Another Elite U.S. B-School Will Keep The Option To Waive The GMAT & GRE

NYU Stern is the fourth top-25

The dominoes keep falling. Another top-25 business school in the United States, seeking to keep the edge it gained when it made an emergency suspension of its admission test requirement as coronavirus chaos descended on graduate business education in spring 2020, is extending the waiver into the 2021-2022 cycle.

NYU Stern School of Business today (June 15) became the fourth top-25 B-school to announce that it will continue to accept applications to its full-time MBA program without the inclusion of Graduate Record Exam or Graduate Management Admission Test scores, if conditions created by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic prevent applicants from taking one of the exams accepted by the school. While standardized tests remain “a required part of the full-time and Focused MBA program application and one of the tools Stern uses to evaluate the academic profile of applicants,” the school is joining others in acknowledging the continuing worldwide impact of Covid-19 on applicants’ ability to prepare for or take a standardized test. , but they feel that they are able to demonstrate academic readiness, they can submit a request to be considered for a standardized test waiver.

Allowing waivers for GRE, GMAT, Executive Assessment or other test requirements in the full-time MBA program contributed to a reversal in a two-year application slump in 2020, and though final numbers for the just-concluded 2020-2021 cycle won’t be available until the school releases its class profile in the fall, Poets&Quants has learned that Stern saw another sizable increase in applications through the spring.

Also Tuesday, Stern announced new application deadlines, beginning with the first on September 15, 2021, as well as changes to its essay question. See below for more details.


Lisa Rios

Extending test waivers isn’t just about boosting app numbers, says Lisa Rios, Stern’s executive director of MBA admissions.

“Stern has always taken an applicant-centric approach, including being on the forefront of offering students standardized test flexibility without compromising our ability to assess academic readiness for our rigorous MBA,” she says. “In addition to the GMAT, Stern was among the first top schools to accept the GRE, and later added the Executive Assessment, LSAT, and MCAT to our test options given our dual-degree business programs in law and medicine.”

Stern joins Indiana University Kelley School of Business, the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, and the University of Michigan Ross School of Business in announcing the waiver extension. More are certain to follow as admission officials increasingly express the view that the tests are not necessary to determine whether a candidate can handle the quant demands of an MBA program. And more schools are questioning the use of standardized tests for admissions.

At Virginia Darden, Dean Scott Beardsley in January expressed concern that the tests can be inherently unfair, pointing out that prospective students from low-income families are less able to pay for prep classes or tutors who can cost up to $500 an hour or can take time off from work to study for the exam. Students who come from lower socio-economic backgrounds, born to uneducated parents, tend to score lower regardless of whether they are tutored or not.

“If you look at the data for the SAT and ACT by ethnic group, it is absolutely shocking,” Beardsley told P&Q earlier this year. “It shows that underrepresented minorities score between one to two standard deviations below the average. If you Google standardized tests and racism, it is very well documented. I don’t want to reward only people who spend tons of money or have tons of time studying for standardized tests.

“We appreciate the people who have gone through all those hoops as well. But there are many indicators of success. If you graduated with the highest honors in engineering from Carnegie Mellon, I don’t need a GMAT to tell me you can do the math in an MBA program.”


In spring 2020, in addition to extending its application window amid the onset of the pandemic, NYU Stern also waived its test requirement for the first time — and subsequently reversed a worrisome decline in applications. Stern saw an overall uptick in applications to 3,652, up from 3,518 in the 2018-2019 cycle, a 3.8% increase that stopped a slide going back to the 2016-2017 cycle during which the school lost more than 10% of its app volume. The school also increased its number of admits last year to 1,059 from 919, 15.2% higher, pushing its acceptance rate to 29% from just under 27%.

The tinkering paid off. Stern, the No. 15 school (up from 16th) in the most recent P&Q ranking, enrolled an MBA class that — bucking trends — notched an average GMAT score and average undergraduate GPA that were both the highest in school history. The lowest GMAT score to gain entry to Stern was a 640, much higher than the previous year’s 600. Stern also enrolled its highest-ever number of women, at 43% of the class. Stern’s class Graduate Record Exam average was also up, as was the percentage of the class that submitted GRE scores.

“Even with last year’s option to request a test waiver, the overwhelming majority of applicants that started in fall 2020 submitted a standardized test. Additionally, the average GMAT for last year’s entering two-year full-time MBA class was the highest in the school’s history,” Rios notes.

And the good news for Stern continues: Applications in the recently concluded 2020-2021 cycle increased about 10%, P&Q has learned. Stern is expected to release its MBA Class of 2023 profile in September.


Also Tuesday, NYU Stern announced its 2021-2022 application deadlines and essay prompt for not only the full-time, two-year MBA but also a pair of one-year MBA programs, the Andre Koo Technology and Entrepreneurship MBA and Fashion & Luxury MBA. Promising not only earlier deadlines but earlier decisions, the school’s first important date has been moved to September 15, about a month earlier than last year, with subsequent deadlines on October 15, 2021 (also a month earlier), January 15, 2022, and finally March 15, 2022.

“We are thrilled to begin engaging with applicants for NYU Stern’s Full-time MBA programs and have both fine-tuned the 2021-2022 application to best meet the needs of candidates and created an especially relevant new element,” Rios says. “We moved up our first two application deadlines by a month as we’ve found many applicants are ready to apply earlier than ever, and we’re eager to provide decisions to those individuals as soon as possible.”

The new essay question is inspired by Stern’s brand call to action “Change. Dare it. Dream it. Drive it.” that launched in November 2019. The essay prompt:

In today’s global business environment, the only constant is change. Using NYU Stern’s brand call to action, we want to know how you view change. Change: _____ it. Fill in the blank with a word of your choice. Why does this word resonate with you? How will you embrace your own personal tagline while at Stern? Examples:

Change: Dare it.
Change: Dream it.
Change: Drive it.
Change: Empower it.
Change: Manifest it.
Change: [Any word of your choice.]

Stern’s popular “Pick Six” personal expression essay will remain and the professional aspirations essay will be reduced from a 500-word limit to a 150-word limit.

“In regard to our essays, we are introducing a new prompt based on Stern’s brand call to action around embracing change — a prescient call we launched before the pandemic whose relevancy increased by the day,” Rios says. “This essay will give candidates an opportunity to creatively demonstrate how they align with our ethos and respond to change, which is especially relevant to their future employers.”


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