Kellogg | Mr. Engineer Volunteer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Kellogg | Mr. Operations Analyst
GMAT Waived, GPA 3.3
Kellogg | Mr. Double Whammy
GMAT 730, GPA 7.1/10
Kellogg | Mr. Defense Engineer
GMAT 760, GPA 3.15
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Indian Dreamer
GRE 331, GPA 8.5/10
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Ernst & Young
GMAT 600 (hopeful estimate), GPA 3.86
Kellogg | Mr. Innovator
GRE 300, GPA 3.75
London Business School | Ms. Private Equity Angel
GMAT 660, GPA 3.4
Harvard | Mr. Defense Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Chicago Booth | Ms. Indian Banker
GMAT 740, GPA 9.18/10
Harvard | Ms. Developing Markets
GMAT 780, GPA 3.63
Yale | Ms. Biotech
GMAT 740, GPA 3.29
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Marine Executive Officer
GRE 322, GPA 3.28
Stanford GSB | Ms. Global Empowerment
GMAT 740, GPA 3.66
Chicago Booth | Mr. Bank AVP
GRE 322, GPA 3.22
Harvard | Mr. Renewables Athlete
GMAT 710 (1st take), GPA 3.63
Stanford GSB | Mr. Infantry Officer
GRE 320, GPA 3.7
UCLA Anderson | Ms. Apparel Entrepreneur
GMAT 690, GPA 3.2
Harvard | Mr. Armenian Geneticist
GRE 331, GPA 3.7
Berkeley Haas | Mr. 1st Gen Grad
GMAT 740, GPA 3.1
Ross | Mr. Travelpreneur
GMAT 730, GPA 2.68
London Business School | Ms. Numbers
GMAT 730, GPA 3.5
IU Kelley | Mr. Fortune 500
GMAT N/A, GPA 2.2
N U Singapore | Mr. Naval Officer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.2
NYU Stern | Ms. Entertainment Strategist
GMAT Have not taken, GPA 2.92
INSEAD | Ms. Spaniard Consultant
GMAT 710, GPA 8.5/10.00
NYU Stern | Mr. Army Prop Trader
GRE 313, GPA 2.31

Six Key Factors To Impact MBA Admissions In 2016–2017

Small group class discussion in the MIT Sloan School of Management - Ethan Baron photo

Small group class discussion in the MIT Sloan School of Management – Ethan Baron photo

Even though the 2015–2016 MBA application season is still in full swing, we can already anticipate the next one beginning in just a few weeks. Typically, top MBA programs start to release their essay questions on or around May 1, and that is when the proverbial starting gun is fired for a marathon with thousands of hopeful “runners” all striving to get into their dream schools. What are some of the key factors that will shape the 2016–2017 admissions race? We have identified six for this article:

1)     A Larger Applicant Pool?: To an extent, MBA application volumes are linked to unemployment rates. When unemployment skyrocketed to 10% in the wake of the financial collapse, business school applications surged. Right now, unemployment is near historic lows, but confidence in the economy is also low, and the stock market has proved to be erratic. Several bulge-bracket banks—including Barclays, Citi, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs—have announced significant layoffs, mostly in sales and trading. Meanwhile, there is talk of billion-dollar start-ups at risk of failing. The prominent venture capitalist Bill Gurley has been speculating that there will be “dead unicorns” (unicorns are venture-backed companies with private valuations of $1 billion or more) as soon as this year. If some of the approximately 175 larger unicorns start to collapse (because they cannot achieve profitability or secure venture funds to extend their lives), this could result in a lot of young, well-educated people being out of work for the first time in their careers—and some will inevitably seek to reinvent themselves through an MBA. If the unicorns start falling soon, we may see the impact in the second application round, and this could quickly alter the competitiveness of the candidate pool.

Top Startups

2)     Closer Scrutiny of Career Goals: Regardless of the volatility outlined in factor one, do you want to become an entrepreneur? Is it really in your bones? Admissions officers at the top MBA programs are becoming less convinced that the ever-growing number of applicants making this claim truly mean it or could successfully break into the field. Academics at the leading schools are sounding the alarm as well, whispering “bubble.” Professor Thomas Eisenmann, faculty co-chair of Harvard Business School’s (HBS’s) Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, told the Wall Street Journal that the surge in interest in entrepreneurship among MBA students seems like “herd behavior.” And Leah Edwards, director of the Stanford Graduate School of Business’s (GSB’s) Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, expressed concern about the purpose of MBA entrepreneurs, telling the WSJ, “We don’t need another app to order food.” In short, we expect that admissions officers will start to more carefully scrutinize applicants who declare their Silicon Valley dreams, in hopes of distinguishing the true contenders from the mere pretenders. If you have neither evidence of entrepreneurial experience nor the grittiness that is frequently associated with entrepreneurial success, then you should think carefully about writing your application essay about the start-up you intend to launch post-MBA. Doing so will likely reflect negatively on you. MBA admissions committees often consult with their school’s career offices and want to be sure you have a legitimate shot at achieving your dreams. You must prove that you are indeed capable of what you claim, and that starts with goals that are not only ambitious, but also realistic.

HBX3)     HBX as a Credential: There is certainly no rule that says you

must complete HBS’s Credential of Readiness (CORe) program—known as HBX—before applying to HBS. However, according to an annual report that HBS’s dean sent to the business school’s alumni, last year, 300 of HBS’s more than 900 admits took the CORe program before matriculating. In a competitive applicant pool, some people will view this as a sign that CORe is practically a requirement. In actuality, it is not, but perceptions and reality do not always align, of course. For some, HBX is indeed an opportunity to reveal their competence and fluency in the language of business. If you were a speechwriter with a liberal arts background (like the author of this piece), then the CORe could be a great way for you to establish a baseline of knowledge—much like passing Level I of the CFA exam might be. If, on the other hand, you have a business degree and have been working in consulting for a while, the CORe will not likely do much to help you establish competency, because you have actually already done so. Still, competency be damned! We expect that more and more people will enroll in HBX, merely out of fear of not having this small, figurative box “checked” in their HBS application file.