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January 23, 2009

Back on Blog: Late round applications, HBS '75, and student loans

The last couple of months have been fun. I have had the chance to work with some really great clients in China, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Taiwan, the EU, and the US, but I have missed writing my blog. As of today, I am back on. The rest of January and February will be mostly about updating and adding new MBA interview posts, but here are some random things that I wanted to mention.

I am frequently asked about 3rd and 4th round applications, my general response is always this: If you want to go for Fall 2009 and the school is still taking applications, apply. Yes, the chances are not as good as applying in 1st or 2nd round, but it can't be helped. The reason schools have such late rounds is because they need them to fill their class. One can wait to apply for a later intake, but if you want to go earlier, with the exception of INSEAD, reapplication is viable at top programs, so the only thing you risk is rejection. Of course, if you don't apply, you will never know. Clearly, given the reduced odds, one would ideally want to apply to a safety school(s) and/or multiple programs.

By the way, when assessing what schools are really viable for late rounds, I think it is especially useful to look at their yield (percentage of accepted applicants who attend) because this really does indicate the relative likelihood that the school actually needs its later rounds to fill the class. Darden, for instance, had a 49% yield in 2008, which indicates to me that applying for the March 4th deadline is not insane. A. Compare that to HBS which has a yield of 91% and you can see why third round at HBS is significantly less likely than Darden. Still in 2008, one of my clients was accepted to HBS in the 3rd round.

Speaking of HBS, I am happy to celebrate the retirement of GEORGE BUSH, HBS '75. I should say from the outset that I don't necessarily think a school should be blamed for the actions of one student, but given the HBS mission to train leaders, I think it is fair enough to raise this issue. For an absolutely damning perspective on this, I strongly recommend A Damage Assessment: The First MBA Presidency and the Business Academy.” Whether HBS bears any responsibility for George Bush, I can't help feeling that the systematic failures of not only his administration, but of major financial institutions, as well as regulators (SEC re Madoff), point to a coming crisis in business education. If Enron resulted in the introduction of ethics education into the business curriculum, what sort of changes are necessary in light of the fact that some of the primary employers of graduates from top MBA programs are now in a state of crisis? Expect to see big curriculum changes over the next couple of years.

Regarding the financial crisis, international applicants who intend to study in the US, should read Alison Damast's "Loan Crisis Hits the MBA World" in BusinessWeek. The end of CitiAssist loans is proving to be as big an issue that I imagined it would be when I initially blogged about it last October. Damast's article makes for sober reading:

Replacing the loan programs has not proved easy. In the last two months, business schools from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School to Cornell's Johnson School have been scrambling to find alternatives for students, most with limited success so far. Of the schools that used to have the CitiAssist loan program—including Harvard Business School, the Wharton School, University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, the Chicago Booth School of Business, Columbia Business School and other leading schools—only MIT's Sloan School of Management has announced a replacement lender. A number of schools said they are hoping to work out new programs by the spring, but did not disclose any further details. Most schools require students to put down a deposit by early April or May, leaving schools with just a few months to find a solution.

Hopefully actual solutions will be in place, but given the decrease in endowments, most schools are likely to be unable to bootstrap their own solutions for funding international students. The article mentions that in addition to MIT, Stanford GSB also has a loan solution in place for international students.
If no solution to the loss of international student loan programs is found, I expect that it will be significantly easier to obtain admission for Fall 2010 for international applicants.

While international students will be able to get loans if they attend Stanford GSB, even this wealthy school is being impacted by the financial crisis. Stanford GSB has just announced that it is eliminating 49 jobs, 12% of its non-faculty workforce:
Stanford University’s endowment fund, which includes $1 billion for the business school , may fall 20 to 30 percent for the current fiscal year, according to school officials. If Stanford is taking this kind of hit, expect a number of other schools to reduce their headcount as well. Personally, I would start with the finance faculty. Just kidding, well maybe not. Anyway, if there are less finance jobs, I guess you probably don't need as many finance professors. Of course, maybe some of these profs can start teaching risk management and compliance courses.

By the way, if you want to get really depressed, I suggest reading this.

Questions? Write comments, but do not send me emails asking me to advise you on your application strategy unless you are interested in my consulting services. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to. Before emailing me questions about your chances for admission or personal profile, please see my recent post on "Why I don't analyze profiles without consulting with the applicant." If you are interested in my graduate admission consulting services, please click here.
-Adam Markus
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