By Chioma Isiadinso
MBA admissions is a market like any other. If you want to apply successfully, you need to understand the nature of the market, as well as your position relative to your competition.
Staying up-to-date on current admissions trends will help you prepare a more effective application. Here are three trends to keep an eye on for the 2017 MBA application season:
1. FinTech is Booming
FinTech – short for financial technology – is the hot new buzzword in MBA programs these days. Schools are adding Fin Tech courses, recruiting professors skilled in FinTech, and actively seeking applicants who are looking for a position in the disruptive field that blends up-to-the-minute technology with the world of finance.
If you're going to business school in order to break into finance, you absolutely need to know about FinTech. Regardless, if you're looking for a role with a startup or a traditional bank, FinTech will be a defining element of the market over the next decade. As you're looking into potential target schools, try to evaluate their curriculum and faculty to make sure that you're going to be getting functional experience within FinTech.
2. Fewer, More Focused Essay Questions
Gone are the days when prospective MBA applicants were asked to answer a slew of essay questions about every aspect of their personal and professional life leading up to business school. These days, admissions committees have narrowed down the scope of their questions. In many cases, schools like Harvard Business School are asking only a single MBA essay question. Some schools, like Chicago Booth, have gone even further in setting aside the traditional essay question for an alternate format.
When you're deciding on where and how many business schools to apply for, pay attention to what their essay questions look like. Don't be lulled into thinking that fewer questions necessarily translates to less time spent – the depth and subtlety of the questions that schools are asking these days requires a good deal of careful thought.
3. Decreasing Applicant Pools
As the economy has been recovering, business school applications in the US are facing a natural decline. Companies are sponsoring fewer candidates, and applicants themselves are more and more frequently opting to postpone business school in favor of their current employment. Corporate sponsorship is also on the decline, so students are more frequently needing to find ways to self-finance once they get admitted.
Before you decide where to apply, give some real thought to your personal brand and what sets you apart from other MBA applicants. Large programs aren't seeing as much of a drop in admissions that smaller programs are, so if you're applying to a top school, you can't necessarily count on a less competitive pool.
It's as important as ever to understand your differentiators and make a strong case as to why you'll be a good fit for the schools where you're applying. And if you're unlikely to get any financial assistance from your employer, be sure to look for MBA scholarship opportunities that will help defray the cost of business school.
She's also a former Harvard Business School admissions officer and the author of the Best Business Schools' Admissions Secrets.
Chioma publishes on the topics of personal branding, leadership development and business school admissions for college students, young professionals, entrepreneurs and executives.