Getting into business school is getting easier?

Businessweek recently released an intriguing article entitled “Admission to Top B-Schools Gets Easier” –  The article addresses the acceptance rates at some of the top MBA programs in the country.  Certainly the title piqued our interest, but before you whip through the Stanford app with your 610 GMAT score, let’s reviews a few interesting takeaways from the article:

* Into the numbers: Bloomberg Businessweek found that of the 476 MBA programs recently surveyed by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), 47 percent reported a decrease in applications, with 9 percent reporting a decline of more than 20 percent over 2009.

 Be careful here that the data doesn’t take you in the wrong direction.  The data implies that 53% of the 476 MBA programs had a flat or increasing year in applications and if it is skewed towards the top programs, it could be even more competitive at many of the top programs 

* It’s all compared to what? Many schools are coming off of record high application seasons (2008 and 2009), so it’s natural for the acceptance % to go up as the number of quality applicants (and overall applicants) goes down.  Keep in mind, however, that while the acceptance rates for some MBA programs may be increasing, acceptance rates at many top MBA programs are still very low (~20%).

 * Technology: More MBA programs are doing a better job marketing the strengths of their programs.  With the various online channels for marketing (webinars, blogs, podcasts, etc.), more schools are able to get the word out about their program.  That is ultimately a good thing as it dilutes the top-heavy focus on a handful of MBA programs as candidates are more thoughtful about where to apply.

 * Economy: At Admit Advantage, we’ve observed an interesting impact that the poor economy has had on MBA applicants.  In 2008 and 2009, MBA candidates were very excited about the prospect of business school as many thought to “hide” from the job market for 2 years (is there a better place than business school?).  Many of those same people have nowhere to hide now with job growth still somewhat tepid.  In addition, those prospects today with “good” jobs are deferring their MBA plans because they are unsure of what the future will hold.  We are optimistic that this will change next year and applicants will be a bit more aggressive about pursuing their MBA dreams. 

Bottom Line: While the MBA applicant trends certainly do fluctuate, we don’t think that should sway your plans for business school.  You should go when you are at a point in your career and your life when you are truly ready.  If you have the credentials, put together a differentiated strategy with a clear vision on what you are looking to achieve post MBA, you will be a successful MBA applicant in any environment.  Best of luck on your MBA journey!

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