The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business bucked the downward trend in MBA applications for the Class of 2013, reporting a healthy 7.6% increase in applicants.
At a time when most top business schools have reported declines in applicants as more people hang onto their jobs in an uncertain economy, Ross said its applications rose to 2,929 from 2,722 a year earlier. The increase, moreover, applied to both domestic and international applicants. Domestic applications, which have been under the most pressure at top schools, were up 3% at Ross.
The only other top tier B-school that has reported an increase has Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. As previously reported, applications to Tuck’s Class of 2013 rose 7.5% to 2,744. The increase allowed Tuck to bring its acceptance rate to 18%, down from 20% a year earlier.
Otherwise, it’s been one school after another reporting declines. Applications at Stanford dropped 8.9%, for example, while the Johnson School at Cornell saw an 8.0% fall. Harvard Business School was down 4%, while Wharton was down 5.7%. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management saw apps fall by 5.6%, while the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business slid 3.0%.
Soojin Koh, director of admissions at Ross, attributed the uptick in applications to a number of outreach initiatives. “We really stepped up our engagement of current students and alumni,” says Koh. “Our students are very passionate about the school and so it was just tapping into this willingness and creating a little more structure to help them get involved.”
Last year, some 157 first- and second-year MBA students volunteered to serve as Ross Ambassadors who answer questions from applicants. This year, a record 205 MBA candidates have become Ambassadors. Several changes in how applicants access these student volunteers ultimately made a big difference, believes Koh.
“We have made a concerted effort to grow the number of Ambassadors,” adds Koh. “This may seem like a small thing but even the way we present our Ambassadors on our website makes a huge difference. You have it filterable so you can choose a person on the basis of their prior careers or geographic regions. You can pick someone who looks like you or is going to be someone you want to be.”
What’s more, Valerie Suslow, associate dean of graduate programs at Ross, points out that “we actually put the links to our current student ambassadors on the website so prospective students can get directly in touch without having to go through us. That maybe something that resonates with applicants.”
Suslow believes the school’s use of social media has also helped to increase applications in what has been a down year for most other MBA programs. Koh has been blogging for two years and her bi-weekly posts have been well received by applicants. Her senior associate dean for admissions has been tweeting.
Ross said the average GMAT score for the just entered class is 703, down one point from 704 last year. Women represent 31% of the class, up from 30% a year earlier, while international students account for 33% of the class, up four percentage points from 29% last year.
Ross’ acceptance rate remained stable at 25.4%. Koh said Ross enrolled a class of 501 full-time MBA students this fall, up from 488 in 2010.