Fewer Applicants: A Blessing or a Curse?

If you’ve been stressing out over your quickly-approaching application deadlines, today is your lucky day. You can finally take a moment to put down your red editing pen, close your GMAT prep book, and take a nice, deep breath (or a nap) because this year, you’ve got a lot less competition to get in to the b-school of your choice. According to a survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), 2/3 of the full-time MBA programs saw a major decrease in applications. On average, the application rate for most full-time MBA programs has dropped anywhere from 15-20% compared to last year, and that could have a huge impact on your admittance.

Now, before you plan your celebratory “yay-I-just-might-get-into-Stanford” party, you need to know a few things.

First off, the number of applicants for accounting and finance programs has actually increased by 70-80% this year, so just be aware that this decrease only applies to full-time MBA programs concentrated in business.

Second off, even though applications are down, the quality of applicants is up. According to the study, the academic credentials and profiles of 2011 MBA applicants were of a much higher caliber than back in 2010. How? Why? Well, not only has there has been an 30% increase in applicants from Asia (and with that, a big jump in GMAT scores) but all applicants are coming to the table with more work experience, more extra-curriculars and more…well…just more. So, sure, even though you’re no longer competing against as many applicants, you’re competing against better applicants.

So, what does this mean for you? It means you’ve got to be prepared and you’ve got to be smart. When it comes to your essays and interviews, you need to show admissions officers not just why you’re “a good fit” for the program, but why you’re “the fit” for the program. Be unique, be specific. Prove to them that your admittance will benefit their school in the long run and show them what sets you apart from the hundreds (or at this point, dozens) of other applicants.

Play your cards right and you’ll be successful no matter how many applicants you’re competing with.

The Tuesday Q&A: Can I Tell Personal Stories in My Application Essays?