That downward trend in applications is entirely in the rearview.
MBA applications were up for the coronavirus admissions cycle at most of the leading business schools — in some cases, way up. Now one of the last U.S. schools to release its Class of 2022 profile data has weighed in, adding a final piece of the top-25 puzzle: Georgetown University McDonough School of Business didn’t miss the rebound train, with a 9% jump in applications for the class that enrolled this fall.
Even more impressively, the wave hasn’t yet crested: In round one for the Class of 2023 that enrolls next fall, applications are up more than 40%, says Shelly Heinrich, associate dean for MBA admissions and director of marketing for the MBA program.
“It’s not what we expected,” Heinrich tells Poets&Quants. “I anticipated we would be up maybe 10% or 15%, but not this much. I think it’s indicative of the economy — we’ve always said that when the economy goes down, applications go back up, and now we’re experiencing it.”
EXTENDED 4TH ROUND SAVES THE CYCLE
The rebound in applications at the leading B-schools this cycle reverses a three-year slump that alarmed and befuddled B-schools in equal measure. We now know that most schools can credit the coronavirus pandemic for a change in fortune: In response to Covid-19’s assault on their admissions processes, schools added or extended rounds, and most — but not all — reaped huge benefits.
Georgetown McDonough extended its round-four deadline from April 27 to June 4, a 57-day extension. The result: What had looked like the fourth down year in a row became instead a 9.1% increase in full-time MBA applications, not to mention a 15% increase in part-time “Flex MBA” applications for this fall. Georgetown’s full-time MBA received 1,482 applications in 2019-2020, up from 1,358 the previous year and the highest since it drew 1,742 in 2016-2017. Since that high water mark, the McDonough School had seen a 22% drop in full-time MBA apps, prompting the school last November to decide to shrink the size of its next cohort.
“We were down as of April,” Heinrich says of the Class of 2022, which at 247 students is about 6% smaller than the previous year’s. “We weren’t as down as we thought we were going to be, because the MBA applications for the last four to five years had been scaling down, and so last year we were projecting a further decrease. Luckily, we weren’t experiencing it — but we were still down year-over-year.
“Then a couple of things happened in April simultaneously: one, the economy and COVID. But two, we announced our STEM designation, which was favorable for our international students.
Heinrich points out that with the reversal in interest comes an increase in diversity: This fall, McDonough enrolled the highest percentage of underrepresented students (19%) and U.S. minorities (38%) in its full-time MBA in the last seven years, and got the closest to gender parity in its Flex MBA that it’s ever been: 44%.
“We are really excited about the diversity of this class,” Heinrich says. “Those are the highest that we have had in the last seven years. And on the Flex side, that 44% is the closest to gender parity we have ever gotten. And we’re very excited about that.
“Part of this is due to the increased outreach we have done the last two years — we have really had more of a strategy for increased diversity. And we had a couple of donors give more money for scholarships as well.”
TOTAL ROUND 1 APPS, WITH DEFERRALS, UP 43%
The rewards keep coming, beginning with the jump in applications for the first round this cycle. McDonough received 349 apps by the September 28 deadline, up from 262 last year. Counting deferrals, the school has an initial count of 416 apps, up from 290.
And still more may be coming. As a Consortium school, McDonough still may receive more first-round candidates until October 15. The school’s round-two deadline is January 6.
“Round one, we are up 33% for initial numbers, and then if you add in deferrals — which are kind of the big news of the year; we are up 139% on deferrals — and so total we are up about 43%,” Heinrich says.
“At the tail end of last year’s application cycle, we started to receive applications of people who had been furloughed and laid off from amazing companies, great positions, great careers. Although we haven’t started digging into these people yet from round one, my anticipation is, many of them are in that same boat. I also believe there are some people that were maybe going to apply in later rounds last year and then decided to hold off. And so they are also catching up.
“I don’t know if round one is representative of how much of an increase we are going to see in the future rounds — only time will tell. But I think it definitely speaks to the time that we are in right now.”
Another thing that speaks to the times: the number of deferrals McDonough granted last cycle: 67, most of which have gone to foreign admits.
“In years past we had very hard lines on deferrals,” Heinrich says. “We would only allow deferrals if you were military being called to deployment or if you had a major medical condition. We would typically deny all the rest of the requests and just have them reapply. This year, the stories we were hearing — the phone calls, the devastation, the financial stress — it just didn’t feel right not to treat them as a human. Georgetown, as you know, is about cura personalis — we do live and breathe that — and I didn’t feel right having our team continue to make the very strict deferral decisions we had made in past.”
ACCEPTANCE RATE DOWN, WOMEN UP, GMAT DOWN
In its new MBA class, McDonough managed to drive down its acceptance rate (to 57% from 60%) and gain more women (32%, up from 29%), but lost a few points on its average GMAT score (691, down from 694) and declined in international students as well, to 28% from 32%.
Most of Georgetown’s MBA admits this fall who joined the school and didn’t defer have undergraduate degrees in business: 26%. Math/physical science degree holders account for 16%, followed by economics (13%), engineering (13%), humanities (10%), and government/international studies (9%). In prior industries, finance is number one at 21%, followed by “other” at 20%, tech at 8%, government 7%, consulting 7%, and nonprofit/social impact 5%.
In keeping with trends across graduate business education, the percentage of enrollees submitting Graduate Record Exam scores was up at McDonough, to 54% from 43% last year.