Scott Edinburgh
June 10, 2023

What is on Admissions Directors' Minds

In June 2023 Personal MBA Coach attended the annual Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) conference at Columbia Business School and the Yale School of Management. The Personal MBA Coach team was delighted to meet with admissions directors from top MBA programs including Harvard Business SchoolStanford GSBMIT SloanChicago BoothColumbia Business SchoolKellogg, Yale School of Management, Tuck, Duke Fuqua, UVA DardenBerkeley HaasMichigan RossINSEAD, Texas McCombs and others at our annual conference.

The conference gives Personal MBA Coach a great opportunity to catch up with top schools, find out what is on their minds, discuss top MBA application trends, and gain a sneak peek into the 2023-2024 MBA application season.

Throughout the 4-day conference admissions directors answered many of our applicants’ most pressing questions. Now that the AIGAC conference is over, Personal MBA Coach would like to share a few of the most interesting ones:

Question: Should I Use ChatGPT to write my essays?

Answer: The short answer here is no. While AI has many exciting applications, you should not plan to use CHATGPT to write your essays.

Some top MBA programs are implementing strict honor codes, banning the use of software such as ChatGPT altogether. Others have not yet announced policies, and one or two schools are allowing limited use of the software. However, regardless of the official stance, nearly all admissions directors agree that artificial intelligence cannot generate authentic essays that truly tell your personal story. Those looking for shortcuts in developing their applications are likely to miss valuable opportunities to shine and could face honor code violations.

Question: Do I need to have overcome a large trauma to write a compelling MBA essay?

Answer: No! In fact, a number of admissions directors are growing tired of reading trauma essays, particularly ones that have little to no connection to the applicant’s reason for applying to business school. While few topics were deemed to be off limits, admissions directors stressed that the essays are your chance to tell YOUR story and how an MBA fits in. While overcoming adversity could be integral to your own educational journey, this is often not the case. So instead of reaching to think of a traumatic story to tell, consider what really makes you unique. (For more details on how to develop a compelling personal story, check out the Articulating Your Personal Story blog). We cannot stress the value of authenticity enough.

Question: Should I plan to take the GMAT Focus this year?

Answer: Most likely not. We were fortunate to gain insight from GMAC during the conference about the new test and how it differs from the traditional GMAT. We also learned how many admissions directors are viewing this new test.

While preparation material was just released by GMAC this week, the GMAT Focus is not currently being offered. Registration for this new exam does not open until August 29, 2023, and testing will begin in Q4. However, the traditional GMAT should be available long enough to allow nearly all round 1 and round 2 applicants to take the existing GMAT exam. In fact, Harvard Business School has already announced that it will not accept the GMAT Focus for non-2+2 applicants this year. We would not be surprised if other schools make similar announcements. While most schools, particularly those with round 3 (or late round 2) deadlines will have no choice but to take the new exam, the general consensus was that those targeting this application cycle should plan to take the current GMAT.

Question: What is the best way to engage with top MBA programs?

Answer: While there is no one best way to learn about your target programs, nearly all admissions directors stressed the importance of putting in the time and effort to learn more about their programs. Many of the virtual engagement options that were launched during the pandemic remain, and visiting campus is NOT a must. Plus, admissions directors are back on the road this year. Take the time to find out when your target schools will be in your area.

Finally, use students as a resource. Columbia Business School, for example, spoke extensively about the school’s Hermes Society with over 200 student members while Yale SOM has a similar Student Ambassadors program.

A man helps a student with her letters of recommendation for an MBA program

Question: Do I need to have solid goals before I apply?

Answer: At Personal MBA Coach, developing compelling goals with our clients is a crucial part of our process. While not all schools require applicants to outline their goals in the application, the majority of admissions directors recommended that candidates have a solid understanding of their target path, why it makes sense for them and how they will get there.

However, regardless of whether they are asking candidates about their goals, all admissions directors recognize that your goals may very well change on campus, and this is expected. So, take the time to think about how the MBA fits in with your overall path, but rest assured that this path is NOT set in stone.

Looking for more insight? The Personal MBA Coach blog will be providing school-specific advice on how you handle each business school’s MBA applications.

Need help crafting your 2023 MBA Application Strategies? Reach out to Personal MBA Coach to find out more about our Comprehensive MBA Packages and how we helped our clients earn more than $10M in scholarships last year.