GSB experiences slight decline in applications

By Margaret Ryznar

Applications to the Graduate School of Business (GSB) are down this year. While the exact numbers will not be available until September, it appears that the GSB, like its peer business schools, will have slightly fewer applicants than it did last year.

“We attribute this slight drop-off to the uncertainty among prospective students about the economy and the tensions in the Middle East,” said Don Martin, associate dean of admissions and financial aid for the GSB.

According to Martha Bratt, associate director of admissions and financial aid for the GSB, the poor economy has made potential applicants less interested in attending business school.

“People are reluctant to leave their jobs because they are fearful about the economy for the next few years–it makes more sense for them to keep their jobs rather than risk leaving them to attend business school,” Bratt said.

The shaky economy has not been the only deterrent for prospective GSB students. As a result of the current situation in Iraq, some international students–who normally account for about 30 percent of the total student body–are concerned about coming to the United States.

A tightening student visa process may also ultimately have a discernible impact on international students’ attendance at the school. Six students accepted in last year’s incoming class were unable to matriculate due to visa complications.

Nevertheless, this year’s drop-off in applications follows a record increase in applicants. Applications rose 70 percent last year, an increase that far exceeded that of other peer business schools, according to Bratt. “The GSB really increased its recruitment efforts last year and tried very hard to reach out to prospective students,” Bratt said.

The 70 percent increase yielded a statistically strong incoming class with an average undergraduate GPA of 3.4, and an average Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) score of 687.

“I think that many prospective students thinking about getting MBAs are putting the GSB on their radar screens,” Martin said. “And, not only are they putting the GSB on their radar screens, they are putting us at the top of their radar screens–people are discovering that we offer an amazing combination of education and opportunities.”

Statistics for this year’s class will not be available until the summer because the GSB uses a system with three application deadlines, and the last of which is March 21.

In addition to the salient increase in the number of applications last year, the GSB also saw the percentage of admitted students that chose to attend rise dramatically.

“Our yield percentage has gone from 38 percent for the class admitted in the fall of 1993 to 66 percent for the class that entered the GSB this year,” Martin said. “It is very likely that we may surpass 70 percent with the class that will enter the GSB next fall–this upward track of the yield percentage is incredibly positive.”

As part of its recruitment efforts, the GSB launched a Scholars Program last year for University of Chicago fourth-year undergraduates. In its inaugural year, the GSB received thirty-three applications from Chicago students, admitting eight.

“There seems to be a healthy interest in the program, but we won’t know the full impact until fall 2004 when the first of our admitted Scholars are eligible to enroll,” Bratt said. “This year, we have had more time to promote the program, with the help of CAPS, and have participated in the job fairs, career exploration night, a business school panel, and a Scholars Program information session.”

As an incentive for Chicago students to apply, the GSB waives the application fee of $200 for students who apply to the Scholars Program.

“The GSB recognizes the intellectual rigor and particular talents of the students in the College,” Bratt said. “It made sense to launch this program here in our backyard, [since] we do look for a strong performance in a rigorous curriculum.”

Academic achievement is not the only quality sought out by the GSB. Participation and leadership in student organizations are also important, as well as approximately four to five years of work experience prior to entrance into the GSB. Bratt added that the GSB seeks students from a variety of disciplines and does not require any undergraduate business courses.