B-Schools Googling MBA Applicants

Your online persona could very well hurt your chances of getting into a top business school.

A new Kaplan Test Prep survey out today (Sept. 12) found that 27% of admissions officers said they have Googled an applicant to learn more about them, while 22% said they have visited an applicant’s Facebook or other social networking page for the same purpose.

What’s more, 14% of the admissions officers who did online research admitted to discovering something about a prospective student that negatively impacted their business school application, Kaplan found.

The survey confirms an earlier report by Poets&Quants that the social media antics of MBA applicants are fast becoming a new area of scrutiny for admissions officials at many top business schools. In fact, one prominent MBA admissions consulting firm had even begun to offer a  “social media audit” to prepare for applicants for Google and Facebook searches by admissions teams. (See Aspiring MBAs: Do You Need to Scrub Your Social Media Profile?)

Kaplan’s findings are based on a telephone survey conducted in July and August and based on responses from 265 of the nation’s top MBA programs, including 16 of the top 25 business schools in the U.S. News & World Report ranking. The survey covered a broad range of issues from the growing acceptance of the Graduate Record Exam by business schools to the number of schools increasing their financial aid to new students.

Kaplan said it also found that 36% of business schools said that compared to the previous admissions cycle, the amount of financial aid they were able to provide students increased; 47% reported the amount stayed the same; only 17% said the amount decreased.

And for the first time since Kaplan began tracking the issue in 2009, a majority (52%) of top business schools also said that applicants now have the option to submit a score from the GRE instead of the GMAT.  Additionally, 34% of business schools that are still GMAT-only say they are likely to accept the GRE for the 2012 or 2013 admissions cycle. Traditionally, the GRE has been used only for admissions to non-MBA graduate level programs, while the GMAT was the admissions exam of record required by business schools.

“What’s interesting about this trend is that GMAT test takers typically have a few years of work experience under their belts, while it’s more common for undergrads to take the GRE, so in accepting the GRE, business schools are registering to college students that they can start thinking about an MBA education earlier in the process,” said Andrew Mitchell, Kaplan’s director of pre-business programs, in a statement. “In fact, some business schools specifically reach out to undergrads at their affiliated colleges with programs to make it simpler for them to apply and enroll. This widening of the ‘boardroom door’ into business school creates options for undergrads who know that they want to pursue a higher degree, but are undecided as to whether it will be a master’s or an MBA.”

Mitchell predicts that the recent changes to the GRE, which have made it more challenging, are likely to convince even more MBA programs to consider accepting it in the future.  Meanwhile, the GMAT will soon experience its own significant changes by implementing the Integrated Reasoning section, introducing complex new question types designed to test the critical thinking and analytics demanded of students in business school.