As we start to look towards next year, it’s useful to discuss recent MBA application trends. Leverage these insights to optimize your business school applications.

  • Apply Early

Applying as early as possible is becoming more advantageous every year. This trend isn’t new, and you should still wait until you are ready to apply. However, the differential between admissions rates in the early rounds and the later ones is growing. This is especially true for schools like Darden, that are adding super early rounds, and schools like Columbia and Duke that have binding early rounds. Even if you don’t have perfect numbers, applying early can help you get into your dream school.

  • Clarify Your Goals

This year we saw a number of schools, like Tuck, eliminate the longer goal essay in favor of shorter goal statements. This change forces candidates to get specific about what they want to do – you can’t meander around it. Again, schools have always wanted to know your short and long-term goals, but goal clarity is increasingly important.

  • Don’t underestimate the pool

You may have seen numbers indicating that full-time MBA applications are down at many domestic schools, including some of the super-elite. This data has understandably prompted some applicants to assume that it’s now easier to get into top MBA programs. However, if you look at the pool holistically, this is not the case. Some of the numeric attrition comes from international applicants, who are concerned about the political climate in the US. Also, most applicants to top MBA programs remain extremely well qualified – schools can still fill their classes with 800 GMAT’s and 4.0’s. (Although, as we know the criteria is happily more nuanced than that.) Nevertheless, the competition is just as intense as it has been.

  • Feel free to take the GRE

GRE’s are a legitimate (and growing) option. If the GMAT isn’t your test, feel free to switch to the GRE. Schools won’t penalize you for it.

  • Personality Matters

Finally, we are continuing to see prompts asking applicants to introduce themselves via video, to talk about their values, and to share what really matters to them. Expect this MBA application trend to continue and intensify – schools really want to select students with great personalities.


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Karen Marks

Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Clients have been awarded more than $70 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 98% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.
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