Like many business schools right now, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business is in the midst of the heavy season for making admit decisions on its second round candidates. In two days, on Feb. 16th, Booth will begin notifying second round applicants and will wrap up all its second round decisions by March 16th.
Evaluating the quality of an applicant pool is more art than science, more of a subjective process by people than an impartial algorithm. The numbers in the game look like this: last year, 4,299 people applied to the Booth School of Business (the peak year for apps was 2001 when Chicago received about 4,800 applications). Slightly less than half–just under 2,100 made it past the first screen—two readers of their applications—to get an invite for an admissions interview. About 44% of those interviewed candidates were eventually admitted to Chicago, accounting for just under 950 people. Some 61% of those applicants then chose to come to Booth and be part of the 575 or so students in the entering class in the fall of 2010.
This year (2011), with the first two rounds done and only one remaining, applications are running about even with last year’s total. But there is one very positive difference: Applicants accepted in Booth’s first round, which had a deadline of Oct. 13th, have until Feb. 25 to tell the school they plan to enroll in the fall and send a deposit against their tuition. “We are running way ahead in terms of deposits,” says Stacey Kole, deputy dean of the full-time MBA program. “We are up over 40% on where we were last year. And we’ve had the largest number of attendees ever for our Admit Weekend program which kicked off on Friday.”
Right now, the admissions office is in the midst of an applications flood. Typically, 30% of the applicants make the first round deadline. Some 60% of the applications flow into the second round, while the remaining 10% will make the third round cutoff, which is April 13th this year. The vast majority of those applications—more than 80%–usually arrive within the last 24 hours of any deadline. Chicago insists that no applicant has either an advantage or disadvantage in any round, though it stands to reason that first round applicants are applying when every seat in the incoming class is still open.
So what exactly happens when you apply to Booth? Once you push the button on your online application, it pops up in a computer queue of MBA admissions on the first floor of the Charles M. Harper Center (the first suite of offices to the left at the main entrance to the building). Inevitably, an admissions clerk will open the file, record it, and then print it out in paper form.
SOME SCHOOLS DON’T EVEN READ ALL OF THE APPLICATIONS THEY RECEIVE, SAYS KOLE.
At Chicago, every single application that comes in is read and reviewed. “That is different from other schools,” maintains Kole. “At some schools, there are cutoffs. An application can be put aside if the GMAT score is too low. We don’t do that.”