credentialsAfter attending our annual AIGAC MBA admissions conference in Philly—and tweeting up a storm—I stand before you armed with insights directly from the mouths of the admissions directors who’ll be reading your future applications.

In attendance were Wharton, Columbia, Tuck, NYU Stern, Yale, Cornell Johnson, Texas McCombs, UNC and others—as well as representatives from GMAC, test prep companies big and small, and fellow AIGAC consultants deliberating the hot issues of today’s admissions process.

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • We first dissected AIGAC’s annual applicant survey results, administered by Huron Consulting Group and completed by this past year’s applicant pool.  Among the takeaways:  respondents spent 70-110 hours on their applications (plus another 21-30 hours on GMAT prep)!  50% scored a 700+ on the GMAT.  And 57% used an admissions consultant last year—99% of whom would recommend that future applicants do the same.
  • Of strong interest was the issue of candidates being asked to write their own recommendations—a definite admissions mistake.  (Our recent post “Securing the strongest MBA recommendations” tells you why, and offers our advice).  38% of survey respondents faced this very ethical dilemma last year.  Be on the lookout for additional mitigation efforts from the admissions office and know that they’re watching for this very closely.  In the admissions process (as in life), honesty is always the best policy.
  • (Looking to make the task easier on your recommenders?  Stanford, HBS, Yale and Darden now share a common set of recommendation questions.  To those schools: we applaud you!  May your colleagues soon follow suit.)
  • We also discussed the trend of the incredible shrinking admissions essay.  In 1997, we wrote eight essays to get accepted to Harvard Business School; today’s applicants will write zero or one.  Many schools have added non-traditional submissions including videos, PowerPoint slides, tables of contents, and even Pinterest pins.  Their goal is to reduce the burden on applicants and get straight to the heart of getting to know you.  A smart applicant though will also recognize the increased importance of delivering a comprehensive resume, eliciting colorful recommendations, holding an engaging interview, and finding a concise yet meaningful way to tell their story.
  • Finally, each admissions director shared with us the latest innovations and admissions insights at their MBA programs.  Do you know which career goal response sets off red flags for some admissions officers?  Or what Wharton is really looking for in their team-based interviews? Or whether you should submit your GMAT score online or by paper scan?
  • For these answers–or advice on how to tackle that tricky singular HBS essay, navigate the murky waters of recommendations, develop a truly captivating resume, or become one of those 99% of candidates who were glad that they used an MBA admissions consultant–please contact us at

(You can also find more of our insights from the conference on Twitter:  @shineadmissions  #AIGAC2013)

© Hillary Schubach, July 3, 2013, 4:57pm MT