2017 MBA Application Trends


As the 2017 application season gets off to a start with school package releases, it’s a good idea to take a look at some recent trends in b-school application world before you dive in. 

Everyone knows the most important thing to take care of before considering even your school selection, is to make sure you have the core qualifications, and often the only changeable core competency is test score.  For decades the GMAT has dominated the focus of hopeful MBA applicants the world over, but what you may not know, is that the GRE has been steadily rising in the MBA application arena over the past few years. 

A decade ago, schools would not even consider the GRE as a b-school admissions qualifier, but now, not only is the GRE accepted widely at most schools as a GMAT alternative, it is even encouraged. 

Schools will openly recommend an applicant try their hand at the GRE if they are having trouble with the GMAT or feel like the GMAT is not indicative of their true potential.  If you find yourself in this camp, you too might take a look at the GRE format to see if you think it might better represent your capabilities. 

Another trend we have seen is something that has actually been there all along, but has only grown ever more central each year to every admissions committee’s focus: diving deeply into who each applicant is as a person.  Who you are as a person, while virtually unimportant 15 years ago in comparison to your career goals and work achievements, has become paramount in the admissions process as admissions committees find themselves splitting hairs in an extremely qualified applicant pool. 

Schools like Duke and Northwestern began focusing on the “softer side” of an applicant’s profile first, and to much success. 

Employers fawn all over MBA grads whose personality balances the technical and analytical skills with the emotional observation and compatibility skills which are so important in the modern workplace.  This trend is reflected in the essay questions, mostly in the proliferation of the word “why?,”  but make sure you answer that part of each question whether or not the “why” word appears in the question itself.  It’s in the why that most applicants reveal their true selves, and where you should spend some time reflecting over your path before cranking out your answers.

Perhaps the most dramatic shift in the MBA admissions process, however, has been in the deadline schedule. 

While the early application round was virtually nonexistent in recent history, the number of schools with an early selection option has grown exponentially.  Stiff competition has put schools in the difficult position of fighting for yield, and they have become weary of the uncertainty which accompanies accepted applicants who delay their decision to attend while waiting on other schools to release admit decisions.  Providing early applicants with “preferential consideration,” has encouraged more and more applicants to take advantage.  Be careful before taking this option, however, since many schools require you to withdraw other applications if they accept you, and applying to more than one early action round is verboten by many schools.

You would be wise to consider these three key trends when applying to business school, and if you would like help unpacking them, don’t hesitate to give us a call.