the MBA admissions interview have taken on greater importance in determining the fate of candidates. For most business schools, the admissions interview is no longer just a “quick check” to make sure the candidate seems reasonably similar to the image he or she put forward in the application. Your performance in the interview is important, and some schools are designing the questions to assess how you might behave in an actual classroom. The more you practice for your interview, the better. Don’t treat the interview lightly!

Re-applicants. Many candidates will be happy to know that re-applicants are still able to have success because the top MBA programs are looking at re-applicants with fresh eyes as long as the re-applicant has taken steps to address whatever the perceived shortcoming was in their prior application. We at MBA have already helped many re-applicants to secure admissions interviews at the very schools from which they were rejected without interview last year when applying on their own. With strengthened applications, the admissions committees are giving them serious consideration. Many of our re-applicants have already been admitted to schools that have released decisions, such as Columbia. This is good news for anyone hoping to get a better outcome at a school where they were previously rejected.

Women. The top business schools continue to demonstrate great interest in qualified female candidates, particularly because women remain underrepresented at many of the top MBA programs.


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