GMATs & Tech Students Hit Records At Kellogg

The new global hub of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management

The new global hub of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management today (Aug. 4) reported record average GMATs for its incoming class of two-year MBAs this fall as well as a record number of students from the technology industry.

In releasing its class profile for the Class of 2018, the school said average GMAT scores rose four full points to 728, the 96th percentile of all GMAT testers. The increase is on top of the eight-point jump the previous year. Only five years ago, the average GMAT score at the school was 712. If Kellogg’s peer schools maintain their GMAT numbers, the new record would put Kellogg’s GMAT average beind only two other schools: Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business (733) and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School (732).

Despite the 16-point rise in five years, the school’s top admission official says the increase is largely a result of the increasing quality of Kellogg’s applicant pool — where the average for all applicants is now above 700 — and not a conscious effort by Kellogg to increase its reported GMAT scores. The rise also occurs in a year in which applications to Kellogg’s two-year MBA program rose 6%, to 4,553 from 4,300 a year earlier. GMAT scores have added importance because they are a key metric used by U.S. News to annually rank the best U.S. MBA programs.

GMAT RISE ATTRIBUTED TO AN INCREASE IN THE QUALITY OF THE APPLICANT POOL

Kate Smith, Kellogg's director of admissions. Photo by Andreas Larson

Kate Smith, Kellogg’s assistant dean of admissions. Photo by Andreas Larson

“We are really fortunate to have a pool of great applicants across all the spectrums,” says Kate Smith, assistant dean of admissions. “The GMAT is just one element of our holistic approach to evaluate candidates. We have always valued the comprehensive applicant over scores or stats. We would never compromise that.”

The middle 80% range of GMAT scores for the new class remained the same as last year, from 690 to 760, and the undergraduate grade-point average also was exactly as last year, at 3.6.

The percentage of incoming MBAs with tech backgrounds, meantime, rose 6 full percentage points to 14% of the class, up from only 8% a year earlier. “We see this as a reflection of the business cycle,” Smith says. “There is greater interest among students in tech careers and strong demand from the tech industry for our MBA graduates.”

The sharp increase in students with tech work experience in a single year came at the expense of consulting, which saw a 6-percentage-point decline to 19% of the incoming class, down from 25% last year. In fact, in a rare occurence for Kellogg, the percentage of students with financial services backgrounds exceeded those from consulting. Finance types will represent 22% of the class, up just a percentage point from 21% a year ago.

STEM UNDERGRADS UP, ALONG WITH STUDENTS WITH TECH WORK EXPERIENCE

“We weren’t intentionally looking to raise or to lower any feeder industry,” says Smith, who adds that the change in the industry backgrounds of the class was the result of which applicants made the strongest candidates for admission.

Otherwise, there were only minor changes in the composition of the class by industry work experience. Students with consumer products experience remained steady at 7%. MBA students with energy work experience will total 3% of the class, exactly the same as last year. Those with government and nonprofit backgrounds also will account for 7% of the class, down 2 percentage points from 9% a year earlier. Healthcare backgrounds will represent 5% of the students, up from 4% last year. Students from the military fell by half to 2%, and manufacturing is at 4%, up slightly from 3% a year ago.

The tech surge also drove up the percentage of students with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) undergraduate degrees. STEM students will make up 29% of this year’s incoming students, a rise of 3 percentage points from 26% a year earlier. Those with undergraduate backgrounds in economics and business fell to 45% from 48%, while students with humanities undergraduate majors edged up a percent to 28% of the class.

INTERNATIONALS DECLINE BY 5 PERCENTAGE POINTS TO 35%

Though the percentage of women in the new class fell to 41% from last year’s record 43% total, the overall number of women enrolled in the two-year MBA program has never been higher. Kellogg created, in partnership with the Women’s Business Association, a five-week-long leadership seminar of lectures and panels to provide greater support for female students. Some 120 women in this year’s graduating class participated in that seminar series.

International students also declined by 5 full percentage points, to 35% this year from 40% last. They hail from 53 countries, though the top four regions or countries of the world are India, Asia, Latin America, and Canada. The size of the class, at 474, also fell from 492 last year. “About 475 is a nice target for us,” Smith says. “We are never going to land on an exact number, but the 474 falls within our target range.”

U.S. minorities represent 26% of the class, up 3 percentage points from 23% a year earlier. “We are incredibly excited to welcome a diverse, high-quality group of students this fall. The quality of the applicant pool has continued to improve. It’s really about us having a deep commitment to diversity. We believe this class will continue to represent that ethos.”

Smith notes that a chief diversity officer reports directly to Dean Sally Blount, and this year the Kellogg Student Association created a new leadership position, a vice president of diversity and inclusion.

This year’s incoming one-year MBA class totals 131 students, up slightly from 128 last year.

(See following page for how this year’s entering class compares with previous classes)

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.