Now we have five schools with at least some hints of 2015-’16 MBA application information out:
- Columbia released their deadlines and full app requirements, and the J-Term app is open
- Stanford released deadlines and full app requirements which include some minor changes which we gushed about last week
- Wharton released deadlines
- HBS announced the Round 1 deadline and says the app requirements will come out this week
The biggest news so far?
MIT is shaking things up fairly significantly (at least, for them):
- Their application is changing: Two required essays down to one
- They’re adding an additional essay that all who are invited to interview will submit
- They moved their first-round deadline to earlier in September
- They’re moving from two rounds to three
We provide our standard MBA essay question guidance on our MIT Sloan school page. Today we’re taking the opportunity to officially commend MIT for these changes to their essays.
But we’re also pointing out that that whole change to their rounds? Where they added a third one? That really doesn’t matter.
At least, it is unlikely to matter much to most of you.
At least, it won’t matter to any of you who are considering applying in the coming season. Obviously it doesn’t matter to you who are reading this today, in May 2015, since you’ve got your act together and will be submitting in Round 1 no matter what. We’re a little doubtful that it will matter to any candidate applying late in the coming season either though.
OR DOES IT?
Let’s break this down. What do we know?
I. Round 3 is the most competitive round, because fewer slots are available.
Now, Sloan may go against the tide and do things totally differently with their bright and shiny new Round 3. They may allocate a high number of seats in Round 3, and choose not to fill them in the first two rounds. They may, in fact, buck the trend and INTENTIONALLY make Round 3 viable for their applicant pool.
Most schools allocate some seats for Round 3, but not a large number. Since Sloan is making a big deal about this new Round 3, then they may decide that they need to leave a decent number of slots open at the end of the season. How many that is, we have no idea.
II. Round 3 apps are not as strong.
Or are they?
And how may that might play out in the just-starting admissions season?
Traditionally, at many schools, Round 3 apps have tended to be not as strong as those coming in the first two rounds.
This past season’s Round 3 may have been different though. It’s certainly possible that more schools saw an increasing number of higher-quality candidates in our last Round 3, due simply to the fact that (in our experience) more well-qualified candidates were turned away in Rounds 1 and 2 this past year. (We covered this quite a bit on the blahg; check out the recent waitlist posts if you’re just joining us.)
If the schools saw an improvement in quality across the entire admissions cycle, AND they saw MORE good apps in the just-passed Round 3, then who knows? Maybe they’ll all leave a little more wriggle room at the end of the cycle.
Maybe this will upend the entire picture and go against all the patterns that have gone before.
MAYBE EVERY SCHOOL WILL HOLD BACK SOME SEATS THAT HAD PREVIOUSLY GONE IN ROUNDS 1 AND 2, SO THAT THEY HAVE MORE TO ALLOCATE IN ROUND 3.
As they say, anything is possible.
But we’re not going to hold our breath.
Our expectation: These changes may make it MORE DIFFICULT to get into MIT Sloan this year.
Again this is just a guess – nobody can know quite yet how things will play out. Heck, we don’t even have much visibility into the 2014 admissions season yet.
MIT will have to be very very conservative in how they progress with admissions in the coming season. They will need to be very careful about their yield. Several years ago, Sloan inadvertently admitted more full-time MBA applicants than they should have, at a time when their yield increased higher than it had been before (yield is the percent of accepted applicants who say ‘yes’ and accept the school’s offer; the yield reflects how popular a school is and is reinforcing that claim we made a moment ago, that more BSers have been interested in MIT lately).
That year, MIT ended up overenrolled. They dealt with it by offering a guaranteed deferred admission to the next year and some scholarship money to a group of students, to entice them to put the whole thing off for a year. It was a bit of a mess, to say the least. We are confident in our prediction that MIT does not want to repeat that fiasco.
So our guess is that they will be reserving some slots specifically for Round 3 applicants. MIT typically has gotten around 4,000 to 4,500 applications per year–
oh hold up.
Applications per year did you say?
Hmmmmm. That reminds us of something.
App volumes are, unfortunately, the driver of so many changes in admissions policies at schools.
We have no inside information to back this up, but just in observing these announced changes to the policies and processes at MIT Sloan, we have to wager the guess that their app volumes dipped down this past season. We wondered about this back in January, when MIT, for no reason and without offering any explanation that we know of, extended its Round 2 deadline by four days at the last minute.
Over the past few years, we’d seen MIT become an increasingly popular school among many of the BSers we know. They’d been on the up-and-up in terms of respect and reputation in the applicant community. Lots of people wanted to go to MIT.
Did something change?
Certainly they’ve been putting their applicants through the wringer with their tortuous essay questions for several years straight now. EssaySnark was vocal about how awful those essays were, and we had many clients tell us after the submitting that the MIT application was their least favorite of all.
Again, we’re only guessing, but the two big themes of these MIT app changes are:
- Fewer, and much more straightforward, essay questions – avoid turning away candidates with obscure/trick essays, make it easier to apply
- Standardized deadlines and another whole round to apply in – even if they’re not planning on accepting them, schools are incentivized to have a Round 3
So unfortunately, while we really truly do commend Sloan for making these changes, we’re guessing that it’s actually very self-motivated.
- Did interest in the MIT MBA take a dive last year?
- Did MIT suffer an app volume meltdown for the Class of 2017?
To us, it looks like they’re trying to work all angles of the supply equation. Reduce the barriers to entry to an MBA app, and lengthen the window within which they can scoop up more of them.
What about the demand side?
Nothing as of yet. We have not heard a peep out of MIT that they’re also planning on increasing class size.
If they do in fact allocate a set number of spots to Round 3 – which is the only prudent thing to do – then that means Rounds 1 and 2 will be more competitive. Unless MIT tells us that they’re also increasing their class size, then the natural outcome of a) more apps; and b) a longer app season means that everyone submitting in the Class of 2018 Rounds 1 and 2 will face more competition than those who submitted last year.
We will have to wait and see how MIT’s numbers turned out.
So this is another case where, what’s good for the individual applicant in the short term — fewer essays, “easier” application, more opportunity to apply — actually can end up HURTING more applicants, because it results in a larger number of applicants being rejected.
So we stand by our statement that these changes at MIT are positive, because one-on-one, when we work with you Brave Supplicants, we know that you’ll have an easier time of it in your MIT application than last year’s group did.
However, this looks to make for a more challenging environment to make it in, so once again, the screws are tightening.
One big positive we can hope for: With the earlier Round 1 deadline that MIT and other schools have already announced, perhaps this very depressing phenomenon that we described last Fall will be alleviated, whereby many many BSers get wholly and unnecessarily dejected when HBS “releases” them very early on in the round. With more schools having earlier Round 1 deadlines, then we’re hoping that more schools will also be issuing interview invites earlier, which should offset this wave of doom-and-gloom depression that settles over the applicant community in mid to late October every year.
OK, so, to wrap up this exceedingly long post…
We commend MIT for its changes to the Sloan MBA application this year. You BSers don’t know it, since you’ve never before written an MIT essay, but you really dodged a bullet with this.
We also will have to wait and see what happens. Will it be harder to get into Sloan this year?