After receiving more than 1,300 requests for a test waiver from potential applicants, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business is extending its test optional admissions policies into 2021-2022. Roughly 13% of its next entering cohort of MBAs this fall will have enrolled with an approved test waiver.
Dawna Clarke, executive director of admissions, made the announcement yesterday (May 19) at Poets&Quants’ CentreCourt MBA Festival. Ever since the outbreak of the pandemic, Darden has taken the boldest changes in admission practices among all the leading business schools. Darden accepts LSATs and MCATs as well as the Executive Assessment in lieu of either a GMAT or GRE. It also considers waiving standardized tests altogether for applicants with “strong alternate indicators of academic, personal or professional accomplishment.” A waiver request could be supported by a prior SAT or ACT score.
Darden, which launches its application for 2021-2022 live today, believes the policy makes admissions more equitable and has been successful in attracting a more diverse group of candidates. “Not all stellar applicants are stellar standardized test takers,” said Clarke. “And in 2021, there are a lot of opportunities for applicants to provide alternative evidence that they can do well academically at Darden. We are continuing both test flexibility and the test waiver for applicants who believe they have compelling alternative evidence. It is a progressive way to look at alternative data points. It is not a negative reflection of the GMAT or the GRE. But we are continuing the broader flexibility as well as giving students the opportunity to apply for a waiver.”
A DARDEN STUDY FOUND SOME SURPRISING CORRELATIONS ON ACADEMIC SUCCESS
For the past year and one-half, she added, the school has been doing analytical research on applicants who have been admitted to its MBA program without a standardized test. Clarke revealed some of the early conclusions of that work at CentreCourt on what factors are predictive of success in the first-year MBA curriculum. “Surprisingly, we found the verbal GMAT correlated more than the quant GMAT,” she said. “The GPA correlated more than the GMAT. We found a correlation between SAT and ACT scores. And we found a correlation even with the interview. The interview was predictive of academic success. And now we are looking at factors like Coursera classes, CPA or a CFA certifications, or students who have taken HBx online. We are currently doing analytics for the first year class to see how those people who opted to submit an alternative test or none at all are doing and that will help drive our policies.”
She emphasized that this first full year of text flexibility and waivers was a “pilot” and “we wanted to be a little bit conservative” in granting waivers.” The school received more than 1300 applications for a test waiver and about 13% of the entering class were granted a waiver, Clarke added.
Though first round application deadlines for fall 2022 matriculation are months away, Darden is the second school to extend its test flexibility policies into the new admissions cycle. Earlier this month, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business decided to continue to offer MBA applicants the option to request a waiver of its standardized test requirement for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle.
MICHIGAN ROSS FOUND ‘MANY INCREDIBLE APPLICANTS’ APPLIED USING TEST WAIVERS
Soojin Kwon, managing director of full-time MBA admissions and program at Ross, extended its more liberal waiver policy after being pleased with the quality of candidates in this past cycle who applied to the school without a GMAT or GRE. “Test waivers were at the top of the team’s annual process review discussion,” she wrote in announcing the move. “We found that many incredible applicants applied using a test waiver. Whether it was prior coursework, work experience, or professional certifications, they demonstrated their ability to handle the rigor of the MBA program without a standardized test.”
At the CentreCourt MBA Festival today (May 19), Diana Economy, director of full-time MBA admissions at Ross, said the school expects 10% to 15% of its newest cohort this fall to matriculate without a GMAT or GRE.
In this current admissions cycle, some 67 of the top 100 business schools have now gone fully test-optional or are actively promoting test waiver policies. MBA admission officials insist that their admission standards have not declined as a result of the policy changes. Instead, they are relying on other parts of candidates’ applications to gain confidence that an applicant can handle the academic requirements of their programs.