Big Drops In MBA Applications, International Students At Michigan Ross

Michigan Ross released its Class of 2022 profile on Tuesday (Sept. 22) showing major declines in internationals. The school’s long-term application slide continued. Michigan Ross photo

Some U.S. business schools have been able to offset the major negative effects of the global coronavirus pandemic on their MBA Class of 2022. By making small admissions adjustments, and vitally, by extending their third rounds or adding a fourth round in the spring, several of the top B-schools managed to achieve increases in application volume while avoiding big hits in other key areas.

But not every B-school has escaped the full brunt of the pandemic — and one Midwestern school has taken an especially hard hit.

The University of Michigan Ross School of Business released its full-time MBA Class of 2022 profile on Tuesday (September 22), showing declines in a number of important areas compared to last year. Class size, class yield, average Graduate Management Admission Test score, number of women in the class — all were down, some significantly.

Two numbers really stood out, however: Even as some of its peer schools showed improvements in their application totals, Michigan Ross’s app volume fell for a third straight year, slipping by more than 14% from 2019. And, thanks largely to a liberal deferment policy, the school’s international population cratered by one-third from last year, to just 18%.

“It’s an incredible class,” says Soojin Kwon, Michigan Ross managing director of full-time MBA admissions. “From a community standpoint, they are resilient, adaptable, and positive. They’re actively engaging in both our hybrid and remote classes, connecting with each other virtually and in-person (in small groups), volunteering to speak at major student events (e.g., OutX — our TEDx-style event for Coming Out Week), and are able to see the bright spots in this unexpected situation we’re all living in.”


Michigan Ross’s newest MBA class dropped to its lowest size in at least six years, down from a high of 423 in the Classes of 2019 and 2020. Since 2016, the size of the Ross School’s full-time MBA intake has dropped by more than 10%. Part of the problem was far fewer applicants to choose from. Even after extending its third round by two full months this spring from late March to late May in response to the unprecedented disruption of coronavirus — a move that yielded application windfalls for other top B-schools — the final total of apps to Ross dipped to 2,567 this cycle, down from a high of 3,485 in 2017 — a decline of more than 900 that equals 26.3%. From last year’s app total of 2,990, Ross saw a drop-off of 423, more than 14%.

“The extended Round 3 resulted in a 126% increase in Round 3 applications year-over-year,” Kwon points out. “One of the factors that may have softened applications in our earlier rounds was that international applicants were strongly considering schools offering a STEM designation. We announced our new STEM track after the Round 2 deadline passed. We saw applications from international applicants double in Round 3 year-over-year.”

The school’s acceptance rate ballooned to 37%, up from 30.9% last year and 25% in 2017. That’s a nearly 50% jump in four short years. Correspondingly, yield fell dramatically, to 37.6%, down 17.4% in one year and more than 23% from its high of 49% in 2018. (See details in the table above.)

“We expect that this is a Covid blip,” Kwon says of the jump in acceptance rate. “Part of the reason is that we were among the handful of schools that offered international students the option to defer. Since many took us up on it, we admitted more applicants in their place. There was also a domino effect caused by admitted students at other schools choosing not to enroll, and opening up spots for applicants who may not have been admitted in previous years (or even in the same year, as some schools chose to do).”

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