Monday, August 04, 2014 at 12pm

The Growing Variety in MBA Admissions Techniques: MBA News

MBA admissions variances at top business schools in the US

The MBA admissions process at top business schools in the US will have some common traits; sending in a strong GMAT score will almost always be important for instance, as will being able to communicate your reasons for wanting to pursue an MBA and how you intend to use the qualification upon graduation. 

However, a new report in The New York Times highlights just how different other elements of a business school’s approach can be – especially in view of the way in which MBA admissions offices at top business schools in the US constantly reassess how they judge and admit candidates, and subsequently tweak the criteria for successful applicants.

For example, for the past two years Harvard Business School has required that students file a post-interview ‘reflection’ 24 hours after coming on campus and meeting MBA admissions officers.

Themes employed by top business schools in the US

The techniques used by top business schools in the US can be split into distinct categories, and seem to be designed either to put candidates on the spot, or to allow them to demonstrate how they might stand out from the crowd.

1. Options to give a more personal insight

MIT Sloan’s admissions process includes an opportunity to share anything else you would like to make known, in any format. According to the MBA admissions office, those who put effort into a thoughtful response here could separate themselves from an equally-qualified candidate.

NYU Stern will let you submit a ‘personal expression’ in lieu of a second essay and Chicago Booth offers an option to produce a four-slide PowerPoint presentation instead of a third essay – with deliberately vague directions that are intended to get applicants thinking.   

2. Teamwork exercises

At Wharton, invited applicants are asked to conduct a problem-solving exercise while MBA admissions officers observe their style and ability to communicate as part of a team. A comparable approach is taken at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan – however these applicants get to play a pitch-making game in a pizza place – a setting that the school says is used to encourage engagement.

3. Videos

Last year, Kellogg School of Management made two timed video responses part of the MBA admissions process – one, designed as an icebreaker to get to know a candidate, could catch you off guard if you’re not prepared for the prompt. Yale School of Management also uses the video format, with the school’s director of MBA admissions director summing up how the use of technology allows the overall process to become more than merely a writing contest.

“Now that we have the technology to do video questions, we can move more and more away from the essays,” Yale’s Bruce DelMonico said.

It’s a viewpoint shared by a number of the top business schools in the US, albeit by taking a number of different approaches to assess candidates outside of the traditional writing exercise.

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Tim is a writer with a background in consumer journalism and charity communications. He trained as a journalist in the UK and holds degrees in history (BA) and Latin American studies (MA).

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