Study: Endorsements Boost Acceptance Rates
If you’ve received a personal recommendation for your MBA application, you’re in good luck.
New research by Cornell University finds that personal endorsements give MBA applicants a leg up on the competition, both in terms of getting interviewed and admitted. Additionally, the study finds that endorsed applicants end up supporting the university at higher rates by taking up student leadership positions and, later on, donating money as alumni.
“This research highlights how an endorser can have a large effect on who gets interviewed, and who gets admitted, into an MBA program,” says co-author Ben A. Rissing, assistant professor of organizational behavior in Cornell’s ILR School.
According to the study, endorsed applicants are interviewed 82% of the time. Without an endorsement, just 34% of applicants land an endorsement. When it comes to offers, endorsed applicants are accepted 64% of the time, 12% higher than applicants without an endorsement.
Does endorsement equate to qualification?
An endorsement, however, doesn’t necessarily equate to qualification. When admissions staff conducted merit-based competency assessments without knowing an applicant’s endorsement status, researchers found that endorsed applicants generally scored worse during interviews than non-endorsed applicants. Additionally, endorsed applicants didn’t perform any better academically than non-endorsed applicants. Post-graduation, endorsed applicants also didn’t perform better on the job market (in terms of salary or signing bonuses) than non-endorsed, researchers found.
“That said, those who were endorsed as applicants did emerge as ‘better citizens’ (more likely to lead student clubs) and ‘better alumni’ (more likely to donate to the university, and notably, more likely to give large amounts) than those who had not been endorsed,” the paper states.
What should admissions committees do?
According to Rissing, while endorsements can identify candidates who will be committed to an organization, they don’t necessarily identify better-qualified candidates.
“Organizations should go through their application process and ask, ‘Are we selecting on applicant characteristics that are going to result in organizational members who are most desirable?’” he said. “It’s a question of how to balance the two of these considerations, so one doesn’t overwhelm the other. Both have merits.”
Most recently, NYU Stern began requiring applicants to submit an EQ endorsement in hopes of assessing candidates on “fit” with the school’s culture.
Learn more about NYU’s EQ Endorsement here.