Making it easier for candidates to apply to an MBA program can pay huge dividends. Just ask MIT’s Sloan School of Management.
This past year, the school saw applications to its full-time MBA program jump by a remarkable 35% to an estimated 5,740, from 4,254 a year earlier, the highest increase in app volume for any leading business school so far.
Dawna Levenson, director of admissions at Sloan, largely attributes the increase to last year’s decision to go to only one essay question, with a second required short-answer question if candidates moved forward to the interview stage. The school also last year expanded its admissions cycle to three rounds from just two, in common with most other business schools. Sloan used to close off its admissions cycle as early as Jan. 8, but extended it until April 11 of this year. Sloan is the only Top Ten school that has not yet released its new application deadlines.
‘WE HAD A DIP THE YEAR BEFORE SO WE MADE UP THAT AND THEN SOME’
The increase comes after a 10.2% decline a year earlier when the applicant pool shrunk by 481 applicants from 4,735 in 2013-2014. “We had a dip the year before so we made up that and then some,” Levenson explains. “We restructured the application to align more with our peers and it made the difference. We love this new format. I like to think it contributed significantly to the increase in applications. How hard it should be to apply should not be a factor in application volume, but it turns out it just is.”
Sloan apparently likes the result so much it is going another step in that direction this year. Instead of asking applicants to respond to an essay question, the school is now only requiring a cover letter along with a resume. The school says the cover letter of 250 words or less is an opportunity to introduce yourself, describe your past successes, and explain why MIT Sloan’s MBA Program is the right place for you. Applicants can also submit an optional essay of 500 words or less and can do so via video or other multimedia.
Levenson also believes that a substantial rise in the use of social media by Sloan played some role in the increase in applications last year. “Historically, we hadn’t done much with social media. But we upped our social media presence, building on the experience we have had with our master’s of finance program.”
Last year, Sloan admitted 623 applicants out of the 4,254 who applied for an acceptance rate of 14.6%, just behind Stanford GSB (6.1%), Harvard Business School (10.7%), and UC-Berkeley Haas (13.0%). Sloan enrolled 400 students last fall in its full-time MBA program. The 35% rise will likely allow Sloan to pass Haas and give it bragging rights for having the third most selective MBA program in the world.