There’s a lot of talk about the holistic approach admission directors take to evaluate applications. How much weight is really put on different aspects of the application during evaluation? If the approach is so holistic, then why do so many applicants with low GMAT scores get dinged compared to applicants with high GMAT scores?
Here’s how it works: Admissions committees do review entire applications in order to admit the best candidates and create classes that are diverse. So while an admissions committee’s approach is holistic, the process is still highly competitive. Applicants are still competing with each other and the numbers count.
The GMAT is one indicator that helps an admissions director determine if the candidate will succeed in the program academically. It is also an indicator that they must report to the media for rankings. And the higher the ranking, the more candidates want to attend that specific program.
If you’re looking at schools with an average GMAT of 650, then you’ll probably see more diversity of GMAT scores in the acceptance pool (i.e. lots of applicants with lower GMAT scores will still get accepted). But if you’re looking at programs with an average GMAT over 700, then it’s true – you’ll see fewer applicants getting accepted with low scores, even though the applications are looked at holistically. What are these schools’ incentives to admit candidates with a 650 or lower? [If you want to figure out which programs you have the best chance of getting into, check out the Business School Selectivity Index.]
Perhaps, the adcom is certain the candidate can succeed in the program academically, but more importantly the candidate offers something else in his or her background that is so amazing that they are willing to overlook a GMAT score well below their average.
If, however, the candidate looks like thousands of other candidates, the adcom will accept the candidates with the highest GMAT. The consumers (students) demand it, the suppliers (faculty) demand it, and the ultimate customers (hiring companies) demand it.
So while you can’t guarantee admission to your dream school regardless of GMAT score, just as you can’t guarantee anything in life, you can and should position yourself strategically to stand out in the applicant pool.
By Natalie Grinblatt Epstein, an accomplished Accepted consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey. Want Natalie help you get accepted to business school? Click here to get in touch!