MBA Applicants Still in Demand

According to conventional wisdom, things are pretty bleak out there for MBA graduates and applicants. According to articles in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, “With Jobs Tight, MBAs Head for Home,” and the weekend’s New York Times, “Business Graduates Looking Beyond Wall Street,” things are really dire.

This conventional wisdom implies that business school is not worth it, since it’s expensive and jobs are scarce. Furthermore, if that isn’t enough to spook a potential applicant, a record number of students took the GMAT this year (true), and therefore, it’s impossible to get admitted (not necessarily).

Indeed, its 2009 and things are unusual. Financial markets jobs surely are going to be hard to find this year, but that’s not all that is out there. A 2009 MBA graduate I know turned down a job at a big Wall Street firm because she hopes to work for Timothy Geithner in the U.S. Treasury. Students are using their imaginations, reaching out and looking to work for firms that may not be household names…today.

Admissions Not Necessarily More Competitive
It was thought that MBA admissions would be more competitive this year, but the jury is still out. I just got an email today from University of California at Davis, an up-and-coming school, with this headline, “There’s still space for qualified applicants!” Kathy Gleed, Director of Admissions explains in the email, “We fully expect to admit candidates from our final round, even with the increase in applications.”

This call for applicants is not just a one-off. In St. Louis, Washington University’s Olin Business School has tried to attract candidates by waiving the $100 application fee.

Even vaunted Stanford GSB has been forced to capitulate. A week before Stanford’s round-three deadline, the committee posted a call for applications. http://www.stanford.edu/group/mba/blog/2009/03/apply_now_for_round_3.html
“The media hype says that business school applications soar when the economy is bad and, as such, there won’t be any spots left for third round applicants. This simply isn’t true.” says Stanford Admissions blogger Victoria Hendel De La O.

A higher percentage of students – many of them international – are not making the choice to go to the U.S. for business school. University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business attributed its second-round drop in applicants to lower international volume. At Cornell’s Johnson School of Business, as of mid-February, domestic applications were up 10%-15%, and international applications were down by 30%. Dartmouth’s Tuck School and University of Virginia’s Darden School are seeing application volume roughly equal to last year’s. “Applications are up in some areas and down in others” said Arielle Myhre,Assistant Director of Marketing and Admissions at Darden.

So it’s a mixed bag. Some schools will dig further into their waitlists. Dee Leopold, Director of Harvard Business School Admissions announced on April 9, 2009: “We will be making more offers from the waitlist this year, and we hope to make the majority of these decisions as soon as we can – definitely before the end of May.”

Perhaps next year won’t be quite so unpredictable. Either way, best of luck!

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