Will MBA See Open Enrollment Than Selection?


With a proliferation of MBA programs in one or two-year formats to blended and online learning, will graduate management education see more of open enrollment than a select few making it past the admission committees?

Sangeet Chowfla, president and CEO of the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) does not think so. In an AACSB blog post, he explains why B-schools are not yet ready to abandon ‘selection’ that acts as a sieve to separate the right kind of candidates from among the thousands of applicants.

Why Adopt a Selective Approach?

  • Selection enters the picture as soon as you decide to enroll for an MBA and draw up a list of schools that you hope would fulfill your educational and career aspirations
  • As for the schools themselves, they are looking for candidates who could bring in the best mix of capability, experience, drive and diversity to fit within that program
  • Enrollment-to application ratio for full-time MBA programs remains significantly high. In other words, demand exceeds supply
  • This is despite the disruption caused by online or shorter duration programs leading to a decline in application volumes for full-time MBA programs in the United States

Chowfla quotes a recent GMAC analysis of 246 U.S. full-time MBA programs that disclose enrollment data on U.S. News & World Report’s website. It showed that out of 119,338 applications only 18,829 were selected, a ratio of 16%. The offer-to-application ratio was somewhat higher, at 31%, reflecting the need for a higher offer rate to offset yield losses as candidates apply to multiple schools.

Even in so-called less selective part-time MBA programs, the enrolled-to-application ratio was 58%, implying that there were nearly double the number of applications than available seats, he says.

While ratios will vary for individual schools, the need for schools to choose—or select—clearly still exists. This selection is often to find the best, Chowfla points out.

Some More Reasons

Chowfla says the schools also consider the following reasons:

  • Whether the candidate is adequately prepared for the rigors of the program. If they have the reasoning, critical thinking, verbal or quantitative abilities to keep pace and contribute in the class
  • Candidates in management programs are expected to learn from each other and draw benefits from the diversity of thought and experiences
  • The candidate should be capable of completing the program
  • They should have good employment prospects after completing the program as the school rankings are adversely affected by negative outcomes
  • Signalling impact on candidates and employers. The brand value of a school and quality of the candidate and career progression affect the standing in the long run.

Chowfla concludes by saying that in today’s environment of enrollment pressure, the inclination to potentially open up and reduce the burdens of the admission process is natural. However, by staying true to selectivity, even in a dynamic, changing GME environment, schools can maintain and increase their signalling value, enhance cohort cohesiveness, improve employment outcomes, and protect the long-term value proposition of their brand.

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