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Current Trends in MBA Admissions

As Wisdom Mart Director, Aditya Jain eats standardized tests for breakfast. While most people enjoy waking up to a cup of coffee and the Metro section, Aditya likes his eggs scrambled with a side of data sufficiency questions. And though that might not exactly be known as the breakfast of champions, Aditya has scored perfectly on every major standardized test.

Aditya founded Wisdom Mart to help GMAT test takers maximize their scores by combining the latest adaptive learning technology with in-depth knowledge of how the test was actually designed.

In addition to being an expert in adaptive learning and standardized tests, Aditya is also extremely familiar with the MBA admissions process. Here’s what he had to say about current trends in MBA admissions

What can you tell us about current trends in MBA admissions?

More people are applying and acceptance rates are going down. GMAT test-taker volume was up over 10% in 2008 alone. With more applicants, schools can afford to be much more selective in terms of whom they admit. Additionally, the applicant pool is generally trending slightly younger, as the number of test-takers under 24 has risen almost 50% in the last three years.

Will the recent increase in applications make it difficult for the average student to get accepted into a good MBA program? 

Yes. Professionals who have been in the workforce for several years are suddenly out of a job or getting their salaries slashed, so they are looking to further credential themselves by going back to school. That expanded pool puts more pressure on those applicants that are not bringing the full package to the table. And though there are more options for those seeking an MBA than ever before, it is becoming more difficult to gain acceptance to a top MBA program.

Should MBA applicants be using a special admissions strategy now that the economy has changed and the competition is heating up? 

Control the stuff you can control: kill the GMAT and work really hard on your application essays. GMAT scores are good for five years, so start studying early: there is no good excuse to be unprepared. With applications, it’s critical to form a consistent narrative that shows you are prepared for business school and are ready to contribute to environment there. Make sure they understand exactly who you are.

GMAT scores have always been an important part of the business school application process. Do you think admissions committees will put more weight on scores to narrow down the growing pool of MBA applicants? 

Yes. The number of applicants is at an all-time high, which does two things to admissions departments: gives them that many more applicants to consider and that much less time to consider each application. Therefore, the GMAT is the fastest way to differentiate between applications, so it takes on increased weight in the application process.

If applicants get a low GMAT score the first time around, should they retake the test? 

Definitely. However, students must make a concerted effort to prepare for the GMAT the second time. The test is designed so that individuals who take the test multiple times will get close to the same score every time. If that happens to you, you are merely reinforcing that your first score is your true score. So prepare very hard that second time.

An increasing number of MBA programs are allowing applicants to submit GRE scores instead of GMAT scores. If applicants are given the option, which test should they choose? Is one test easier than the other? Less expensive? More respected? 

Take the GMAT. The math is harder and thus more respected by admissions staff. Doing great at GRE math doesn’t prove you’re great at math, but doing badly proves you aren’t.

Some of the people who have been downsized recently want to go back to school but worry about how they will address their lack of a job with admissions committees. Do you have any advice for the downsized professional? 

Focus on positives. The economic environment is what it is right now, so just focus on accomplishments at past jobs, volunteer work, professional organizations and certifications, etc. Just build a profile they can believe in.