The Class of 2020 profiles are starting to come out and we’re amazed that GMAT scores are STILL GOING UP WTF HOW?!??? Ross is now sporting a very healthy 720 average. For comparison purposes, Columbia was below 720 until two years ago. NYU is up to 717 from the prior year’s 714, and they are…
A long time ago we ranted about what we called “the adcon” and a question from a BSer on a ‘snarchived thread recently reminded us of that. So today we’re gonna take the opportunity to issue a reminder to all-y’alls.
Admit decisions are:
1. Made by the school.
While an admissions consultant can be instrumental in helping you decide which schools to try for, if you’re gung-ho for a school you need to apply there no matter what. Just be sure to do so with eyes wide open.
Going for HBS even if we say you're not really qualified? Do it if you're "Fearing regret more than failure"
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) August 4, 2018
Moral: DO NOT LET AN ADMISSIONS CONSULTANT DICTATE YOUR STRATEGY.
It’s the admissions team who gets to decide if you’re going to go there. Not an admissions consultant. Especially not an admissions consultant who’s only looking at some bare-minimum core facts about your profile like a GMAT score or a GPA. That’s not enough to say you should or should not try for a school that you’re in love with — and even if the consultant has seen the entirety of your profile, they still shouldn’t get the final say on whether you try for a school or not. Don’t outsource your life to other people. It’s your life. Live it. Make your own decisions, commit to them, and go all out in getting as close as you possibly can to your dreams.
OK, inspirational talk is over. What else?
Admit decisions also are:
2. Impossible to fully predict.
A qualified admissions consultant is a valuable resource and can tell you if you’re aiming appropriately or if your pitch is shaping up to be competitive, but we are limited in what we can do.
EssaySnark has been doing this a long time and we pride ourselves on being able to evaluate chances based on essay review and profile, and even so we call things incorrectly at times. Every season it seems like there’s one BSer who we are adamant about how decent-to-strong their chances are at some particular school, and they fail to even land the interview. Partly this could be due to something that goes sideways that we don’t have access to, the key example being recommendations which EssaySnark never sees, or maybe they screwed something up royally in how they entered the data in the application, which we also don’t review in advance (these application assets are examined, when available, for the Sanity Check Pre-Submit App Review, or after the fact for the Post-Mortem Rejection Analysis; we know, many applicants have the recommendation letters even when they’re not supposed to, and those services also include a channel by which you can ask your recommender to submit the recommendation letter to us directly without it coming through you).
Partly our cloudy crystal ball is due to the fact of how dynamic admissions is, how quickly things are changing, how different the candidate pool has become in a few short years, and of course
despite how we’ve got sensors implanted in Chad’s and Kirstin’s and Dawna’s and Soojin’s heads the inability for us to read the adcoms’ minds.
For Harvard and Stanford, the best we can typically say, “Yes, you have a real chance!” There will be maybe two or three BSers we work with in any given season where we feel strongly they will get invited to interview at HBS or the GSB — and when we have felt that level of confidence, we can’t recall ever being wrong. When it’s obvious that someone’s hitting the “this is HBS material” mark then it’s obvious. For most others, all we can do is give them a resounding “Yeah, maybe….” Or, we can point-blank say, “Sorry, we really don’t think this will result in an interview, but obviously you should go ahead and submit anyway!” (Sometimes that motivates them to go into another round of furious rethinking and revision, which every now and then results in a different approach that gives us marginally more hope, but this is rather rare. We unfortunately can not remember ever saying “Sorry we don’t think so” where the BSer went on to an admit at that school. We hate to say it but when we’re confident it’ll be a “no” by the school, we tend to be right. 🙁 )
So what this means is, if we predict it’ll be a “pass” for these two schools, we have a high degree of confidence; or very very rarely, we can be confident it’ll be a “yes” for these schools, and in those cases, we’re right. But much more often it’s a “yeah you’ve got a shot but it all depends…” which is unfortunately the best we often can do when it’s Harvard or Stanford. For any other school we can be more definitive — usually. But it all comes down to the actual applicant pool and individual round makeup at a specific school, and while we have a finger on the pulse of the overall market, it’s impossible to say how things are trending specifically at this moment in time.
There is never ONE item that makes or breaks an application. This is what the adcoms mean when they say that the review is holistic. It’s also why this process is so stressful for you! Because you work-work-work on one thing (GMAT/GRE), and think it’s got to be in range of strong enough, then you have to work-work-work on this other thing
(essays, and then more essays, and then even more essays) and in this category because it’s so darned subjective, it can be really tough to assess for yourself if you’re on track or not. Even when you start to feel that your essays are GOOD, you’ll still be saddled with tremendous doubt and a lack of real confidence on whether they’ll be good ENOUGH. Until you get the interview invitation, and then at least you’ll know you passed that first big hurdle and convinced someone through your writing that you are worthy of further consideration.
But this is why we spend so much time emphasizing what seems like maybe nitpicky or inconsequential things, or concepts like “tone” or “messaging.” It’s because the details are what add up to the whole. Sweating the small stuff is what helps you make sure that:
a) you’ve done EVERYTHING YOU POSSIBLY CAN in helping your chances towards the outcome you seek
b) the adcom experiences your application THE WAY YOU INTEND THEM TO — with no wriggle room or margin of error
You don’t want the adcom to be interpreting the things you say, or having to fill in the gaps of what you’ve presented, because you’ve only included part of a story, or a generic reference to something important in your life.
Some say “The D3vil is in the details.”
EssaySnark says no, “The DECISION is in the details.”
And that part is fully in your control.
Wanna find out if we can say with confidence you’ll be getting an interview at Harvard or Stanford? Or – GULP! – that we have confidence you WON’T be? The Sanity Check is available! We can review your app to any school and let you know if it’s shaping up for success.
We’re reblahgging this from the ancient past because the underlying idea we’re talking about here is kind of fascinating. And, we know many of you are kicking the tires on consultants! We have quite a few more posts in the category of the admissions consulting industry if you want to learn more on our perspectives on our peers and value on offer. We’ve had to issue a few warnings… errr, more than a few, actually (sigh).
Please take a moment and read through this:
It is axiomatic that outcomes will revert to the mean in a system that combines skill and luck. An extremely favorable or unfavorable single outcome is going to be followed by an outcome that has an expected value closer to the average of all results. If a system reverts quickly to the mean, you know that it has lots of luck. If a system is slow to revert to the mean, you know that a good amount of skill is contributing to the outcomes.
Read it again. (It’s academically-written, thus a little dense. But, if you’re interested in bschool, you need to get used to this type of writing!)
Here’s EssaySnark’s gross interpretation:
Endeavors that involve skill and luck, like playing poker, or getting a new job, or applying to bschool, where outcomes are independent of each other — like each hand in a poker tournament, or each decision by each bschool — can be said to involve either mostly luck, or mostly skill, based on how many outcomes are close to the average (mean).
In bschool admissions, the “average” outcome is to be rejected. Most people applying to most schools are rejected.
If in your attempts to gain admission (your “system”), of your, say, five applications, you get one interview invitation and one offer and the rest of your apps are rejected, you were lucky on that one offer. If you were more skilled in writing your apps, there would have been more variability in outcomes.
Conversely, if in your five applications, you get five interviews, leading to two offers, two waitlists, and one rejection, you can know that it was more skill in play for you.
The big problem with bschool admissions is that in many cases, you won’t know the results of your efforts until it’s too late to adjust course for subsequent attempts. In other words, you may not get the “reject” outcomes until you’ve already submitted all your applications.
This is one reason that it’s very wise to submit some applications in Round 1. Not only because you have a better chance of being admitted (we’ve covered this umpteen times before). But because you can rework your strategy and IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES with subsequent schools in Round 2 if your first applications don’t pan out.
The other important angle to consider? How much “skill” do you have in writing an application to bschool??? Do you have confidence in your ability to:
a) assess your profile against what the schools really care about
b) know what personal attributes are most important to highlight
c) understand which weaknesses are important to explain or offset
d) choose the right stories to tell to maximize those strengths and counter those weaknesses
e) choose the right details in each story to highlight
f) write it all up in a way that’s impactful without being nauseating
These are all areas that a (good) MBA admissions consultant will help you with. Beyond simply advising you on which schools to target in the first place.
A (good) MBA admissions consultant (should be able to) increase the SKILL at your disposal that will “contribute to the outcomes.”
This is not cheating. This is using a trusted advisor who is expert in the nuances and practicalities of a specialized process. Just like getting advice from a lawyer or an accountant, an admissions consultant can change the equation from mostly one of luck (odds are you will lose) to one of skill (you’ll put your best foot forward in the best way possible).
A (good) MBA admissions consultant will pay for him/herself many times over, by helping you maximize your chances for success.
(Caveat emptor of course — there’s a lot of “not-good” ones floating around the interwebs to fall victim to, and a “not-good” admissions consultant may do more harm than going it alone. So it’s tricky.)
Want to read (and re-read) that academic article on skill vs luck? It’s from a Columbia professor and it’s available here.
Also, we have at least one or two other posts on skill vs luck.
[WARNING: This is a looooong post! May want to jump to the bottom and hit that little Favorite button to save it for later! (Favorite feature available to blahg members)]
Anybody who first starts thinking they want to get an MBA is immediately going to be thinking about Harvard.
And why not?
Harvard is a world renowned brand.
EVERYBODY has heard of Harvard.
Even if you have only a vague notion of what an MBA is or why you might want one, you have still heard of Harvard Business School, and you probably wouldn’t mind going there.
An application to the MBA program at Harvard in many ways is going to look like an application to an MBA program anywhere.
They want a GMAT score, or a GRE is fine.
You’ll upload your resume and enter your work history.
They need an essay, and some letters of recommendation.
Pretty standard stuff.
However, that’s where the similarities end.
The approach that you take with your Harvard application should not necessarily be the same as what you might take with, say, Columbia.
Both these schools offer the MBA degree. Both have semi-similar profiles that show average GMAT and grades and they’re not terribly different from one to the next. You can expect that a high GMAT score will be beneficial to you in getting into Harvard, as it would be for Columbia, or Kellogg, or anywhere else.
If you want to get into Harvard, though, you can’t be just another cookie-cutter candidate.
The secret to getting into Harvard is to show how you’re different.
BUT!! There is risk here!!!
Being “different” for the sake of being different is not going to help you.
Wearing different-colored socks to your interview will not demonstrate that you’re unique.
All that will do is demonstrate that you want to stand out and attract attention. That might get people talking, but it’s not necessarily going to land you an offer at this school.
The most important thing to keep in mind with Harvard is that they are trying to construct a class.
That’s true at any school in the world, but Harvard gets first pick.
They’re like the Cleveland Browns but for opposite reasons.
(For any non-US-football-fans out there: The Cleveland Browns were the football team with the worst record in 2017, so they earn the privilege of picking their players from the college draft first in 2018.)
In the bschool market economy, since EV-ER-Y-BO-DY wants to go to Harvard, then Harvard has an abundance of riches. They can cherrypick the ones that they like most. They get first dibs. The best of the best.
Or, in this case, the most unique and differentiated who will fill out their class.
What this means is, if your profile is stereotypical — the Princeton grad who went to McKinsey and now wants to go for an MBA — then HBS will need to see superlative grades and an exceptional GMAT and particularly wonderful recs.
You need to be the best out of a crowded category of very good players.
What if you…
Work at Deloitte (not the most prestigious firm) and went to BC (Boston College; good but also not considered “the best”). You have a 3.6 GPA and a 730 GMAT.
When faced with the profile of the Princeton-McKinsey person, you may assume you have no chance at all. You’re obviously qualified but being qualified and being accepted are two different things.
Or, what if you…
Are an international applicant, like the Indian engineer, or you are coming from finance? Or applying from Singapore or Hong Kong or China?
For all of you, finding ways to stand out will be crucial. It’s not going to be only the basics of your profile. The adcom will need to know who you are — best revealed by what you have done — for you to have a true chance. This is where the advantages of an MBA admissions consultant can pay off. (A very good one, that is. A merely competent consultant is not necessarily going to add much value for Harvard.)
We saw some stat somewhere once that something like 90% of applicants to Harvard are qualified — meaning, they fit within the parameters of acceptance that the school has mapped out. Not sure if that’s saying that 80% of applicants fit within the class profile (the range of GMAT or GRE scores and college academics) or if it was against some internal measure of acceptability that the Admissions Board has.
Regardless, almost anyone applying shows evidence that they could succeed in the curriculum, and that they are capable of completing the program.
That is hardly enough to guarantee admission. It’s kind of like going with a competent admissions consultant. If you’re going for the gold and you’re going to pony up the dollars for help, then make sure you’re going with one that actually can add value in the game that you’re in.
If being qualified is not enough to get in to Harvard, what then does matter? What will tip the scales and convince the HBS adcom to want you?
There is not a specific profile or a specific collection of app stats that will ensure you get in. However, over the years, we have identified what we now call the “Harvard type.” It’s someone who is obviously a go-getter, an overachiever who’s done something interesting in life.
We cover it in many posts here on the blahg:
What is “the Harvard type”? is a good place to start.
We also discuss it at length in our MBA essay and application guide to Harvard Business School.
Heck, we have a whole category of posts here on the blahg on HBS and what they are looking for.
What we would boil all of this down to is one simple word:
The secret of getting into Harvard is that you have to show evidence of drive.
This fact is the main reason we’re able to with complete confidence predict people’s chances of interest from Harvard in our Comprehensive Profile Review. Through that service, you lay out the details of your background, your career, your school targets and core stats, and we go through it all and assess your chances to see if you are presenting enough evidence that will give Harvard reason to say yes. We are very very rarely off base with these and when we are it is only marginal misses. Usually we have BSers come back to us at the end of the season saying some variation of, “Wow, you were right! You said I wouldn’t get into X but that Y would admit me, and they did! That’s exactly how it went with my apps!”
For almost every single business school in the world, we are firmly convinced that getting help on the app is beneficial.
For Harvard? Yes also beneficial, very much so — but only to one certain extent.
The people that Harvard is likely to admit are very likely to get into Harvard anyway. Even without outside help.
Will outside help be useful? Sure, in giving an assist to the process. In making sure that you don’t step in it, and mess things up in an avoidable way. (See also: A Stanford applicant case study: Avoidable Mistakes)
But very often we see Harvard give interviews even for applicants whose essays truly sucked. Where they did not take advantage of what the essay could do.
But based on the other aspects of their profile — or more often, based on how they are coming from a less-crowded pool and so it was easier to stand out against the crowd — this person earned an invite to interview even in the face of a pisspoor job on the essay.
For whom then is getting help on the app the most helpful? In what situation would an MBA admissions consultant (an exceptional one, if you are serious about Harvard) add the most value?
Either for the applicant who is overwhelmed by the steps of applying, or who does not know where to start, or who lacks confidence in her own writing ability, and especially for someone who finds value in the ability to bounce ideas off of someone. Or all of the above. A very good admissions consultant can help that person create a very good essay for Harvard.
You do not “need” an admissions consultant to get in though.
We remain unmoved by any admissions consultant who brags about how many applicants they got into Harvard. It’s like a coach at the Olympics. The coach cannot take credit for the athlete’s success. Yes, a coach can be supremely helpful. But it’s not the coach who earned the medal. It’s the hard work and dedication and the willingness to persevere and the sacrifices made by the athlete that earned that person the spot on the podium.
When Harvard admits people, many times they would admit that person whether or not the essays were incredible. It’s because they are admitting the whole package; the entire set of facts. Not just granting a Best Essay award. That’s not always how it works elsewhere. Sometimes, an exceptionally mediocre applicant can put together an amazing set of essays that totally wins him or her the admit at another school. An incredible essay alone won’t do it for Harvard.
Of course, an MBA essay can keep you out of Harvard, too.
Very often, BSers make foolish mistakes in their essays. They say silly things. They focus on the wrong elements. They don’t maximize the opportunity at hand. For these people, a (highly qualified) admissions consultant can do wonders.
But the secret of getting into Harvard Business School does not come down to the essay. It’s the entirety of who you are and what you are presenting, and it’s at least as much about Harvard as it is about you.
That’s why when you’re rejected from Harvard, it’s not actually that big of a deal. So many incredible people are rejected each year that you cannot read anything into it.
Harvard is the one school that’s least served by the admissions consulting industry.
We’re not saying not to get help on your HBS MBA application. We do believe we can help you! We have dedicated services exactly for that.
But someone who is the Harvard Type is likely to get into Harvard anyway. Not because they paid the big bucks to a consultant to assist them.
It’s one reason we strongly recommend against reading other people’s essays in your quest for the HBS admit. Seeing what someone else said is not going to let your best essay come through — and frequently, an essay did NOTHING for an applicant’s chance of success. All you can extrapolate from reading a Harvard student’s essay is that the essay did not PREVENT them from getting in. You cannot know that the essay itself helped them at all.
ESPECIALLY not when the essay was written in a different admissions cycle for a different entering class in a different era of MBA admissions, such as we’re entering now.
Someone who got into the Harvard Class of 2009 was operating on a totally different playing field as an applicant, compared to someone who got in for the Class of 2019, and most definitely there are major differences from what the ’19 applicant faced compared to what the Class of 2021 will be facing this year. It’s a different school. It’s a different admissions landscape. Almost definitely it will be a different application for Harvard this year. You cannot make inferences from one person’s essay to your own.
The only constant that remains?
The Harvard Type.
It’s something that we recognize when we see it (the Comprehensive Profile Review being the best way for us to assess this). It does not come down to any static descriptor or a set of stats on a profile. It’s the sum total of who you are based on how you present yourself — in the resume, in the college experience, in your profession today. Yes, in the essay itself too, but that’s rarely the differentiator that it can be at other schools.
There are many ways to get your message across in your HBS MBA essay, and we’re not saying that the essay is inconsequential. The essay matters — for some candidates even more than others. But the adcom is going to overlook a subpar essay if the profile itself shows as differentiated against the pool of others with whom you’re competing.
If you’re wondering right now whether or not you’re the “Harvard type” then that’s a fair question. We can help you with some objective advice on whether you might be perceived that way today.
And what else you can do is work on being that even more in your day-to-day efforts at work.
Nobody can predict with certainty if you’re going to be accepted into Harvard. But stepping it up and doing all that you can to be a better person every single day is the best way to find out.
We wrote a whole book on how to get into Harvard Business School!!
You may also be interested in:
- More examples of the “Harvard type”
- How to add greater value at work (plus, Harvard secret)
- The Harvard secret we didn’t get to yesterday
- Which came first, the ambition or the advantage?
- Once more with feeling: SOME ADMISSIONS CONSULTANTS MAY HURT, NOT HELP
We should probably do one of these posts every single year as a public service measure — admittedly a very self serving one, but one we feel is IMPORTANT. Every year starting in late October, we begin getting inquiries from applicants who have found out their Round 1 apps won’t be moving forward. How can…
Are you (re)taking the GMAT? What’s your score cancel strategy? A key driver of GMAT score inflation among MBA applicants is the relatively new development that allows you to cancel your test score. Years ago, you took the GMAT and that was that. Bad score? Oh well, tough luck, it’s part of your permanent record….
The good news for all you chomping-at-the-bit plan-ahead types is that the trend over the past three years especially is for schools to release questions much earlier. Almost all the adcoms have fallen into line and moved up their release of next-season app info. Used to be, some laggard schools didn’t get their essay question…
We inadvertently have created a pseudo-tradition around here where we lay out some forecasts and predictions of what is going to change in the admissions process at specific schools in the coming season. We’ve got a half-way decent record of accuracy, as you can see if you’re curious:
(Apparently we’ve been doing this for awhile.)
So, what do we think is going to happen with MBA applications for the Class of 2021?
1. We predict changes to the essay questions at
Harvard [ETA: DOH! 0 for 1 already – HBS question will stay the same this year as announced on the director’s blog today! we’ll have to see if they make any other substantive changes in the app UPDATE #2: As of mid-May, HBS has in fact made changes — they’ve ditched Round 3!! EssaySnark should get at least a half-point for this category of prediction!! We’ll see if anything else comes down the pike from here] and Stanford — and possibly Duke. Harvard and Stanford both have relatively new-ish leadership in their admissions function and those new directors have now been on the job for one full season each. It’s not hard to predict that they may want to make changes to their apps at this time, particularly in the case of Stanford where the essay questions have been static for a very long time. That’s true at Duke, too, which is why we’re feeling like it may be time for a shift there. The reason these specific schools have had stable app requirements for so long is because their essay prompts have been very effective — so for that reason alone, it’s possible that Duke may hold tight with those prompts for yet another season.
2. You can also assume that essay questions will change at Ross [YES!], Berkeley [YES!], Darden [YES!], Columbia [YES!], Tuck [BIG YES!], Kellogg [NO 🙁 ]. There are a number of schools that tend to change their questions every single year so it’s not really a “prediction” to name those, since it’s how they typically manage their processes. However, all these schools will remain generally consistent in terms of what they are looking for — which can be summed up as candidates with strong stories of leadership, impact, and teamwork. The one school on this list that’s likely to have a larger change to their essay prompt is Darden. For the others, it’s much more likely to be an adjustment or refinement to the same types of questions that they’re currently already asking (though Tuck too is signalling that perhaps there may be larger changes on the horizon for them as well).
3. We believe that probably Yale will change its question (though we’re on the fence on this one; the current question in use for the last two seasons is quite good and “very Yale” [AND TURNS OUT THEY KEPT IT!]) and we believe that NYU may tweak the way it’s phrasing their second essay question, or possibly combine it with essay 1, though we’re less certain of this so we’ve placed them in a different bucket than the list of schools named in #2 above. [THEY DID AWAY WITH QUESTION 2 COMPLETELY!! SO WE WERE RIGHT ABOUT THIS ONE] MIT also is likely to continue to innovate through changes and modifications to their questions, as they have being doing more of this in their admissions process than almost any other school lately. [AND OH BOY DID THEY! MIT HAS THEIR NEW ORG CHART REQUIREMENT]
4. Wharton [YES! NEW ESSAY 2 BUT MAIN ESSAY THE SAME], Booth and UCLA [YES! NEW SHORT-ANSWER PROMPT BUT MAIN ESSAY THE SAME] may make small fine-tuned changes (for example, Booth will publish a new set of photos that they want applicants to respond to [WE GOT THIS ONE WRONG BIGLY – BOOTH DITCHED THE PHOTO THING COMPLETELY!] but we don’t expect anything wholesale to be different at these programs.
What are the implications to you as a Brave Supplicant who’s planning on applying in the Fall?
The most important advice is to simply sit on your hands and wait at least in regards to essays. There are some eager-beaver types out there every year who get all gung-ho and fired up about applying that they start writing essays now. While it’s fine to take a gander at what the adcoms ask in their applications for the just-closed season (Class of 2020), it doesn’t make any sense to actually start writing any essays yet. There is value in reading through the questions that they have posted and doing some thinking on how you might try to answer them, in theory — as in, think up a possible project or scenario or situation from your life that you would use in support of your answer to the question they have posed.
But don’t start actually writing anything.f Not yet. The probability that a school will change its questions is quite high, and you’ll end up having to start over. Or, worst case scenario, you may get attached to the direction you’ve started to go, and be unwilling to relinquish that as your topical strategy once the real questions for the Class of 2021 come out. Sometimes an adcom may tweak its phrasing, and sometimes BSers assume that the question is the same, but that can really trip you up if you’re overlooking the nuances or not appreciating how the question changes require a different approach in your answer.
So don’t get ahead of yourself. Understanding the themes that a school tends to focus on and starting to dig through the examples from your own life that may be relevant can surely be helpful, as it gets you thinking on these hard topics and reflecting on the questions of who you are and what have you done with your life to this point. By that same token, picking up the SnarkStrategies Guide for one or two of your schools of interest can’t hurt now, even though those are all published for the past season. They will give you an in-depth introduction to what the school focuses on, though, so if you’re new to everything then that may be an advantage, to help you focus your research efforts and understand the direction your strategy should be going in later. The actual writing? It can wait.
What else might change?
In reaction to the suppression of apps from international candidates and the overall trend for simplification in the admissions process, more schools are likely to ditch the requirement for a TOEFL score. Already, MIT, Yale and Duke have dropped it (or never had it). We’ve gotten word that Columbia may be making this change for the upcoming admissions cycle as well [
to be confirmed UPDATE: THIS CHANGE IS CONFIRMED FOR THE 2018 APP].
Will a school like HBS ditch the TOEFL? Hard to say. They’d be a natural choice to remove the English language requirement, partly because Harvard likes to lead the way in big changes to admissions that then percolate through the whole industry (HBS was the first bschool to begin to reduce both word count and quantity of essays in its app, back in like 2012, which generated a whole trend of other schools racing to simplify their apps). Also, and much more saliently, Harvard’s admissions team does all the interviewing, so they have a direct interaction with any applicant before they admit them. This adcom-interview system is the key reason why MIT has not seen the need for a separate TOEFL exam. The Sloan admissions people can see for themselves what your grasp of English is. This also would indicate that perhaps NYU will drop the TOEFL but they are a school much more committed to doing things their own way; if their admissions team continues to see value in a TOEFL then they’ll keep asking for a TOEFL.
Schools like Berkeley-Haas and UCLA have their hands tied; the TOEFL is a university-wide requirement at these places and so we would be quite surprised if they even loosen their requirements for this proficiency test. Currently, Anderson and Haas have the most restrictive policies of any top bschool. They’re on the opposite end of the spectrum. Since we doubt that Berkeley especially has seen any significant drop-off even in international apps this year, based on the pull of Silicon Valley that attracts so much interest among BSers from everywhere, they are unlikely to see the need for a change, particularly when Dean Lyons is on his way out. We expect a bit more of the status quo at Berkeley until they have new leadership ensconced. For a similar reason, we don’t expect many changes to come out of Cornell for the time being, as they have had too much tumult in their leadership function. Sticking to what’s been in place already is the safe bet at Johnson for now.
Will any top school begin to waive the GMAT/GRE?
Highly unlikely. This may happen at some point down the road but we’re skeptical — at least, not any Top 15 school. The less competitive / lower ranked programs may indeed start to experiment with a test-optional policy but we’re not expecting to see this at a school like HBS anytime soon. That being said, Stanford University has recently rolled back its campus-wide graduate admission requirement for the GRE and now it’s up to individual schools and departments if they require any test at all with admissions. So things are changing but it’s early days still, and we don’t expect any top MBA program to waive their GMAT/GRE requirement for full-time admissions (not anytime soon). The only reason we mention this is because there’s now a trend with college admissions to go test-optional for the SAT and ACT; in June 2018, the University of Chicago announced that they won’t require a test to apply. This is to try and even the playing field and remove the advantage that well-off students have in the seemingly unlimited resources they can tap for test prep. Test-optional has taken hold in undergrad admissions but we don’t see it coming up for MBA at least not in the current admissions environment.
Will any top school start accepting the Executive Assessment for its full-time program?
Again, not likely. Perhaps someday — but if they do, then they’ve got a perception problem to deal with first, based on how the test has been named and the purpose for which it was created. For any lower-ranked bschool that begins exploring test-optional policies, we can see how they might allow you to submit the GMAT or the GRE or the EA, or potentially no test at all if certain parameters are met (such as, having graduated from college within the last X years, from a STEM or business major, with a GPA of x.x or above). If you’re an Executive MBA candidate then you can check out our overview of the Executive Assessment here.
Will it be more competitive this year?
We’ve got some ideas on this that are bouncing around; we’ll offer them up on these pages as we have more confidence in how we think things may go. [Update: there’s a note at the bottom of this post from the end of June about this.]
Remember, predictions and forecasts are fairly meaningless when it comes down to what your application strategy should be. If now is the time for you to try for an MBA, then none of this matters. Your strategy will need to be your own, and nobody can realistically predict your chances based on the aggregate.
Of course — Shameless Plug! — that’s where our Comprehensive Profile Review comes in! We can predict chances based on your specifics. Hit us up if you have questions!!
Dang, yesterday’s post was really long and we failed to offer specific conclusions for y’all.
Here’s the tl;dr:
Though “less” does not mean “low”; it’s a comparative. Meaning that we’re hopefully going back to more like the competitive environment of around 2013 when it was “easy” to get into a good school if you did a good job with your app. (Note the quotes around that word; it is never actually easy to get into a top MBA program – it requires significant work!) We hope never to return to the situation of the past few years, where so many incredibly qualified and very hardworking BSers were turned away from their favorite schools like Duke or Yale or Tuck or Haas only due to the competition.
Again, a full discussion is available in yesterday’s post which is totally worth reading even though now you’ve got the Cliff’s Notes. 😉
And also just please note: If you’re coming from certain other countries and trying to break into a top-top U.S. program, it may actually be harder this year.
The countries where it seems there has been more competition?
- Brazil and other Latin American countries
We have also seen more pressure on certain categories of American candidates but that’s a post for another day.
A European or Middle Eastern applicant to an American school is likely to do just fine in this process, provided that the core stats line up and the essays are good.
Want to know what your own situation looks like?
Shameless Plug: This is exactly what our Comprehensive Profile Review was designed for!! Get advice on your exact profile and how it may stack up against the specific targets you’re aiming at. Currently at its lowest price of the season!
If you’re an international BSer who’s failed to execute this season then please don’t feel bad by what we’re about to say. So far in this cycle, it’s been EASIER for applicants from certain perennially-crowded pools to get into many top U.S. schools. We predicted this in May 2017 and it was in fact the…