Admission to MBA Programs

MBA Admission, Getting Into MBA, MBA Admissions Process

MBA admission is about the name game. It’s about the name of one’s alma mater. It’s about the name of one’s employer(s). Ivy League grads from companies like McKinsey fair well (photo credit: Bryan Y.W. Shin).

Do Ivy League grads stand a better chance for admission to MBA programs like the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business than do state school grads? You bet. A common misconception among prestigious business school applicants is that a 4.0 GPA from the University of Alabama is better than a 3.5 at Princeton University. It’s just not the case and a “Fortune” article entitled “Wharton Admission: As Elitist as you’d Expect?” does a great job of pointing this out.

At Wharton, the name game matters. One in three first-year MBA students at Wharton graduated from one of the eight Ivy League colleges. According to “Fortune,” “The top 25 feeder schools make up two-thirds of the entire class. That leaves a very small window for everyone else.” But one’s alma mater is not the only name game played. Previous employer(s) matter a great deal too!

There are indeed feeder companies. And the local mom and pop bookstore is not one of them nor is that 50-person tech startup in Israel that may be successful, but ultimately, unknown to MBA admissions counselors. The feeder schools are companies we all know well – from McKinsey to Bain to Goldman Sachs to GE to Boston Consulting Group to JP Morgan – and this is unlikely to change in the near future. So, in many ways, it’s a self-selecting group because firms like McKinsey only hire Ivy League grads (literally with few exceptions!) not to mention they only hire and ultimately train the ones who they think have strong business potential. They want students who are going to earn a lot of money — because that will impact their “US News & World Report” rankings. As we tell our blog readers all the time, in the end it always comes down to the rankings.

According to “Fortune,” “McKinsey is not merely a feeder to Wharton, it is also the school’s top recruiter, having scooped up 44 MBAs — roughly the same number of McKinseyites (46) estimated to be in this year’s incoming class. Of course, some of those McKinsey alums came from the pool of high potential employees who are attending business school on the firm’s dime, with the caveat that they must return to the consultancy for a certain number of years or repay the cost of tuition.”

What do you think of these trends in admission to MBA programs? Do you think the self-selecting nature of MBA admissions should be changed? Let us know your thoughts by posting below!


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