MBA Application

Application Volume Drops at Top MBA Programs in US

The Financial Times reported this week that four of the most prestigious business schools in the US saw a drop in MBA application volume for 2018 matriculation. Harvard, NYU Stern, Duke Fuqua, and Berkeley Haas each reported a decrease in applications from 2017 that ranged from 4 percent to 7.5 percent.

According to Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) data, in the US full-time two-year MBA programs’ application volumes have been in decline since 2014. However, this is not consistent across programs. In 2017, those with larger classes (201 or more students) accounted for 6 percent of MBA programs, but 55 percent of applications and 32 percent of enrollments. Larger schools were more likely to report application volume increases in 2017, while smaller were more likely to have experienced decreases. This decrease now appears to have expanded to the large, prestigious MBA programs.

While the decline in applications has not yet affected Harvard’s 11 percent acceptance rate or median GMAT score of 730, it was fairly significant at 4.5 percent. Similarly, NYU Stern reported a nearly 4 percent drop, while Duke Fuqua and Berkeley Haas were at about 6 percent and 7.5 percent respectively.

In contrast, MBA application numbers globally continue to increase. “When looked at internationally, graduate business education is a growth stock. Applications to Canadian, European, and Asian schools are increasing at an enormous rate,” said Bill Boulding, Dean of Duke Fuqua. Other admissions representatives who spoke with the Financial Times pointed out a multi-faceted cause for the lower application rates in the US:

  • Decreasing numbers of international applicants to US schools, due to a less welcoming political climate, as well as increasingly rigid immigration requirements.

  • Increasingly competitive European and Asian MBAs, offered in English, for those wanting a global experience. Some of these well-ranked programs also offer expedited timelines.

  • Increasing tuition and a robust economic climate in the US, which increases the cost of an MBA in both direct costs and wages-lost.

  • Increasing interest in part-time, online, and/or one-year MBA programs.

Take-aways for prospective MBA students

  • If you have dual-citizenship, don’t forget to note this on your application. It could be advantageous for you in the admissions process.

  • Be sure to highlight your international experiences and interests in your application. Admissions officers want to create a diverse student body and, with fewer international applicants, these experiences are likely to stand out more.

  • Consider that in strong economic climates, with low unemployment, schools are likely to receive fewer applicants. While this may not significantly change acceptance rates at all of the most prestigious programs, it can provide some benefit with regard to both admissions likelihood, as well as the possibility for substantial merit-based scholarships.

  • Choose your MBA program carefully, rather than automatically selecting a full-time, two-year program. Learn from these trends, by thinking carefully about the type of MBA that will benefit you most. International programs, one-year or expedited programs, and part-time cohort-based programs can all be worthwhile for you and your career.

Top Ten Tips for the MBA Behavioral Interview

If you have been invited to interview at any or all of the schools on your list, congratulations!  Now you must begin preparing for a memorable and acceptance-worthy performance.

1.       Upon receiving the invitation, schedule the interview as soon as possible. This will enable you to avoid scheduling conflicts and select the time of day when you have the most energy.

2.       Read all you can about the school. If possible, schedule a full visit prior to the interview, which often will include a tour, class observation, and conversations with current students. Additionally, talk to current or former students already in your network to gain insight on the interview process and other aspects of their MBA experience.

3.       Review your application and think through how you will coherently explain your path to this point, as well as your decision-making and most meaningful experiences at each step. You will likely have some introductory question(s), which will require a three-minute elevator-pitch response, as well as several other questions that will require you to illustrate your points regarding such things as your ability to thrive in a team-based environment, etc., with specific examples from your work experience. 

4.       Be able to thoroughly explain why the school is the perfect intersection of where you’ve been and where you want to go. Elaborate on specifics, such as courses, professors, and extracurricular activities that make sense given your past experiences, interests, and achievements, as well as future plans. Remember, though, depth is better than breadth.  We would rather you explain at length one or two specifics that really set that school apart for you, than briefly mention of 7-10 attributes.

5.       Be prepared to weave into your responses what you will be able to offer the school. Make it clear how your experiences and interests, personal and professional, will benefit the school and create a stronger, more diverse MBA class and alumni base.

6.       Think through your career successes and failures and consider what you learned from both. Especially when answering a question regarding a failure, it is vital to spend only 20 percent of the response covering the situation. The rest should be devoted to action you took to prevent similar failures going forward and what you’ve learned as a result.

7.       Determine if there are any red flags in your application materials, and, if so, craft a response that addresses the issue without making excuses.  For example, if asked about the ‘C’ you received in calculus sophomore year, make mention of those specific areas in your transcript and post-baccalaureate experience that are more indicative of your ability to compete in a rigorous academic environment.  

8.       Stay current on domestic and international news. The Economist is a good, wide-reaching source for this. You will also want to be aware of any news related to your current company, industry and desired career path as these are great topics for an interviewer to draw from.  Setting up google alerts for key phrases related to your company and industry will help.

9.       Prepare three questions for the end of the interview, which will show your knowledge of and enthusiasm for the school.

10.   Compose a hand-written thank you note on high quality stock, and snail mail it to your interviewer. In the note, thank them for their time, reiterate your interest in the school, mentioning a specific or two, and if you can, make note of something memorable you spoke about during the interview.

IQ is Important, but Don’t Forget About EQ

This summer, NYU Stern updated its MBA application to include an EQ Endorsement. Separate from the professional recommendations, Stern is asking applicants to have a friend or colleague submit a clear and compelling example of the applicant’s emotional intelligence. While NYU is at the forefront of formalizing the request for a demonstration of emotional intelligence, admissions committees have long been interested in self-awareness, maturity, leadership, and other skills highly correlated with EQ.  Demonstrating that you have the academic prowess to succeed in an MBA program is no longer enough; it is also critical to display emotional intelligence throughout your application.

There are several current models and definitions of Emotional Intelligence. One commonly used definition is from Mayer, Salovey and Caruso’s 2008 article in American Psychologist. “Emotional Intelligence includes the ability to engage in sophisticated information processing about one’s own and others’ emotions and the ability to use this information as a guide to thinking and behavior. That is, individuals high in emotional intelligence pay attention to, use, understand, and manage emotions, and these skills serve adaptive functions that potentially benefit themselves and others.”

Essentially, those with a high EQ can work successfully with others by understanding how emotions play a role in the workplace through employees’ thinking, decision-making, and conduct. This understanding helps those with EQ to have positive interactions with others, but it is much more than just building camaraderie with coworkers. Emotional intelligence is also the driving force behind persuasion and leadership, and those who are adept can facilitate difficult situations and conversations effectively and improve the motivation and performance of colleagues using these skills.

Mayer and Salovey created a developmental model of emotional intelligence, with four key components (each with four sub-components):

-        The ability to perceive emotions in oneself and others accurately.

-        The ability to use emotions to facilitate thinking.

-        The ability to understand emotions, emotional language, and the signals conveyed by emotions.

-        The ability to manage emotions so as to attain specific goals. 

Read more about the model here: http://www.theeiinstitute.com/what-is-emotional-intelligence/4-mayer-and-salovey-model-of-emotional-intelligence.html

While some people have higher EQ levels innately, it is also a skill that can be enhanced through increasing self-awareness and practice. As such, in your business school applications, you can showcase your emotional intelligence strengths, but also show self-awareness by referencing those areas that you are actively working to develop.

Take the time to weave examples of your emotional intelligence throughout your essays as well as in your recommendations. EQ-related skills are often included on the recommenders’ skills assessments so make sure that your recommenders are aware of your abilities in this arena by providing them with stories and anecdotes that they can consider when filling out the skills assessment and completing the open-ended question(s).

Some prompts to help you start thinking through specific examples that will illustrate your emotional intelligence include: 

-        Describe difficult co-worker or team dynamics and how your emotional awareness allowed you to repair these relationships and/or environments.

-        Reference times where perceiving and responding to the emotions of others helped you to drive a conversation or project forward in a different, but ultimately more effective manner.

-        Think through examples of relating to others, particularly others who are different from you, to increase teamwork or buy-in to an idea or project.

-        Think further about those times you’ve disagreed with colleagues in a rational and beneficial way, which ultimately helped you determine the best path forward.

-        Consider a time when you assisted a coworkers’ development by giving them difficult feedback or having a tough conversation.

With many corporations and recruiters showing an interest in emotional intelligence, thinking through how you can continue to develop and showcase your EQ will be a beneficial investment of time, not just for the MBA application period, but for all of your professional endeavors going forward.