We had this in our recent Lay of the Land post about the fate of international applicants to U.S. MBA programs this season:
You didn’t have to be an incredible candidate to make it in this year. You could present a profile with some glitches and, as long as your essays and recs came in top notch, you could get into a very good school. The uppermost tier including Yale and MIT and Tuck remained elusive for many still, but there was a lot of opportunity across the board for a well-executed app. We want back to the days where the pitch is what gets you in. The essays mattered, and that’s where we saw BSers put in the work and get the results they were after.
If that wasn’t you, and you STILL haven’t cracked into bschool, our best advice is:
1. Re-examine your list of targets. We fear that the main cause of bad outcomes for a certain slice of BSers is (still) aiming too high. If you were a three-peater in 2017 then that is DEFINITELY the case. We’re not saying you shouldn’t try for the school(s) you’re in love with, but be reasonable. There’s a reason you’ve not had success thus far which must be due to some issues with your core stats (GMAT and/or GPA and/or years of experience being higher). As an international applicant, if you really really really want to come to the U.S. to study, then be flexible. A great two years at a school like Georgetown or Vanderbilt or Notre Dame or any number of other excellent schools would still be worthwhile for many of you. Wouldn’t it?
2. Be careful about applying more than three times to a specific program. This past year (2017 app cycle for the Class of 2020) was an anomaly, where we are convinced that many adcoms were much more forgiving if they saw a threepeater. That’s because the prior app seasons were so unreasonably competitive. The schools know that. If you didn’t get in with a 2015 app, it’s understandable; that was when things were just teetering to the level of near-impossible. If you didn’t get in again with a 2016 app, then it’s even MORE understandable; that’s the year of the all-time highs in app volumes at many schools. But if you didn’t get in again during the 2017 season and that was your third shot, then at this point it’s time to quit that school. They’re giving you a hard “no.” The only possible exception is if you got invited to interview for your threepeat app, in which case, then YES, definitely reapply in Round 1, provided you still have the stamina to do so!
3. Obviously, take a hard look at your core stats. There’s clearly something amiss here. If there’s opportunity to improve your profile through one last go at the GMAT or GRE, or through boosting your academic presentation by taking a class, then that’s something you need to really consider if you’re still set on a Top 20 school. If you keep knock-knock-knocking at the MBA door and they keep saying, “Nope” then we have to think there’s something ascrewy with what you’ve got in the basics.
4. It may be time to consider other formats. Unfortunately, if you’ve been trying for many years already, then it’s possible you’re starting to top out in terms of years of experience that the schools are focused on. You can’t be “too old” for any particular program, but certain adcoms will have a preference towards a particular stage in life for their cohort. It does suck, but this is the reality. An older applicant will have more hurdles to overcome and the presentation needs to be convincing for why the MBA is the right next step, why this program is the right fit, and why you’re showing the right level of achievement and success trajectory already to beat out the competition that is also there in droves.
5. Or, consider other regions. There are top schools all over the world. Is there something magical about the U.S.? In the current climate, many would argue no. The competition may be even more intense for internationals at places like LBS and INSEAD, but there are still great schools like Oxford and Cambridge, plus HEC and ESADE and IE and more in Europe. There’s schools in Canada including Rotman and Ivey and another HEC. And there’s all of Asia to look at.
6. Lastly, our strong suspicion is that the issue to date for you has been with the essays. Based on the softening of competition in the just-passed season, if you are a threepeater who still came up empty-handed, and you’re targeting the right schools for your level of accomplishment and the strength of your profile, then it’s truly the essays that are the problem. We know it’s not cheap, especially not if you’ve been pouring money down this application drain for years already, but we really encourage you to go whole hog into our Complete Essay Package as the ideal support for your situation.
As we predicted last year (which ended up being true), we expect that the U.S. business schools will to continue to have lower interest from international applicants this coming season. This is borne out by overall sentiment among our audience, the political issues that keep mounting here, and tangible indicators like the reduction in applications to the H1B visa program again in March (to 190,000 this year, from 199,000 in 2017, when it had been 236,000 the year before). If you do want to try again for a top American MBA program, you should. Just make it a very carefully considered full-spectrum strategy.
Last year we offered a special deal for threepeaters. If you’re going to be in that boat, or if you’re just going to be a reapplicant for the very first time, then you can leave a note in the School Targets section of My SnarkCenter about your current admissions status if you’re curious to hear what we can do to work with you this year, to hopefully help you change your fate.