The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business today (Nov. 17th) announced that it effectively go test-optional for the 2020-2021 MBA admissions cycle, joining MIT Sloan and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.
Due to the hardships the COVID pandemic is causing, the school said it would offer GMAT and GRE waivers as well as waivers on English language proficiency tests, including the TOEFL, to candidates who request them.
Soojin Kwon, managing director of full-time MBA admissions and program at Ross, made the announcement in an email to the applicant community. Because the policy change is being made in the middle of the school’s Round 1 application period, Kwon also decided to admit or waitlist all R1 candidates. “No applicants will be denied on December 4,” she wrote. “Any waitlisted applicant may request a test waiver after decisions are released.”
‘IT’S HARD TO NAIL THE GMAT WHEN YOU’RE CONCERNED YOUR INTERNET MIGHT GO OUT AT ANY MINUTE’
“Anytime we make a change we think long and hard about it,” says Kwon in an interview with Poets&Quants. “And in this one there were just so many stories from students all over the world that it made the decision easier. Even though test centers have reopened, getting to one and feeling safe in one is another story. And even though students can take the online test, taking a standardized test at home is challenging because some students are being disrupted by friends or family or have had internet connections slow down. So it is hard to perform best in those conditions.
The school heard from one applicant who took the at-home GMAT on online under stressful conditions, only to score a 620, adds Kown. “She took it a week later at a test center and got a 730. It was stories like that that made us think to have to deal with the struggles students are having taking a test under these conditions. It is really quite stressful like nothing we ever experienced. I am really worried as the pandemic is getting worse globally. I can imagine that test centers will shut down again.”
The school made clear that it is not weakening its admission standards in granting waivers. “We are not waiving the requirement that an applicant has demonstrated analytical and quantitative skills,” said Kwon in the email. “We want to see students succeed and thrive in our program. As such, we will continue to look for evidence that an applicant can handle the rigor of our MBA program.”
For MBA applicants who seek a waiver, Ross will put more weight on undergraduate or graduate coursework, full-time work experience, and professional certifications to gain confidence in a candidate’s academic proficiency and quantitative ability. Admission officials will look more carefully at the rigor of the individual courses taken and a student’s grades in them. “It is going to take more time for us to review applications than with a test score,” says Kwon.
The school made its policy change after hearing from candidates about the hardships they are encountering in taking even the online versions of the standardized tests. “As we’ve been reading Round 1 applications, it’s become apparent how much COVID-19 is impacting applicants,” wrote Kwon in the email communication. “Health concerns remain top of mind. Testing centers are open, but access is not equal to all. And, though online testing exists, it presents another set of challenges. As one candidate said, “It’s hard to nail the GMAT when you’re concerned your internet might go out at any minute.” In another one-on-one conversation during our weekly admissions office hours, a candidate shared that his house fire alarm went off when he was taking the online test.”
THE CHANCES OF MBA APPLICANTS WHO ASK FOR WAIVERS WILL NOT BE ‘NEGATIVELY IMPACTED’
The school said that the chances of admission for candidates who submit an application without a test score will not be “negatively impacted.” They also would still be eligible for scholarship awards, though the Ross added that a test score will give the admissions committee an additional relevant data point to consider.
“For some candidates, a strong test score can strengthen their overall application,” noted Kwon. “However, standardized tests are not the only way in which a candidate can demonstrate capability and readiness for tackling the challenges of, and thriving in, the Ross Full-Time MBA program.”
Ross joins a growing number of business schools that have gone test-optional due to COVID. Ever since the outbreak of the COVID pandemic, many business schools began adopting more flexible admission policies. So this coming admissions cycle, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business has made the GMAT and the GRE test-optional, along with the Wisconsin School of Business, Rutgers Business School, Northeastern University. Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business, the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business, Rochester’s Simon Business School, the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Business, Babson College, Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business, and UC-Irvine’s Merage School of Business.
‘WE HAD NO IDEA THAT OUR LIVES WOULD STILL BE FILLED WITH SO MUCH UNCERTAINTY’
When the outbreak of COVID-19 in the spring shut down test centers, a number of schools, including Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and The University of Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business, began offering test waivers for applicants directly affected by the pandemic. Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, meantime, has made the GMAT and GRE scores optional for applicants to both its evening MBA and Executive MBA programs, saying they are “unnecessary barriers” for working professionals.
At Ross, the policy change was unexpected. “In March 2020, when ‘life as usual’ effectively stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had no idea our lives would still be filled with so much uncertainty eight months later,” added Kwon. “As we enter mid-November, COVID-19 cases are increasing worldwide. Some populations continue to be impacted more than others, particularly the Black and other minority communities. Globally, people’s mental health has taken a toll from prolonged restrictions, business shutdowns, and other added stressors of living and working with the pandemic.”
The school said it would respond to waiver requests on a rolling basis, typically within 10 to 15 business days.
Ross’ latest class GMAT average fell to 710 from last year’s 719. That’s a 10-point drop from the school’s record high of 720 set in 2018. After Michigan Ross’s app volume fell for a third straight year, the school’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.
|Round 2 Waiver Requests||December 10||December 18|
|Round 3 Waiver Requests||March 1||March 12|
|Round 4 Waiver Requests||May 3||May 14|