Competition still tough for MBA programs

Aggressive types will succeed in competitive MBA programs.

After the economy went south in 2008, many laid-off workers headed for business school to beef up their resumes while waiting for things to improve. The number of applicants has fallen from that peak, so is it easier to get into an MBA program now? Not necessarily.

Penn State’s Smeal College of Business, for instance, has responded by admitting a smaller number of students. “We admitted 79 students this fall, compared to 107 last year,” reports Stacey Dorang Peeler, director of admissions. “The quality of our students is more important than the number — we want to make sure we have a good mix.”

Temple’s Fox School of Business actually saw an increase in enrollment this fall. Vice dean Rajan Chandran attributes this to marketing. “Instead of just getting students from this region, we’re seeing more from elsewhere on the East coast, the rest of the country and the rest of the world,” he says. Temple’s longstanding commitment to international study has helped attract students from China, India and elsewhere.

Both Peeler and Chandran agree that there is a slight tendency toward younger students, as recent graduates try to upgrade their credentials in a still-tough job market. “You can’t benefit from an MBA program without a few years of real-world experience, though,” Chandran says, so only the very best candidates will be admitted directly from undergraduate school.

Military salute

Former members of the military often do well in MBA programs, according to Peeler. “Their leadership experience makes them a natural in business,” she says. And of course, GI Bill benefits can cover most education expenses at a state school like Penn State or Temple.

With the the war in Iraq ending at the end of this year, more veterans are expected  to begin — or continue — their education when they return.


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