As recently as fall 2022, business schools were reporting steep drops in the number of applicants to their MBA classes. For instance, Harvard and Wharton saw 15% and 13% drops respectively in the number of applications that they received. Yale, the University of Chicago, and NYU Stern similarly saw significant declines in applications.
With a hot job market cited as the primary reason behind the lower application numbers, there were even stories of prospective MBA students giving notice to their employers but being wooed into staying at their firm with a raise or a promotion. These types of benefits from employers reportedly resulted in a rise in deferral requests to start an MBA program at a later date.
However, we expect to see a shift in this pattern. The recent layoffs of late 2022 in the tech sector have resulted in an uncertain job market. Additionally, the Federal Reserve predicts that the unemployment rate will rise gradually through early 2024. With the weakening economy and pent-up demand from earlier cycles, we predict that more candidates will start to apply to business school for August/September 2024 entry.
If you are considering applying to MBA programs, this is what you can be doing right now in order to better prepare yourself.
1) Making Improvements to Your Profile
Completing your MBA applications requires a significant amount of self-reflection about your past experiences and what you intend to do in the future. Consider starting now to complete the first step in this exercise and begin thinking about the ways in which you might improve aspects of your personal or professional background. Additionally, it can be valuable to identify possible gaps in your experiences that might need to be filled.
When thinking about your professional experience, it would be worth finding opportunities to take initiative on a new project, attempt to increase your responsibilities, or broaden the impact that you have been able to have within your company.
In terms of time spent outside of work, you might pursue an interest or hobby that you had been curious about, get more involved with your current activities, or look for the chance to take on a leadership role in some capacity. Another idea would be to spend time exploring your post-MBA career interests through extracurricular activities in order to demonstrate a commitment and passion for your goals.
2) Revise your Resume
A professional resume and a business school resume should not be the same. A professional resume is likely to include jargon or technical language related to your role and industry. With a professional resume, when applying to a job, it is important to explain the relevant skills that you have and the ways in which you would use those same skills to be effective in your new position. From the business school perspective, the skills that you have gained in your job are not a selling point. Everyone coming into an MBA program will have expertise related to their industry; however, those are not the skills that you will utilizing when collaborating with your business school cohort. Instead, attributes such as communication skills, team work, leadership, the ability to create impact, relationship building, creativity, adaptability, problem solving, and quantitative/analytical knowledge are the types of qualities that the admissions committee cares about.
Completing a thorough revision of your resume early, with the goal of making your experiences relevant to the MBA program, will save you time and stress when you are in the thick of completing your applications.
3) Line up your recommenders
Asking others for letters of recommendation is often an area of the application process that can be a source of stress. Therefore, identifying the people in your life early, who would be good candidates for supporting you in this area of the application process, can be beneficial. In addition to having certain people in mind, making an effort to enhance those relationships and making them more personal, if necessary, could help when the letter is being written. The better that someone knows you and the work that you are capable of, the more likely that the letter of recommendation will stand out. On your end, keeping track of your interactions with your referee can be helpful so that when the time comes to write the letter, you might be able to share notes and stories from when you had worked together, which would add more color and depth to the letter of recommendation.
Given the economic situation, we predict that there will be a rise in applications to MBA programs this cycle. With increased competition, it will be critical to take necessary steps to help yourself to stand out in an ever competitive application pool
About Oriel Admissions
Rona Aydin has multiple years of experience advising clients applying to top MBA programs including Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, Columbia Business School, UPenn Wharton, and Northwestern Kellogg. Rona is a graduate of Oxford Said's MBA program.
The Oriel Admissions team also includes Lauren Levine, a former NYU Stern admissions officer with over ten years of experience. Lauren has read over a thousand MBA applications for NYU Stern and has interviewed hundreds of candidates.