A number of schools seem to be trying to play the status-quo game: They’re maintaining their pre-covid policies and not really making many accommodations to their processes and policies.
In a “normal” year we would not even call any attention to this. It’s what schools do. With the exception of changing their essay questions and adjusting deadlines by a few days or a week, many schools are in the “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” camp of running their admissions process.
A few schools though have been showing leadership in the face of adversity this year, and have announced a variety of changes to their admissions processes, as we have been covering here on the blahg.
By comparison to those schools, we have identified a few other schools that seem to be somewhat out to lunch. They have apparently decided that it’s better to maintain consistency and keep things as they have been, to the highest degree possible. We’re sure there have been tremendous debates at these schools behind closed doors, but they’re not doing much to reveal those discussions to the general market of interested parties. Transparency isn’t really a strength for a lot of admissions offices.
As could be expected, those schools at the top end of the food chain have the ability to set policy as they wish, and it’s unlikely to affect their application volumes. This also means that those schools have greater maneuverability, where they could choose to be more lenient with their policies if it served the greater good. We’re referring here to the idea of going test-optional, as we’ve been sharing. Who knows, maybe MIT will be the trailblazer on this and make this year’s policy permanent? That’s a big TBD.
On the other end of the spectrum are schools like Columbia, Tuck, and Berkeley, who seem to be holding tight to their requirements for a GMAT or GRE. Some or maybe even most of them started allowing Executive Assessment scores to be used instead of GMAT/GRE for full-time MBA candidates, but usually, we suggest not going down that route, for a whole slew of reasons (if you’re considering taking the Executive Assessment, and you’re wondering what the tradeoffs might be, our Comprehensive Profile Review is a great way for us to dig into the details with you and help explain the possible pros and cons specific to your individual situation.)
In the middle is Ross who is kinda on our sh!t list for the lame way they handled their change in policy in the middle of the Round 1 cycle. We mentioned in our earlier “test-optional?” post that maybe it’s not the best thing to do in the middle of the game like that and the more we think about it, the more lamer it seems. Really, is this fair? Candidates are having trouble testing, true. ESPECIALLY right now, where portions of the country are closing down again, and it seems that huge numbers of Americans are pretending they’re invincible and in active denial that there is a highly contagious virus in our midst. Yes, testing is impacted — but there are options for at-home tests too. The mid-cycle change meant that they put gobs of people on the waitlist WHO ROSS HAS NO INTENTION OF ADMITTING REGARDLESS OF TEST SCORE.* Yes, lame. So even if on the surface a school’s policy may seem applicant-friendly, there are repercussions. Unintended consequences are still real and they still impact real live people.
The events of 2020 are changing test scores. The applicant pool this year looks different when examined solely as a dataset of GMAT and GRE numbers. The stratospheric high scores that had become status quo up through the 2019 season are not as common right now. This is a good thing, since this whole business of business school became overfixated on test scores. That fixation has not served anyone except the testing industry — the test providers, the test prep companies, the therapists employed by those suffering candidates who really want this and become so stressed out about the pressure that this environment creates. The fixation on high scores certainly doesn’t serve the applicants, nor does it actually benefit the schools, when they have to be hypersensitive to how any one admit can impact their class averages, due to the outsized influence of average test score on a school’s ranking. Who knew it would take a worldwide pandemic to potentially take the lid off the pressurecooker.
Does someone who gets into Harvard Business School really need to go to Harvard? No they don’t. That’s why we get so many “Harvard or bust!” candidates: The ones who Harvard tends to accept are the ones who will do just fine, thank you. The ones that don’t need the tremendous advantage that Harvard — or Stanford, or Wharton, or Yale, Columbia, Duke, Booth, any of them — will provide.
It is not a meritocracy. You don’t get in based solely on merit, and you certainly don’t get in because you would be the one who could benefit the most and actually use the opportunity of a top MBA program to literally transform your circumstances in life.
For schools that have demonstrated agility and a willingness to flex in favor of applicants, the market has responded well: We’re seeing lots of interest in those schools, more so than ever before at some of them. This includes Darden most notably, and that’s deserved.
We’ve long been of the opinion that an applicant should not base their impressions of a school on interactions with the admissions office, but more and more we’re rethinking that.
Brave Supplicants, there are literally so many good schools out there.
If you’re trying to figure out where to apply, and want to narrow your choices, it might make some sense to be examining how the school runs its critical functions and makes market-impacting decisions, as one input into your decision-making process. This was our recent take on schools that might deserve consideration based on the values that EssaySnark holds dear. Your list may look very different, based on your own values and priorities. We offer ours only as opinion.
Applicant-friendly things include policies such as where a school decides to put its deadline — so, for Round 2, is it immediately on the first or second day back to work after the New Year’s holiday?
It’s the amount of communication that a school offers to its applicant base. Michigan Ross is actually one of the better ones in this regard. The worst is probably Stanford, though Columbia sucks pretty hard at it too. Oh yeah, Tuck fell down on that this year, too.
As we’ve wondered before: Which school will go first? Which will shrug off the tyranny of the rankings systems and simply do what’s right for the applicants? Yes there are many constituents in the mix. Sure they have to also serve their recruiting partners, and the needs of the parent university, and their alumni, yada yada yada. There are no easy answers to any of this. It just seems that currently, most schools are still beholden to the publications that review them more than anyone else, in terms of what they are maximizing and optimizing for in their policies and processes.
We’re watching for leadership.
We’ll keep reporting back at you when we see it.
* If you’re currently waitlisted at Ross, please don’t freak out by that comment and assume that a) we’re subposting to you directly, or b) that you don’t have any chance of making it in. That’s a generic statement about the policy as a whole, not intended to be communicating anything about your specific profile or opportunities to convert there.