Business School Apps Are Down 10% — Huh? Here’s Why.
1:45 pm, September 13th | by Hillary Reinsberg
Usually, when the job market faces tough times (as it is now, obviously), business school applications shoot up. But that’s not the case right now. Applications to top business schools are way down, actually. Is what was once seen as the two-year ticket to mogul-dom going out of fashion?
According to the Wall Street Journal, applications for M.B.A. programs are down nearly 10 percent this year — and it’s the third year in a row that they’re following that trend. While the number of applications to undergraduate programs continue to rise, business school applications, even at the cream of the crop, are down. Harvard Business School applications got 4 percent fewer applications, while NYU’s Stern took a whopping 9.8-percent hit.
Reason all you want — we think we have a few explanations.
Getting an M.B.A. has historically been seen as a credential that will get you to the next level at a job, on Wall Street or at a large corporation. At top investment banks, for example, the degree is known as a good way to get out of the grunt work-laden analyst role and step into the shoes of an associate — a big hike in terms of both pay and importance. With banks slashing employees right and left, though, the appeal of those mid-level jobs is not what it used to be. Leaving the workforce, and then trying to get back into a job that’s either a) not hiring, or b) where you have the possibility of getting the ax in the first few months, carries too much risk. That’s not say young people are going to shy away from the workforce – in fact, quite the opposite. It would make sense that they’d stay put, earning money and holding on to a job, rather than going back to school, probably in a different city, for two years, and starting the job hunt all over again.
And there’s another thing. As we discussed yesterday, the promise of entrepreneurship is as in vogue as ever for those who aspire to financial success. If you’re trying to get a hotshot VC to back your web startup, an M.B.A. might not do much. You can become a billionaire mogul in your undergrad dorm room or studio apartment, right? In reality, it’s unlikely, but a few much-publicized examples have made it seem like an attainable (and fun) reality. And if you’re going to become a startup success — you’d better do it now, before someone else steals your idea.
Or, okay — maybe it’s just that the applications have gotten…weird.
That all being said, if you do want that spot at Harvard or Wharton, this year would probably be a good time to apply.