MBA classes at USC Marshall School of Business have always been full of solid test-takers. The school has boasted an average Graduate Management Admission Test score over 700 for many years. But the new Class of 2024 that enrolled this fall have taken things to the next level.
Marshall’s new crop of MBA students achieved a 732 average this fall, a remarkable 16-point leap from last year’s class’s 716 — and an astounding 25-point jump from the 707 reported by the Class of 2020.
To put Marshall’s GMAT score in perspective, last year 732 would have placed the school second among all U.S. B-schools, tied with Chicago Booth School of Business and trailing only Stanford Graduate School of Business. And this year, Marshall’s astronomical score is ahead of such peers as Virginia Darden School of Business (720), Chicago Booth (729), Yale School of Management (723), Michigan Ross School of Business (720), Duke Fuqua School of Business (718), and UCLA Anderson School of Management (711) — and just behind NYU Stern School of Business and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, both of which reported averages of 733.
MARSHALL DEFIES ECONOMIC FORCES
GMAT scores have been rising across the graduate business landscape after many B-schools made the test optional and began to receive only very high scores to pick and choose from, though Marshall's huge jump in score average still stands out. But it's not the only remarkable thing about the new MBA class. Perhaps even more impressive, Marshall is just the third business school to defy the economic forces that have dampened interest in full-time MBA programs in the U.S., reporting a big increase in MBA apps at a time when nearly all of its peer schools are suffering downturns.
In the previous cycle of 2020-2021, UNC was one of just six top-25 B-schools in the United States to report a drop in MBA applications, to 2,418 to 3,159 — so it's easy to imagine celebrations in Southern California when the school finished 2021-2022 with 2,652 apps, a nearly 10% year-to-year increase.
Just about everywhere else in the U.S., MBA applications for full-time MBA programs are on the decline — and in some places, steeply. The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania saw a 14% decline, and Harvard Business School was down 15.4%. Chicago Booth saw a 13.6% decline. Yale SOM's apps were down 16.5%. At Michigan Ross the loss was 9.3%; at NYU Stern, 10%. The largest-reported app decline so far has occurred at UCLA Anderson, which lost 20% of its total year to year; declines on the milder side have occurred at Duke Fuqua (6%), Georgetown McDonough (5.4%), and Virginia Darden, where they fell just 3.5%.
MARSHALL GETS MORE DIVERSE
Following a trend seen elsewhere, Marshall's new class is highly diverse, with 56% identifying as students of color and 24% as under-represented students of color. Forty-one percent of the class is international, a school record, while 10% identify as LGBTQ and 10% have military service in their background.
Meanwhile 46% of the new class is women, bringing the Marshall School closer to its historic MBA Class of 2020 that made it the first top-25 B-school to reach gender parity.
Last year, the largest segment of Marshall's MBA class (29%) majored in Business and Commerce, while another 18% earned degrees related to Engineering. The rest of the class included MBA candidates who majored in Economics (17%), Humanities (15%), Social Sciences (13%), Sciences (7%), and Law (1%). This year, Business/Commerce slips to 26% while Engineering/Computer Science surged to 25%. Economics grads are 14%, Sciences 12%, and Social Sciences 10% (see above for details).
As professionals, the largest segment of Marshall MBAs last year was split between Financial Services and Technology at 17% each. Consulting and Entertainment professionals were 9% and 8% of class seats, respectively, followed by Healthcare (7%), Government and Military (6%), and Nonprofits (5%). This year, Financial Services is tops with 19%, followed by Tech (14%), Healthcare (13%), and Consulting (10%).
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