What is Going on at NYU Stern? ... and Lessons Learned

If you are a Round 2 applicant to NYU Stern, then this post won't catch you by surprise, but there seems to be something very odd going on in the NYU admissions office this year.

For starters, there appear to be a number number of Round 2 applicants who are still waiting for decisions, over a week past the stated notification deadline on the Stern website, which is rather shocking (you would think the school could at least send out a "we need more time" email).  Other students were recently admitted but did not receive a call or even an email letting them know - instead they found out just by randomly checking their status online.  Additionally, we have heard accounts of students being waitlisted and then admitted just four days later, students getting interviews after submitting deposits at another school, and other odd anecdotes.

It could just be that we've heard a few horror stories that do not, in fact, define the process this year at Stern, but it seems equally possible that NYU is having an "off year" in terms of staying on top of things.  These things happen and we're not here to judge; especially when it comes to one of our favorite MBA programs.  We love the immediacy and feistiness and collaborative nature of NYU Stern and will continue to promote it as a top choice to our future clients.  Do they appear to need a new notification system?  Absolutely.  Are we down on Stern because of a few frustrated whispers?  Not necessarily.

But we've learned a few things as well.  And that's the purpose of this post.  Not to bash Stern based on some very loose evidence, but rather to share some general lessons learned about applying to business school.  Anything that helps people in the future is worth putting out there.

Here are three things we've zeroed in on, even as we hear from frustrated clients and applicants:

1. Apply Early!  Whenever possible, get your application in early.  It seems that Round 2 applicants are having issues, while most of our Round 1 clients got more prompt feedback and knew where they stood much earlier in the process.  Whether the news was good or bad, people seemed to know fairly early.  For Round 2, nobody seemed to know where they stood until the very end of the process (or even later) and it seems like late Round 2 notifications is where information broke down.  For future candidates, do all you can to apply earlier rather than later.

2. Understand Tradeoffs.  It's important to understand what the pros and cons are to a school's approach.  NYU Stern has always favored "being right" over "being fast."  The admissions staff reads the files and conducts the interviews, so things take much longer.  It's not surprising to hear that it is Stern struggling to stay on top of the information flow.  If it was a school like Booth - who uses alumni interviewers, features over 40 student ambassadors in the admissions office, and reads fewer applications to booth - we would be surprised and concerned.  But Stern just has a harder time processing due to manpower issues.  (It's a big reason why MIT only uses two rounds of admissions - they use admissions staff only to review files and specially trained behavioral interviewers to help them with interviewing.)  So what is the flip side?  NYU Stern is more likely to find the right fits and to identify students who will truly thrive there.  All told, it is our experience that applicants get a very "true read" at Stern.  This seems to be worth the tradeoff.  (We know, easy for us to say!)

3. Don't Close Your Mind Off. The last point is that you shouldn't rule a school out just because of issues you like these.  Even if you have put down a deposit somewhere else and you get in late, be open to the possibility.  This is especially true if Stern was at one point your top choice, but even if not, don't get mad or made a decision out of emotion or principle.  NYU Stern might be the ideal place for you to earn an MBA and it doesn't do you any good to get frustrated at the admissions office and rule it out.  For starters, you only hurt yourself - they aren't going to shed any tears over it.  Second, it places too much emphasis on the admissions office in making a decision regarding your experience.  Once you get to b-school, you won't even go to the admissions office.  Make your choice based on all available information and don't get hung up on how you feel you've been treated.  It's not personal, there are valid reasons why things happen, and if there are really systemic problems, the school will pay a larger price than your anger.

Hopefully this post helps any of you still dealing with this.  For those applying next year, keep these things in mind and make sure to apply early!

If you are interested in a free initial consultation, please email mba@amerasiaconsulting.com.  Our boutique approach pairs you with one of the principals of our company, meaning you will be working with someone capable of walking you through the above steps and perfecting your application.

Finally, make sure to download our free How to Apply to HBS guide.