The ‘Super Tuesday’ Of MBA Admissions

And yet some consultants, who typically counsel applicants with the highest aspirations, say they are seeing more candidates who will only accept an offer from a very top business school. “The curb appeal of top schools with dazzling brand names will always keep their application numbers high,” reasons Forster. “It’s like the lottery: why not throw in an app? What do you have to lose?  But I think the economy is making the Top 5 schools especially appealing now. With MBA hiring continuing to be so competitive, candidates are more eager than ever to get into schools with the best recruiting stats. Yet I see more and more people with a “Harvard/Stanford or bust” mentality, which is a shame. There’s a false hope out there that somehow HBS or Stanford will make your life happen for you.  Life doesn’t work that way; there’s no magic bullet.  I know plenty of HBS grads who have neither the personal or financial success they wanted, and plenty of people who achieved their ultimate dreams through Georgetown or Fordham.”


“The biggest trend I am seeing is the disconnect between the way the schools likely view the goals essays and the way clients view them,” says Hoff. “I believe schools want confident clients who can lay out a plan for what they want. Whereas candidates seem to think they need to put on full display how badly they need the school to succeed. Obviously I am correcting my clients on this front, but I wonder how many files admissions officers will read that wax poetic about everything the client lacks. If I had one word for Round 2 applicants everywhere, it is “confidence.”

“Another trend – and this is a small sample size – is the obsession with sounding smart, instead of focusing on being a unique, interesting person,” adds Hoff. “My ‘mumbo jumbo’ detector has been beeping non-stop this round.  If this is a wide-spread issue, I do not envy file readers who are going to be getting hit with a steady dose of ‘scalable’ and ‘leveraged’ and ‘buy-in’ this winter. The irony is that this is the smartest collection of clients I have ever had. My most important job has been getting these very bright people to stop trying to prove how they smart they are and instead reveal who they really are, as people.  I’d be curious to hear if others are experiencing this as well. It’s like, ‘they get it, you are smart – they can see your transcript, GMAT score, and resume, so let’s find some new ground to till.’”

As the final flurry of Round 2 applications are filed this week, one thing seems sure. It’s as competitive as ever to get into a top business school. As Hoff puts it, “I do expect an especially competitive round, mainly because several schools seemed to hold back more Round 1 candidates than normal, via the waitlist and through exclusive deferred pools. This tells me that schools like HBS and Booth are waiting to see if the Round 2 crop is good enough to merit their usual number of spots. If not, there are a ton of Round 1 stars just waiting in the wings.”