Admissions Myths Destroyed: Alumni Get You In!

by on October 19th, 2009

I was visiting a top-5 MBA program a few months ago and asked the admissions staff a very direct question about alumni influence. A somewhat incredulous admissions official responded: “We get ten letters each year from [globally famous alumnus whose name mbaMission is withholding], telling us that this or that MBA candidate is the greatest thing since sliced bread. He gets upset when we don’t admit ‘his’ applicants, but what makes him think that he deserves ten spots in our class?”

Many MBA applicants fret about a lack of alumni connections and the myth abounds that it is who you know, not who you are. Of course, the latter is most important and a standout applicant who knows no one at all is still a standout applicant and should get in — just as a weak applicant who knows everyone is still a weak applicant and won’t get in. Clearly, there are extreme exceptions where influence can be exerted, but the “standard” applicant need not worry that every seat at top-MBA programs is taken by some unseen elite, before he/she even applies.

Remember, the admissions committees want to ensure that there is a diversity of ideas and experiences in the classroom. In every top MBA classroom, there will be people from different socio-economic backgrounds, nationalities, religions, professional backgrounds, ages, etc.  Harvard has 940 places in its class and the vast majority won’t know a CEO or the president of a country personally. Who knows? These days that could even be a liability.


  • Diversity? That's what worries me. Whenever I hear the word "diversity" thrown out I cringe. Nowadays the word "diversity" in higher education had eroded to the point that it actuallly means "affirmitive" action. Meritocratic admissions, anyone?

  • actually, schools like HBS are pretty big on defining diversity in terms of work experiences and academic backgrounds vs. just race/ethnicity standards. Most other top 10 schools operate the same way. Being a URM for the most part will not automatically get you in anywhere - period.

  • let's see. average gmat score of "URM" applicants is lower by more than 100 points than that of whites. average gpa of "URM" applicants is lower by more than 0.5 (on 4.0 scale) than that of whites. only about 1 or 2 out of URM students score over 700 on gmat. yet, at schools like harvard and other top 10 b-schools, "URM" students comprise about 8-9 % of class. what's going on here?? sure, as you stated being a urm for the "most" part will not automatically get one in a top b-school, but it definitely helps tons when a urm is a marginal student. to me being a "urm" means 110 bonus points on gmat and half-grade inflation on application. it's really unhealthy and counterproductive when the marginal urm students take away valuable and limited spots in a dream b-school from other much better-qualified students. do we hear any complaints from whites when NFL is 70% orm?? do we hear any complaints from whites when nba is almost 80% orm?? affirmitive action is illegal and unethical imo but it's here to stay. so what's the point of complaining, right? bettr to figure out ways to beat the system...

  • i meant to say, 1 or 2 out of "100" urm applicants score 700 or better on gmat (whereas roughly more than 10 out of 100 whites do the same)

  • In fact, if it was only on the basis of GMAT scores, most of the spots would be taken by Indian or Chinese nationals.

    Of course, then you might start with something like "America (MBA Schools) for the Americans"...

  • GMAT scores(and GPAs) should never be the sole criterion in determining qualifications of applicants. that's not my point. i hope you're not suggesting that urm applicants have such huge adavantages/better credentials in other areas as to make up for their clear deficiencies in test scores?? on the contrary i tend to think more often than not applicants with better academic credntials would have better presentation in ECs and life experiences, and so on, on their resumes. we all know what's going on with affirmitive actions. let's not try to deny that. but for how long should we continue with affirmitive action giving "special" treatment to urm applicants?? for 25 more years? for 50 more years? how about the resentment and antagonism from non-urm applicants who have to work extra hard to earn higher scores and build a stellar resume? Speaking of Asian applicants, i don't think their GMAT scores or GPAs are that much higher than those of whites as to make them stand out among all the applicants. the thing going against them might be what the adcom likes to term "soft" skills or lack thereof. yes, i know a great number of those people have excellent "soft" skills, but then a lot may not due to english being not their first language. my whole point is actually comes down to this; "productivity" lost due to affirmitive action. not just in schools, but once out in the real world. i'm sure you can figure out what i mean by that...just to show you that i'm not a narrow-minded or shallow person, i think it's great to see more people of color in higher ranks of military or top governmental positions. but you like to think that they actually "earned" their way to the top with a little help from affirmitive action rather than sole beneficiaries from being black or hispanic, right? what crosses your mind when you see African-American professors at harvard, stanford, or yale? Yep, they earned it and they deserve all the accolades and criticism they get...

    • The problem with people that argue against affirmative action is that they use words like “special treatment’ to form their shallow arguments. The truth is affirmative action was set up to correct past oppressions and to increase diversity in educational institutions. Plus affirmative action isn’t just for minorities it’s also includes all women. I will ask that before you make arguments like yours open up your history books to understand the trickle down effects that academic/social suppression can cause a certain race. Let’s face the fact that if affirmative action weren’t in place, business schools would never achieve the diversity they seek. (Country clubs anybody?). I personally would LOVE to go to school with people from ALL different backgrounds; the world is quickly becoming a global economy so get with the program buddy. I’m ashamed with myself for even debating this issue with someone that wants to go to Business School. (That’s why you are on this forum right?). Look around your workplace count the number of minorities in top positions and after you’ve done that...Count the number of Whites.

  • I think its for these reasons that GMAC doesnt release stats on performance, by specific ething groups or races. However I think everone here has a valid point. My questions is: What do any of these comments have to do with the above article?

  • I'm so tired of these hollow arguments...why is it always a comparison of some moronic, marginal, pr wholly unqualified minority taking a precious spot away from a obviously superior 750 scoring person of European descent? What if it's a qualified minority that, by doing well enough in school to even be in the conversation, has overcome a fraction of the pervasive inequities of their skin color or gender. What is they feel entitled to have a chance to compete for the same social and economic advantages that have historically been denied for centuries? Who will champion this cause? Affirmative action, which is not even practiced anymore on any measurable and public level, is a ethical concept designed to simply afford people a chance to compete for opportunities they would never otherwise have a chance to earn.

    So, just make sure you are that overqualified, 750 scoring "white" guy, and you won't have to worry that some idiot minority with a 2.9 GPA and a 670 GMAT keeps you out of Harvard.

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