Never let a crisis go to waste.
That’s great advice in politics – and business school admissions, too. Just ask the Kellogg School. In November, Twitter slashed half of its workforce. Overall, tech firms trimmed 107,000 employees from their payrolls in 2022 according to Crunchbase. That doesn’t include another 21,000 who’ve already lost their jobs in the first two weeks of 2023.
Where do tech vets go when they have all that unexpected time? Well, Kellogg would like them to consider business school – and they are making easier than ever to get in.
GMAT or GRE? No need. Kellogg just needs transcripts, resume, and application for consideration in round 2 for either the part-time or full-time MBA program. A short essay too, outlining their work experience and how a Kellogg MBA will spur their growth and advance their careers.
Fast, easy, and timely – who needs an admissions consultant?
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Kellogg would be the first to capitalize on this market. After all, Kellogg was the first school to waive test requirements when COVID hit during the spring of 2020. By the end of the year, over 100 business schools had followed Kellogg’s lead. The same is true with Kellogg’s response to layoffs at Twitter, Meta, Cisco, and the rest. Within weeks, you had MIT Sloan, UCLA Anderson, Cornell Johnson, Indiana Johnson, Berkeley Haas, and Georgia Tech Scheller playing catch up. They were dangling application fee waivers, deadlines extensions, and even full tuition fellowships. And every press release included some variation of the following…
“It’s the right thing to do.”
Virtue signaling and empathy eruptions aside, these acts were also smart business. After all, applications were down at every one of the Top 14 full-time MBA programs during the 2021-2022 cycle. That includes Kellogg, whose applications fell off by an estimated 20% from the previous year. Fact is, it isn’t often when good intentions make good business. In a 2022 interview with P&Q, Linda Abraham, a long-time MBA consultant and founder of Accepted, laid out the case for why this is a win-win. For applicants, Kellogg is tech-friendly and deeply connected to the field. Abraham points out that nearly a fifth of entrants worked in tech and a fifth of graduates join tech companies. For admissions, she notes, laid-off tech employees represent proven professionals who may be a cut above the average applicant.
“For these recently laid-off workers, who until the last few weeks had positions that were demanding and whose skills when combined with an MBA will probably be in demand, Kellogg is comfortable relying on their transcript as evidence of academic ability (or lack thereof). They don’t need the test score. Getting these kinds of jobs is in and of itself a test… Kellogg with this move is hoping to boost its pool of qualified applicants and stop the decline in application volume.”
As the cliché goes, the road to hell is paved with the best intentions. In August, Kellogg rolled out several changes to its Evening and Weekend MBA program. They included GMAT waivers based on undergrad qualifications or an executive assessment. At the same time, students could take a “select amount of online classes for each quarter.”
Let’s just say the response was less than enthusiastic. On Slack – the preferred platform for organizing student insurgencies – dozens of Kellogg part-time students voiced their concerns over these changes. Tim Rzeznik, who started in the part-time program in 2021, believes the test optional approach “clearly conveys that the near-term strategy for the school is to trade brand equity for cash up front.”
And he didn’t stop there.
“One of the reasons why I chose this school over NYU Stern, CMU Tepper, and Indiana Kelley was the effect the high standards had on the overall Kellogg brand,” Rzeznik continues in an interview with P&Q. “This latest announcement is a move in the wrong direction.”
It is a conflict as old as time – and it boils down to this: We had to do it. Why shouldn’t they? From Kellogg’s perspective, the changes were hardly a cash grab. Instead, they were based on empirical data and customer service says Greg Hanifee, associate dean of degree operations. The online option was implemented based on student requests for greater flexibility, he reveals. When it comes to testing, the decision was grounded in a concept that crops up in every MBA class in one form or another: alignment.
“Our Executive MBA for years has not had a test requirement yet continues to deliver top-quality students. Upon review, we wanted to align our two working professional programs and sync requirements more closely while meeting the needs of working students. And, we have performance data from the post-pandemic period that validates measures of achievement to be considered for admission.”
Yes, test optional admissions and online learning usage could become two fault lines in the MBA space. Do they dilute quality – or bring different candidates into the mix? While the Kellogg community debates this issue, the school can bask in a stellar 2022 otherwise. GMAT scores inched up as Kellogg’s full-time program continued to near gender parity. At the opposite end, 2022 full-time graduates notched record pay: $191,100 – up nearly 9% from the previous year. The pay gets better as the years pass too, with Kellogg MBAs ranking 2nd to Wharton for career-long ROI. In terms of rankings, the full-time program has climbed 7 spots in 5 years in The Financial Times. Better still, Kellogg ranked #1 in P&Q’s new Executive MBA ranking (despite not requiring a GMAT or GRE).
With Kellogg’s entrepreneurial prowess, Chicago digs, and legendary commitment to “High impact, low ego” teams, you can expect Kellogg to rack up even more successes in 2023.
“With so much change and disruption happening constantly, we can’t predict how the world will evolve in the next 10 years, much less the next 50 years,” observes Emily Haydon, assistant dean of admissions and financial aid, in a 2021 interview with P&Q. “But what won’t change is the need for leaders who have the rare ability to understand and influence people, and to inspire teams with diverse backgrounds and perspectives — leaders who demonstrate great empathy. These are the type of leaders that Kellogg develops.”
Next Page: Northeastern University’s D’Amore McKim School of Business
Comments or questions about this article? Email us.