Credit the school’s “applicant-centric” approach. Credit the circumstances of an ongoing pandemic. Credit the enduring appeal of a strong brand.
Whatever the reason — or reasons — applications to top MBA programs in the U.S. are continuing their upward trajectory, a reality reinforced by yet another prominent B-school’s newly released Class of 2023 profile.
New York University Stern School of Business announced the details of its new MBA class today (September 10) showing applications up more than 8% from last year, rising for the second year in a row after a couple of down years amid a sector-wide slump that now feels like ancient history. Stern credits increased test options, test waivers, and other flexibility for the app boost — which, along with a big reduction in admits, led to an increase in yield and plunge in the school’s acceptance rate, despite enrollment rebounding to a pre-pandemic size.
If you’re Stern, you’ve got to like where things are headed in the full-time MBA. For a bonus, the new class set a school record for average Graduate Management Admission Test score, putting Stern in rarefied company in that key metric, too.
MORE OPTIONS MAKE STERN’S MBA APPLICANT-CENTRIC
NYU Stern’s applications dipped in back-to-back years, reaching a low of 3,518 in 2018-2019. The next cycle, 2019-2020, the school began its bounce-back, drawing 3,652 apps — in part because of a 46-day round-four extension.
Now, with its latest class profile, Stern’s app rebound has proven its durability. With 3,958 applications in 2020-2021, the school increased its applications by 306 year-over-year, or 8.4%, and by 440 — 12.5% — over its total from two years ago. Stern even surpassed its previous record of 3,927 apps set in 2016-2017.
So the rebound is no fluke. How did Stern do it? In part by keeping in place some of the strategies it has used to navigate the uncharted waters of the last two years.
“For the 2020-2021 admissions cycle, NYU Stern continued its legacy of adopting an applicant-centric approach,” says Lisa Rios, assistant dean of MBA admissions, “including adding three new standardized test options — LSAT, MCAT and DAT — to the existing GMAT, GRE, and Executive Assessment. Additionally, Stern offered a standardized test waiver in response to the coronavirus pandemic for those whose ability to prepare for or take a standardized test was impacted, but felt that they were able to demonstrate academic readiness.”
The “applicant-centric approach” will continue in the next admissions cycle, Rios says, noting that “the combination of a more seamless process for applicants and continued strong demand for our rigorous program” led to the 8% increase in applications and the enrollment of 360 students in the Class of 2023, up from 317 last year and even surpassing the 359 who enrolled in fall 2019.
A KEY STAT THAT ISN’T IN THE PROFILE: YIELD
Despite the increase in class size, Stern grew its yield from around 30% last year to 47% — a 56% increase, which Linda Abraham, founder of admissions consultancy Accepted, calls the “most remarkable” stat in the entire profile, even though it isn’t included. (B-schools rarely publish yields, which are simply the percentage of admits who actually enroll.)
“The increase in yield came despite an increase in class size of 8.4%, and in apps from 3,652 to 3,958,” Abraham tells Poets&Quants. “While some of that increase is due to the pandemic, these numbers also reflect Stern’s increasing brand value and popularity.”
Stern also admitted 288 fewer applicants, a reduction — from more than 1,000 admits to 771 — that amounted to a 27% decline. The result: The school’s acceptance rate plummeted from 29% last year to just 19%. We don’t have all the current data yet for Stern’s peer schools, but only three top-25 schools had a lower acceptance rate for the fall 2020 intake.
More applicants by definition means a deeper pool of talent to choose from, and that explains the other school record set this fall. The Class of 2023’s average GMAT is the highest in Stern’s history at 729, up from 723 last year. That ties the mark set by Columbia Business School this year and eclipsed, so far, only by Wharton; again, we don’t have all the data yet for this fall, but looking at last year’s averages, only one school — Stanford GSB — had a better average score than 729 (though Harvard reported 730, it only reports a median score).
“The six-point increase in Stern’s average GMAT score puts NYU adjacent to the elite 730+ club of MBA programs,” Abraham says. “Last year only two schools were in that club. While class profiles from all the schools are not yet available, most of those who have published class profiles for the Class of 2023 are reporting increased average GMATs. I expect more MBA programs to join the 730+ club because with increasing testing options, the applicants who take and submit the GMAT are the ones who do well on the GMAT.”
A SINGLE CLOUD IN A SUNNY SKY
In other data, undergraduate GPA dipped to 3.59 from the school record 3.60 reached in 2020, but minority enrollment — in both measures — increased, from 32% to 36% overall and from 12% to 17% in under-represented populations. In previous work experience, Stern continued its move away from its finance-centric history as 23% of the class come from the financial services industry, down from 27% last year, while consulting moved up to 12% from 10% and tech from 8% to 9%. In undergrad major, most hold business degrees, though the number dropped to 27% from 29%, while STEM (24% from 23%) and economics (16% from 14%) ticked upward and social science (20%) remained the same.
Unsurprisingly given the difficulties of travel in 2020, international enrollment cratered at Stern, down to just 23% of the class. It rebounded this year to 32%. But in perhaps the biggest disappointment for Stern, the percentage of women went down, to 41% from 43%, defying the trend at other top schools.
“The cloud in this sunny picture is a 2% decline in the percentage of women in the class from 43% to 41%,” Linda Abraham says. “While small, given that HBS, Wharton, and other top programs are reporting record percentages of women in their classes — and Wharton is over parity — Stern’s decline stands out.”
See an illustrated breakdown of the NYU Stern MBA classes of 2022 and 2023 on the next page.