Unemployment in the United States is at a record low 3.5%. After a summer of not-so-subtle hints from the country’s major business schools, we are finally seeing hard evidence of what a booming job market means at the leading MBA programs.
Two schools on separate coasts — Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management and UCLA Anderson School of Management — are among the first to release complete class profiles for the MBA Class of 2024, following the Wharton School and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. One reports a big downturn in overall applications, worsened by a drop in U.S. apps as prospective students reassess their career trajectories amid a booming economy. Both report a huge expansion of their international populations — and use the opportunity to emphasize their programs’ greater international flavor.
At UCLA Anderson, applications were down 20%, a drop of 614 apps from 3,085. That’s one year after they grew by 220, or nearly 8%. The decline led to a much smaller class, 330 students from the school’s customary 360, as well as a decline in the average Graduate Management Admission Test score, to 711 from 714. The number of women and minorities also fell, to 35% and 28%, respectively.
INTERNATIONALS COMPRISE NEARLY HALF OF ANDERSON'S NEW MBA CLASS
What didn't decline at UCLA was the international population. It exploded, reflecting the reality that European and Asian economies are still struggling even as other effects of the coronavirus pandemic ease. The percentage of international students in Anderson's new MBA class grew by nearly one-third, to 47% from 35%, while the number of countries represented in the class grew to 43 from 41.
Anderson's (and other schools') international growth may help to explain the drop in women in the new class, as well as the growth in students with an engineering degree: For the first time, UCLA MBA students who majored in engineering in undergrad equal those with business bachelor's degrees, at 26% each. Economics and humanities make up the other double-digit populations, at 14% apiece.
Another effect of so many international students is that the average work experience of the new class is six years, up from five the past few years. The majority of the class — 61% — has between three and six years work experience, while 29% have more than si years and only 10% have between 0 and 3 years in the workplace.
CORNELL: STEADY AS SHE GOES
At Cornell Johnson, the move to designate the MBA as a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degree in early 2021 is paying dividends. Overall applications rose by more than 21%, by 450 to 2,555, even though Cornell presumably felt the same domestic squeeze as its peer schools. The Johnson School was able to keep its class size (303) and most of its other metrics stable thanks to a major infusion of international talent — no doubt fueled by the appeal of a program that promises to qualify graduates for an extra two years to work in the U.S. after leaving the school.
And what an infusion. The number of countries represented in Cornell's new MBA class exploded to 43 from 30 last fall, leading to an international population that is 43% of the class, up nearly one-quarter from 35% in the fall of 2021. The huge jump in international talent helped Cornell maintain a median GMAT of 710 and 39% women, both the same as last year, while seeing only a small drop in median undergraduate GPA, to 3.30 from 3.34.
Cornell remains a finance school, with nearly one-third (30%) of Class of 2024 MBA students boasting finance backgrounds, nearly the same as last year. And the percentage of students with business experience is close to the same as fall 2021, as well: about half the class, 46%, while the same amount has engineering backgrounds as 2021: 18%.
DON'T MISS A TALE OF TWO MBA CLASS PROFILES: CORNELL JOHNSON & UCLA ANDERSON and CORNELL RELEASES TECH MBA CLASS OF 2023 PROFILE & CLASS OF 2024 APP DEADLINES
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