Every year, college applications rise at the highly selective colleges and the admission rates drop. It’s seemingly always the most competitive class ever! And yet, this is not the case with respect to the number of applications to business school this year. In fact, applications to business school are down significantly this year. Does that surprise you? Does it surprise you that in this down economy, people aren’t leaving their jobs to pursue their MBA’s so they can return to new, higher-paying jobs?
It shouldn’t. Those considering the possibility of attending business school need to see the return on investment. It’s a risk to leave a high paying job to apply to business school in the hope of landing an even better job two years later (and after dropping a lot of money on b-school). What if the recruiters just aren’t there at the end of b-school? It’s likely that these trepidations have led to a decline in business school applications this year.
And what kind of decline are we talking about? Well, according to a “Wall Street Journal” article on business school applications, “One-third of full-time M.B.A. programs reported drops of more than 10%, according to the survey, which included 649 M.B.A. and other business programs at 331 schools world-wide…Applications for [Harvard's] full-time M.B.A. class entering this fall slid 4% to 9,134 from a year earlier, helping to boost the school’s acceptance rate to 12% from 11%. Part-time programs are struggling to attract students, too, with 46% reporting declines in application volume this year. New York University’s Stern School of Business had a 9.8% drop in applicants to its part-time program this year.”
The business schools at highly competitive universities are also reporting that the quality of the applications hasn’t changed…only the quantity. This is consistent with what we’ve been saying about college admissions all along: While applications may increase year after year and the admission rates may drop, that doesn’t mean it’s more difficult to get in now than it was three years ago. Colleges recruit unqualified students to boost their numbers. Their applications don’t make it any more difficult to get in…they just help their rankings! And it’s always all about the rankings.