There has historically never been a shortage of international applicants to US business schools, but the recent political shift in the area of immigration coupled with burdensome financial requirements has sent applications plummeting this year. Perhaps it’s a good time to apply?
If business schools in the US were looking to fill their ranks with only the highest of GMAT scorers with a strong work ethic, recent history has shown they could do so with nothing but applicants from outside the US. There was a time, in fact, when there were as many applicants from Asia as any other region in the world. This year, however, schools are struggling to find enough international applicants to diversify their pools. What happened?
The shift away from the foreign-born application flood has been driven largely by two factors: one political and one financial.
Let’s start with the financial. If the financial obligations for business school students in general is burdensome, the weight of this responsibility on international applicants is downright crushing. Most schools will not allow international students to matriculate until they have demonstrated the ability to pay for the entire program in full. Compared with US students, the requirement to have six figures in the bank account is unique to international applicants. Imagine how few US students would qualify to attend business school if they had to essentially fork over the cash up front. Coupled with restrictions on international students getting loans, and you have a very unfriendly environment to say the least, if you applying from outside US borders.
The other factor driving international students away from US b-schools is the more recent phenomenon in the political arena, which some would say is also unfriendly.
Studies show that international applicants this year are perceiving a less welcoming environment in the US and are looking elsewhere for b-school education. Perception is reality, and the measurable drop in applications has been so severe, that schools are struggling to even get enough international applicants to diversify their intake.
While it’s true that there have been fewer H-1B visas issued this year, a trend which will likely continue, President Trump recently announced new legislation put forth by two republican senators titled the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, which would move the visa approvals to a merit-based system favoring English-speaking applicants with documented skills and education.
If passed, RAISE would potentially tilt the visa approvals process heavily towards b-school applicants, who typically far exceed the new merit requirements.
Until the word gets out, however, it’s a great time to be applying to US schools as an international applicant from this perspective.Interestingly, the drop in international applications this year is also favoring US applicants. Since the profile characteristics of the typical international applicant are typically off the charts (think GMAT scores, years of work experience and business/cultural knowledge), schools have had to lower the bar somewhat to fill classes. So whether you are an international applicant or a US applicant, there’s no excuse to put off that application for another year.