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AIGAC 2023: Lots of Moving Parts...

This past week, we were thrilled to re-connect with colleagues, partners, and friends at the annual conference for the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC). We were especially thrilled that it was our first in-person conference in three years! Special thanks to Columbia Business School, Yale SOM, and Cornell Tech for hosting us. During the four-day conference, we spoke with admissions staff from almost all top-10 programs, discussing ideas to improve the application experience for prospective students.

Similar to the tone set last year, the MBA application ecosystem remains fluid. Several schools noted they are awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court to assess possible impacts on their application. Regardless of the nature of the ruling, we expect schools to continue prioritizing attracting a wide variety of skills, experiences, and backgrounds to make their MBA programs as rich as possible in intellectual discussions and experiences. As in prior years, successful candidates increasingly need to showcase how a richness of experiences combines with their intelligence and ambition and a proven interest in the school to make schools excited to admit them.

Several schools noted that they believe a higher-than-normal portion of their admitted students made deposits at more than one school in order to save their spot pending their final decision. This has led to a larger-than-normal pool of MBA applicants on a waitlist of some kind. There were many unique situations for candidates this year, some of which include optimizing program selection with a significant other who had also applied. As those plans clarify, and candidates choose the one school they will actually attend, schools will likely offer a few places to candidates who have remained on the waitlist. Any remaining waitlisted candidates are likely to re-enter the MBA application process for the 2023/24 cycle, leading to further competition for spots.

We were especially excited to engage with schools on discussions of how emerging AI generative tools will influence the admissions process. All schools reiterated their expectation that MBA applications reflect the authenticity of the applicants themselves. Several indicated plans to adapt to increased usage of AI tools by applicants through such things as re-designing essay questions and increased use of video submissions, though such changes will likely take time to implement. In the meantime, we continue to advise clients against overusing these tools. These tools are available to anyone, and thus using them will crowd out your authenticity, paradoxically making it less likely your work will lead to admission. Whenever people think there is a short-cut in the MBA admissions process, it is usually a trap ;)

Finally, our discussions reminded us of the increasingly complex landscape faced by applicants exploring graduate school. Several schools highlighted specialized MBA programs they offer, such as Columbia's MBAxMS, MIT's LGO program, Cornell's Cornell Tech program, the MS/MBA program at HBS, Kellogg’s MMM and MBAi, or NYU Stern’s Tech MBA or Fashion & Luxury MBA. The variety of paths for young professionals seeking to accelerate their careers has made our early work with clients on their goals and details of each program even more important. As you navigate your own application processes, consider if a few hours with a professional can improve your odds of success (and potential scholarship dollars!).

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