“The language difficulties come into play, too,” adds Roeder. “It’s a hurdle that has to be overcome. Any international student coming into a U.S. school has more hurdles to overcome than a domestic student in terms of the job search. It’s a highly competitive process. The bottom line is we want our students to come into our program and be highly successful landing a good job. If they can’t do that, we haven’t done our job. We don’t want unhappy students or unhappy alumni.”
At the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, 44% of the 1,826 applicants to its full-time MBA program last year were international—but only 21% of the school’s enrolled students this year are from outside the U.S. The upshot: 17.2% of the U.S. applicants are now students at Marshall, while only 5.6% of the international applicants are students. It’s not possible to tell how many domestic versus international applicants were accepted and declined an invitation to attend Marshall. But U.S. citizens are more than three times as likely to be enrolled at the school than international applicants.
“WE DON’T WANT TO CREATE EXPECTATIONS THAT WE CAN’T MEET.”
“In general, what you’re seeing across all universities, whether it is business school or college, is that the largest applicant pools by far are from China and India,” explains Shantanu Dutta, vice dean for graduate programs at Marshall. “They are very good applicants. It’s possible for us to fill the whole international pool by just one of these countries. But it’s very important to get diversity in the class. We have students from 18 countries, and candidates from China and India already make up the largest number of international students.”
Another key issue, adds Dutta, is the difficulty international students have getting work visas to stay in the U.S. “The hurdle rate for them in terms of getting visas is challenging,” says Dutta. “Most international students still believe in the American dream. We tell them the market is tough in the information sessions and try to manage expectations, but when they come everyone thinks they can beat the odds.
So we’re more selective on the international front. We don’t want to create expectations that we can’t meet.”
Or consider Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Last year, about 1,830 applicants from abroad applied for admission to the full-time MBA program. All told, international applicants accounted for 53% of Fuqua’s entire applicant pool. Yet only some 133, or 7.3%, are enrolled in the entering class. In the same year, some 1,622 U.S. citizens applied, representing the remaining 47% of the pool, and roughly 309 of them, or 19.1%, are enrolled. It’s clear that international applicants have a much harder time of getting into the school.
MBA admissions consultants say that most schools are trying to balance the diversity of an entering class with the merit of the applicants who apply. “In creating an MBA class, top business schools face the challenge of establishing ‘a meritocracy with diversity,’” says Dan Bauer, founder and managing director of The MBA Exchange, an admissions consulting firm. “Balancing meritocracy and diversity means that neither aspect can be disregarded. When these two variables are not considered in tandem, the admission process ceases to be objective and fair.”
(See next page for a table comparing applicant pools with enrolled MBA students)