We have no way of proving this.
It’s a theory that started burbling up for us last year. We did a mini-series on the phenomenon of more people applying to more schools. We talked about “app inflation” and compared it a little bit to grade inflation. App volumes are one metric that (rightly or not) many rankings systems use to assess their quality. When all the good schools get a lot of applications, then it’s harder to tell which are the great schools.
The other big downside to all the schools increasing their volumes?
THAT ALL THE ADCOMS DON’T KNOW WHICH OF THE BSERS THAT THEY’VE ACCEPTED WILL ACTUALLY SAY ‘YES’ TO THEM.
An increasing-volumes environment increases the uncertainty around yield. For everyone except HBS and Stanford, that is.
When the schools are unsure on where their yield will end up, they will likely put a lot more of you on the waitlist.
There does not seem to be any easy way to solve it.
We suggested last year that it’s not in the BSer’s self interest to be contributing to the problem of applying to lots and lots of schools – though at the same time, most would believe that it IS in the BSer’s self-interest to be doing so, since it seems like it would increase your chances of having one of them accepted.
That’s not how it actually works, though. Except in rare cases, the people who submit the most apps tend to be the people who submit the suckiest apps. Each app requires a lot of time and energy to do well. More apps does not increase your chances. More QUALITY apps would – but just like with building anything, there’s a tradeoff between time and effort and quality. If you want more quality apps, you need to spend more time and effort on them, and most people simply don’t plan for that (or they get burned out and cut corners towards the end).
It’s near-impossible for us to convince anyone that submitting fewer applications is going to help them and everyone else. You do NOT want to end up on the waitlist. Some BSers we’ve worked with actually say that they would’ve preferred to have been rejected than to be put in this infinite-seeming limbo state. At least when you’re rejected, you have something to work with. You can decide what actions to take – like, to start preparing for next year. When you’re on the waitlist, your whole life is on hold. You can’t resign your job yet since you have no idea if you’re actually going. You certainly can’t pursue any other career opportunities, for the same reason. You’re stuck. On hold.
In the Waiting Place:
So, no good resolution to this. Most people are going to continue to submit way more apps than they need to. Who can blame them? Applying to bschool is an anxiety-ridden process. At least if you submit a lot of apps, you FEEL LIKE you’re in control. You FEEL LIKE you’re doing everything you can to maximize your chances. Even if a lot of those apps will be wasted.
And, with the much simpler application requirements of the modern-day era – fewer essays, shorter essays – then it’s even easier to submit more apps these days. Applicants are motivated to do so by the schools themselves, who have reduced the amount of writing that each person must do to apply to their school.
Applicants are probably writing the same number of essays today as they ever did, however that number of essays today equals more applications than it used to.
So the schools are responsible for the phenomenon of applicants applying to more places.
Yet there is no school on the planet who is now going to be emboldened enough to change this. (Well, except for HBS, but why would they? HBS is the one who led the charge in reducing essays in the first place.) Even the hold-out schools with the most essay questions, INSEAD and LBS, have lately been reducing the numbers of essays they require. They HAVE to, because otherwise their app volumes will drop. And then the admissions directors will have to answer to the deans, because when apps decrease, it’s a very very bad thing. (Just ask Columbia.)
Because app volumes drive rankings.
Vicious cycle, eh?
No easy answers.
And to think, some admissions consultants believe that there should be a Common App for bschool. OMG that would be such a bad idea. The only saving grace that it might offer would be to also force a limit on the number of apps that any one person could submit. That idea is growing more popular among the parents of high schoolers who have to deal with this awful application environment . It’s no better for them; it may even be worse.
Bschool adcoms, are you listening? You’re the only ones who can change this. It’s gotta suck to have so many applicants on your waitlist, knowing that there are very few you’ll be able to admit – or maybe even worse, NOT KNOWING even at this stage of the game.