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The Current State of Business School Admissions

Thanks to a robust economy and the allure of high tech start up opportunities, business school applications are down a bit from their recent, historical high levels. Application drops were reported for the 2017-2018 application cycle at 70% of full-time MBA programs. More remarkable was that the drop affected the very top schools with Harvard Business School reporting a 4.5% drop, Stanford reporting a 4.6% drop and Wharton reporting a 6.7% drop in applications. Of course, it has always remained very highly competitive at the very top business schools and their placement reports continue to justify the intense applicant competition as well as the hefty tuition.

B-School Applications Fall as Economy Rises

You may have noticed lately the economic news about the strong employment and stock markets. The economic news is good and many applicants wonder: does it affect my b-school chances?

Time and time again, it’s been shown that in periods of economic boom that b-school applications go down. Why is that?

More young professionals feel that they can don’t need an MBA when jobs and advancement opportunities are plentiful. If you are applying this year, the good news is that average MBA salaries are north of $150,000 and even higher at the top MBA programs.

Continue to stay on top of job trends in the business world. It will do you no good to construct an application theme around a business sector that is falling on hard times. Be realistic about the career path you want to follow and make sure it’s not a path that is sliding into harder times ahead. By being honest with your choice of direction, you’re showing the admissions committees that you are aware of current events and trends and know what you are getting into.

The bottom line on business school timing is that you should go for your degree when the timing is right for you. Your MBA education is one of the largest investments you’ll make in your life. With a realistic look at your career path and answering some hard questions, you’ll know whether the time to strike is at hand.

The Benefits of a B-school Education

Ironically, one reason that MBA applicant pools declined for several years in the early ‘noughts’ is that the economy was picking up. It’s easier for people and companies to commit to business school when the economy is sluggish. When the economy is trudging along and growth is stagnant, employers are unable to find growth opportunities that allow their star employees to learn management or contribute to productivity. Consequently, the chance to spend two years at business school sharpening job skills, improving a resume, and expanding networks looks attractive, both to prospective applicants and to their employers.

By contrast, when the economy is growing, prospective applicants may be faced with the prospect of giving up business opportunities if they want to go to business school. It can be a very difficult choice to make.

One way around this dilemma is to enroll in a part-time or executive MBA program. Part-time programs allow professionals to earn a degree by taking evening and weekend classes while working full-time. Executive MBA programs allow students with the right amount of work experience to earn a degree in as little as one year, through an intensive program.

Accelerated MBA programs are another option that can cut the amount of time needed to earn a graduate business degree. 4 of the top U.S. business schools now offer an accelerated MBA program that allows students to earn an MBA in just 12 to 16 months. These programs differ from EMBA programs in that they are open to applicants with less work experience. They can be an attractive choice for people who do not need an internship to achieve their career goals and who need to minimize the amount of time they spend away from the workplace.

The traditional two-year MBA program continues to offer unique advantages, though. It allows students to focus all their energy and intellect on their studies, and promotes network-building in a way that part-time and executive programs do not. Full-time programs also provide room for internships, which are increasingly important in the job market. (A recent GMAC Corporate Recruiter Survey found that about a third of new MBA hires went to work for companies where they had interned). The two intensive “boot camp” years of a traditional MBA program will leave you well versed in such areas as finance, management, marketing, and strategy. You will also come away with a whole new way to analyze business issues and exposure to powerful techniques to help sell yourself to your full potential.

Moreover, an MBA can give you additional career flexibility and help you switch occupations. In fact, an MBA from a top business school can increase your earnings potential by over 150%. It would be pretty tough to do that by staying with your current employer for an additional 2 years – even in a booming economy!

MBA Career Choices

In the short term, an education from a top business school can help you gain valuable work experience with an employer such as a consulting firm, investment bank, venture capital group, tech company or exciting new start up. You will also have opportunities to work for a more “stable” Fortune 500 company in the business planning, investor relations, or corporate development departments.

In the long term, these valuable experiences can certainly help you position yourself for a senior-level management position. Even in the best of business times, an MBA is an excellent investment.