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Evolution of Business School

This past week, we were thrilled to connect with colleagues, partners, and friends at the annual conference for the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC). During the three-day conference, we spoke with admissions staff from most top-15 programs, discussed ideas to improve the application experience for prospective students, led a panel on diversity in leading MBA programs, and even role-played being applicants to identify pain points for our clients.

What struck us most from this event was how business schools continue to evolve their priorities from even just five years ago. While intelligence and a track record of achievement remain necessary to gain admission to top programs, it is increasingly insufficient on its own. In fact, a top-10 program volunteered that they regularly turn away candidates with 770+ GMAT scores, a view that was echoed by admissions staff at other schools. Instead, 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.

We believe school Admissions Committees will continue offering additional opportunities for applicants to showcase that richness. Several top-5 schools we spoke with continue to emphasize how their classes are enhanced with improved diversity, and we expect DEI themes to gain prominence in written and video applications at several top schools. It will be critically important for applicants to benchmark their DEI achievements vs. others applying to their target programs. From our experience in this last cycle, there is often much more diversity in your profile than you might expect – we are happy to help you to define and articulate it.

Further, our discussions suggest many schools continue to grapple with the tight labor market, which continues raising the risk that accepted students will turn down MBA offers during this upcoming summer. In fact, we believe it is the primary reason waitlists/waitpools remain at elevated levels, and may not clear until early September (with the exception of international applicants who require more lead time for student visas). We believe admissions committees will adapt to these circumstances by scrutinizing more closely applicants’ explanations as to why business school is right for them. Applicants who can clearly articulate their purpose for leaving the workforce and pursuing an MBA will likely find themselves at a significant advantage during the 2022/23 application cycle. Of course, the upside of this trend is that students are graduating with better options and record compensation.

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 Kellogg’s MMM and MBAi, or NYU Stern’s Tech MBA or Fashion & Luxury MBA. This increased 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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