THE DIFFICULTY OF DECIDING WHO REALLY ARE THE BEST APPLICANTS IN THE POOL
Ultimately, the Stanford/Harvard/Wharton triumph at the top is fairly predictable. “The schools are magnets for outstanding high-achievers, with global reputations and alumni networks that make them the ultimate admissions goal for many,” says Judith Silverman Hodara, a partner with Fortuna Admissions and a former director of admissions at Wharton. “The GSB and HBS have the large applicant pools, lowest admit rates, and highest yields, and with tag lines about changing the world or educating leaders who make a difference, they typically have the pick of the crop. Beyond academic excellence and outstanding professional performance there are a few common denominators such as social impact and talented early career woman. Overall, I have found the Wharton admits to be the most confident, self-aware, and well-rounded across the board. If this means the highest quality, it’s hard to say, but as far as the skills that I believe will serve them well – that’s the one.”
Looking over the survey results, her partner Symonds believes it is still hard to reconcile the scores for schools in the second half of list. “Admits to schools like UCLA, Cambridge, Darden, HEC Paris, Cornell, IE and Carnegie Mellon are all talented individuals worthy of at least a 3.5,” he says. “Indeed any applicant entering one of the world’s top 30 B-schools has something special about them. They pretty much all bring a strong undergraduate record, proven professional accomplishments, commitment to their community and a determination to make a difference, both personally and professionally. And most of them will go on to achieve great things in their careers, and have ‘quality’ stamped all over them.”
Symonds was also quick to note how difficult it can be, even for an admissions consultant who is in the weeds of an applicant’s profile, to make a definitive judgment about the quality of one candidate over another. “How you define quality is fraught with interpretation, and underlines why business schools look at so many aspects of an individuals background as they put together a diverse class in line with the culture and goals of each school,” he says.
“Even the GMAT, which provides a standardized measure of quant and verbal skills is open to debate, given the bias towards native English speakers or testing skills. When you compare a Brazilian applicant with a 690 against the U.S. applicant raised on PSATs and SATs who scores a 720, and the Indian applicant whose IIT background contributed to a near-perfect quant score and an overall 750, how do you reliably measure quality? How you then compare undergraduate performance, professional achievement, community engagement and a level of self-awareness and maturity makes for a real conundrum to ensure you have a diverse and well-balanced class.”
Participating MBA Admission Consultants In The P&Q Survey
(A few firms declined to be publicly identified as respondents)