Covid-19 Puts B-Schools’ MBA App Plunge Firmly In The Past

MBA apps were up at most of the top 25 schools this cycle — and up big at some of the biggest programs. Among them: Northwestern Kellogg, which saw a 54% increase, tops among the top 10 schools. Kellogg photo

ANOMALY? ONE B-SCHOOL DROPS BIG-TIME Y-O-Y

Four schools reported losses in apps this year, continuing their slumps into a fourth year. But three — Stanford GSB, Indiana Kelley, and Washington Foster — lost small numbers, whereas the fourth, Michigan’s Ross School of Business, dropped big: more than 420 apps, to 2,567 from 2,990, a 14% decline. This despite extending its round three by two months, which itself was responsible for a big boost in apps for the Ann Arbor school.

“The extended Round 3 resulted in a 126% increase in Round 3 applications year-over-year,” says Soojin Kwon, Michigan Ross managing director of full-time MBA admissions. “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.”

Michigan Ross’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, the school’s yield fell dramatically, to 37.6%, down 17.4% in one year and more than 23% from its high of 49% in 2018.

“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).”

NOT OUT OF THE WOODS YET

Even the schools that gained year-over-year in the wild 2019-2020 MBA application cycle are not out of the woods yet: the four-year trend still shows declines at most schools from high points in 2016 or 2017. Sixteen of the 25 schools are down in that span, including some schools like UNC Kenan-Flagler that were up big this year. UNC had a lot of ground to make up and despite gaining nearly 44% of app volume in 2019-2020 remains down 11.5% from its high point of 2,151 apps in 2016-2017.

Similarly, Cornell University Johnson Graduate School of Management gained 22% this year but remains down 4.5% over four cycles; Yale SOM gained 8.1% but is down 15.7% long-term; and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business gained 10.5% but remains down 11.6%. See details in the table below.

DON’T MISS: APPS TO MAJOR U.S. MBA PROGRAMS PLUNGE AGAIN and ‘BEYOND DARKNESS, THERE IS LIGHT’: CONSULTANTS WEIGH IN ON COVID-19

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