The Top MBA Admissions Trends

MBA admissions trends 2020

The Top MBA Admissions Trends

The MBA is changing.

Last year, P&Q did a study of preliminary Class of 2021 profile data and found that for the second consecutive year even the highest-ranked business schools in the U.S. are seeing significant declines in full-time MBA applications, with many MBA programs experiencing double-digit drops.

But how exactly has that affected admissions? And how have MBA admissions changed over the years?

Matt Symonds, Co-Founder of Fortuna Admissions and a contributor to Forbes, recently discussed the top MBA admissions trends of the past 10 years.


One key trend, according to Symonds, is the refocusing of admissions to focus not only on IQ, but EQ as well.

“Beyond traditional metrics like quant ability, schools have developed assessments and criteria based on emotional and creative quotients,” Symonds writes.

Schools like NYU Stern and Yale SOM have implemented EQ recommendations and assessments into their MBA applications.

Why EQ? Symonds says it’s about growth.

“Underlying these lines of questioning is the expectation that the MBA experience is about stretching yourself in manifold ways through a growth mindset, versus arriving fully formed,” he writes.


Another trend, according to Symonds, is the reduction in the number of essays and word counts in admissions essays.

For instance, at Harvard Business School, the MBA application traditionally featured nine essay questions. For the past five years, however, HBS has asked one question: “As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA Program?”

Symonds says the change means MBA admissions simply are more targeted in their search for applicants.

“A systematic reduction in number of essays as well as word counts reflects that programs have really refined what they’re looking for, and that they don’t expect the app to be a writing contest,” he writes.


Even as MBA applications decline, GMAT scores continue to go up. It’s all part of the race to do better on key MBA rankings, particularly the U.S. News list which gives considerable weight to class GMAT scores.

Symonds notes that “the GMAT score has taken on obsessive importance for many candidates, as it captures a comparable data point that schools use both to predict your academic success for the MBA and measure you against other candidates.” He particularly notes that Wharton has boosted its class GMAT average by 14 points to 732 last year, up from 718 in 2011, and Northwestern Kellogg has managed a 20-point jump to 732 from 712 five years earlier (see the latest average GMAT scores here).

At the same time, he writes, “the GRE has gained ground and legitimacy among MBA admissions teams. Now, more than 1,200 business schools – including Wharton, Kellogg and London Business School (LBS) – accept the exam in applications. INSEAD, one of the top schools that has been the most hesitant about the GRE is welcoming candidates who have taken this test, though likes to see a higher percentile on the GRE quant section than they would accept for the GMAT.”

For the complete story on trends, check out Forbes.

Sources: Forbes, NYU Stern, Yale SOM

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