The constraints that Admissions Committees are severe, especially at top business schools. Taken together, these constraints generate a decidedly risk-averse stance toward applicants.
In light of this risk-aversion, it is critical for applicants to understand, and comprehensively address, the default skepticism and concerns that Admissions Committees will have about them. If fact, while it is imperative for applicants "stand out" and humanise themselves in the eyes of the Admissions Committee, it is even more imperative for applicants to handle these concerns. If those concerns are well-addressed, Admissions Committees will be much more receptive to applicant claims; if they are not, the claims will fall on deaf ears.
Luckily, Admissions Committees' concerns about applicants can largely be derived from an analysis of the constraints they face:
This is the ratio of qualified applicants to possible offers. The implication is that no matter how impressive your background, there are many others with a similarly impressive profile (on paper at least) against whom applicants must distinguish themselves. Consider the following:
Qualified applicants who offer convincing assurance they will accept an offer, e.g. through their essays and interview and by visiting their target schools, are more likely to win the prize. Interestingly, this insight applies as much to the most qualified applicants as to the more mainstream ones, as the most qualified applicants are more likely to have multiple offers from which to choose.
Consider the following typical yield ratios by school segment:
It's key to understand that business schools are evaluating applicants with a recruitment filter. Applicants therefore must present themselves professionally in both their essays and interviews, ideally with the same care they exercise during a job search.
As a result, a clear and realistic statement of post-MBA goals (including contingency plans where appropriate, e.g. if career-shifting, and especially during a tough economic climate) is mandatory. A few key metrics receive the most attention, likely because they are common inputs to public rankings:
As virtually all top 20 business schools boast averages around 700, you need to be as close as possible to this score to ensure Admissions Committees are receptive to the other aspects of your application. While strong examples of intellectual capacity should always be included in any applicant's essays, such examples become crucial if you are compensating for a lower-than-average score.
Applicants therefore must not only avoid committing any of the cardinal application sins, but also get and retain the attention of a jaded and overworked admissions readership with polished, original, engaging and easy-to-read essays.
*Calculation: [250,000 GMAT test administrations per year] X [10% of test-takers scoring 680+, from published percentile scoring scale]
**Based on total of the published class sizes of the FT's top 20 ranked full-time business schools.
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