The Class of 2016 profiles have been slowly trickling out from the top bschools and at first when we saw some of the changes, we thought that certain schools were simply being more selective – which we were certainly impressed by.
Yale saw a pretty significant boost in GMAT scores between Class of 2015 and Class of 2016 – 714 to 719 – which was especially impressive since they increased the class size. We discussed a little of SOM’s entering class on EssaySnark’s Yale page.
And then we saw UCLA Class of 2016 – where average GMAT jumped from 707 to 714. That’s a big deal. No offense, UCLA, but your average GMAT score has remained steady in the lower-700 to around 710 range for over a decade. Here’s the data:
Average GMAT scores at UCLA Anderson
|Class of 2009||704|
|Class of 2010||711|
|Class of 2011||712|
|Class of 2012||710|
|Class of 2013||704|
|Class of 2014||704|
|Class of 2015||707|
|Class of 2016||714|
Now, there must be something else going on at UCLA, since they’re also reporting a year-over-year increase in apps of 32% – yes you read that right, 32%. Class of 2015 had 3,121 apps, and they’re reporting 4,129 in the Class of 2016. A double-digit increase would be notable at any school but a third more – over 1,000 additional applicants??? (We’ve got a query out to Anderson admissions, to see if there’s a reason for such a jump, like they’re reporting different classes of applicants together now;
as of this writing we haven’t heard back from them. This space will be updated if we do. They did reply confirming the data, but didn’t offer any additional insights. See below for the exchange.)
This 4,100 figure is the highest number of apps in recent memory at UCLA. Next best was the Class of 2010 when they had 3,694 and an average GMAT score of 711. The Class of 2010 was from application season 2007-2008, which was when layoffs had started on Wall Street and flocks of candidates fled the economic crisis into the halls of business schools around America. All the schools reported dramatic increases that year. Several schools have reported increases this year too but 32%?? We are curious to know what happened with UCLA this past season, such that they managed 450 more apps than their previous all-time high. App volumes have been on the rise in LA since their recent-year low of 2,462 for the Class of 2012. They’re now inching towards double that number. Yeah, that’s a “Wow!”, right? This situation is probably going to need a follow-up post another day, after (hopefully) we hear back from Anderson admissions with some insights.
Back to the GMAT trends, which is what you should care about more.
It’s always easier for a school to boost its class profile when they have more applications to choose from – but they also need those accepted to enroll there. So not only did UCLA get more high-quality candidates to choose from this past season, they also converted a good number of those to actually matriculate. Their yield must be decent. Same with Yale.
When so many slightly lesser-esteemed, not-quite-top-10 schools are increasing their average GMAT scores by this much – and other schools (HBS, Tuck) are holding their even higher averages steady – then the only thing that can mean is that GMAT scores are rising across the board. We saw that trend first appear when the percentiles dipped on the quant side, but call us ignorant, we didn’t realize that it would have such a dramatic impact on actual class stats at all the schools.
If a school like UCLA – or, frankly, Yale, which hasn’t traditionally hit at the top of the selectivity scale in terms of being ultra-competitive – if these two schools are reporting a stronger set of student stats, then it cannot be fully attributable to the schools adjusting their strategies and being more selective, which is what we initially thought when we saw a few sets of class data. We had assumed that Yale had been attracting proportionally more applicants with higher GMAT scores. They can’t be overly selective on GMAT if they don’t get high-performing candidates to select from. We thought this was a result of them increasing their reputation and thus being able to set the bar higher, as a result of recruiting a larger share of the high-caliber applicants.
But it looks like many of the schools have bump-ups in GMAT scores – and it can’t be that all of them were attracting a larger proportion of the best applicants.
Instead, it must be that the overall candidate pool is strengthening.
Not every school saw a dramatic increase in GMAT scores. Columbia stuck at 716. Tuck and Ross both ticked down, from 718 to 717 at Tuck, and 704 to 702 at Ross. Wharton and NYU haven’t posted updated class data yet. Harvard now only reports median, which has been 730 for lots of years; their full-range GMAT data got scarier, now being
580 to 790 UPDATE: HBS released revised Class of 2016 data and the low end of their GMAT score is now 510 – which must be someone admitted off the waitlist because that is NOT what they had first reported in June (and before you get too excited, we’re pretty confident that that represents just ONE person at the 580 510 level).
All that we can say with this is, gosh darn is EssaySnark glad that we already went through this process. We are highly skeptical that we could make it into a top bschool these days. Not with the profile that we had at the time we applied (yes that was a long time ago, no we’re not going to tell you how long ago it was).
You know what else this means, Brave Supplicant?
It means that you cannot rely on the advice of a recent grad in helping you get in. On more than one occasion recently, we’ve heard from Brave Supplicants who told us that “a friend of mine who graduated from Harvard this year said X.” While anything that that person has to say about the Harvard experience is absolutely legit and (presumably) reliable, ANYTHING THAT THEY MIGHT THINK ABOUT THE APPLICATION PROCESS IS SUSPECT. The process that THEY went through is nothing like what you are facing today. The competition of the candidate pool is different. The schools are adjusting their strategies. Their advice is not only likely to be unhelpful, it could even be bad. Please do not rely on tips from some well-meaning graduate on how to do your apps. Unless they sat on the Admissions Board last year* then there is not much that we can expect them to say about your candidacy.
So you may asking: How can it be different for us? How can we be offering advice to you when we also did not sit on that Admissions Board last year?
The reason is, because we worked with a boatload of people who went through this process last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. And a bunch of years prior to that too. We’ve seen the ins and the outs of the process. We watch what the schools respond to. And we talk to the schools. Because this is OUR JOB – full time – 365 days a year – then we can devote significant resources to
stalking the schools figuring out what works, and what matters, and what the schools care about. And we can translate that into advice and guidance for those lost souls who are embarking on this perilous journey to get in.
If you’re serious about getting into bschool this year, and your GMAT score is questionable, then now more than ever before, we’re going to suggest that you consider your strategy. A Round 1 app is NOT more advantageous if your GMAT score is borderline. A Round 2 app with a better GMAT score is almost always a better strategy.
*Which of course is an impossibility, since students don’t serve on the Harvard Admissions Board.
UPDATE 9/3/14: UCLA Anderson responded to our query.
We said: “Would you please confirm that this statistic of 4,129 applications on your website is covering the same class of applicant as your 3,121 reported for the prior year? In other words, we were wondering if this year you also included applicants to other programs, perhaps to the FlexMBA, or if there were some other change in the reporting metric. Thank you in advance for any information you might provide on this.”
So there you have it. The data is apparently apples-to-apples with prior year; they offered no reasons for why the numbers would have jumped so significantly.