Reflecting on trends that impacted graduate admissions in 2022, Linda Abraham shares her predictions for 2023 and offers an action plan for those planning to apply in the new year. [Show Summary]
Thanks for joining me for today’s solo show. I’m going to review a few trends from 2022 and also attempt to inspire you for the upcoming year. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org when my predictions prove wrong in the course of the year.
Predictions: More law schools will withdraw from U.S. News rankings [1:16]
I predict that more law schools will withdraw from U.S. News rankings.
Will the rankings influence end with the withdrawal of these schools? I actually don’t think so.
U.S. News will use publicly available data and still rank programs. Its rankings will continue to influence admissions, recruiting, and applicant decisions. But are they going to hold as much sway as they have in the past? I don’t know. That’s hard to say. I don’t think the U.S. News is going to just stop ranking schools. I don’t think applicants are going to stop looking at rankings, and I don’t really think schools are going to stop being influenced by rankings. Perhaps a little less so in the past, but I think you’re going to see changes on the margins in that segment.
What about other segments of the higher education market?
I don’t think medical schools are going to stop ranking or participating in the U.S. News ranking. I also think that the rankings are a little bit less influential in the med school arena than they are in law schools or business schools.
It’ll be really interesting to see if business schools withdraw from the rankings. Certainly, the admissions directors there have no greater love of rankings than the law school admissions directors and deans.
I think if you see the M7 schools withdraw, you might see a trend very similar to what you’ve seen in the law school market, where it’s the elite programs that have largely withdrawn, and the lower-down ones are not withdrawing yet. There are some that have but not that many.
Prediction: More experimentation with test options and waivers [3:05]
What about test optionality? That has been a trend that’s been growing and increasing over the last several years. It really took off with COVID. I don’t think you’re going to see much change in the law school space this year. I think you will see it if, as anticipated, the ABA approves making tests optional for its accredited programs. I think you’re going to see more experimentation in the grad and MBA market with test optionality. And you may also see, throughout the graduate and undergraduate arenas, acceptance for a larger variety of tests.
Many law schools are accepting the GRE in addition to the LSAT. In the business school world, you’re seeing widespread acceptance of the GRE or the GMAT to the extent that the test is required. You’re seeing more waivers. You’re also seeing greater acceptance of the Executive Assessment, which was originally designed for Executive MBA programs. And at some schools, you’re seeing them basically saying, whatever has an alphabet soup in it is fine.
I think you’re going to see more and more experimentation. You’ll see more waiver options and there’s been a lot of experimentation with that in the B school market. I’m not sure you’re going to see wholesale test optionality at the elite programs.
I think med schools will stick with the MCAT. It has some correlation to performance on the USMLE, which is obviously the test that doctors have to take at the end of medical school. And medical schools very legitimately want to know that the people they admit are going to perform in medical schools.
Grad schools are all over the map outside the professional designations that I’ve just discussed. Some are going to require a GRE or another test; some won’t. Again, a lot of experimentation is going on.
Prediction: Application volumes will soon increase [5:03]
What about application volume? When the US or the world goes into a recession, unemployment typically increases, and application volume and competition for graduate school seats also increase. So far, unemployment is still pretty low in the United States
If the job market remains tight, application volume will probably remain low for certainly for the remainder of this cycle, which is the 2022-2023 cycle and maybe even into the 2023-2024 cycle. I don’t think so though. I think unemployment will increase and therefore, application volume will increase. This will be for all graduate categories: business school, law school, med school, you name it. When the economy is in the tank, it’s a great time to go to graduate school, whatever your profession is.
I don’t know that schools will hit the kind of application volume highs that they hit at the beginning of COVID lockdowns, but I think you are going to see if a recession does hit, that application volume will increase. My suspicion is that you’re going to see this either with late rounds at business schools or, more likely, the next application cycle across the board.
What to make of these predictions [6:26]
What do you take from all this?
Whether law schools are in or out of rankings is something that gets headlines, but frankly, it really shouldn’t affect you that much. You should be making your own rankings. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. U.S. News is a great source of data that you can use to compare law schools on specific metrics, but that shouldn’t be the sole determinant of where you apply. Whether you’re applying to law school, business school, med school, or whatever program it is, you should be doing your own ranking.
Test choice and test optionality are definitely good for applicants. Having these options could change your application process and give you a bit more control than you would have if one test was definitely required by the schools you’re applying to. But even for law school, these changes won’t come until 2025, at the earliest. Frankly, if your grades don’t show academic ability or don’t reflect what you feel is your academic ability, then you will probably need to take a test. Take the one that shows you at your best. You’ll want to take it because schools want to know that they’re admitting people who can do the work.
The anticipated increase in application volume will affect your chances of acceptance. There are so many seats in a specific school. They get more applications and competition becomes more intense. That could influence your school choice as well as where you get in. But again, that is something you don’t have a lot of control over.
That’s a review of 2022 and some of the major changes or influences that I see on applicants from last year.
Perspective for applications in 2023 and beyond [8:06]
Another purpose of this solo episode is to share my perspective on this whole process. I’ve been an admissions consultant since 1994. I’ve seen great applicants come through, mediocre applicants, and sometimes some not-so-good applicants. Most applicants that I’ve dealt with are really wonderful, talented people.
I responded to a post on Student Doctor Network, which is a forum for medical school applicants, in September. This post really, really bothered me. I’m going to share the post with you and what I feel is wrong with this post.
So on the Student Doctor Network, also known as SDN, this fellow wrote:
“Two pre-interview invitation rejections and no interview invites. Sick of seeing so many people I know who are mediocre and disingenuous get consideration with record speed. Feels like no matter what I do, it’s never good enough. I’m considering just pursuing a doctorate in science and leaving the shell game alone.”
Obviously, this fellow was frustrated.
For those of you who are not familiar with the medical school application process, interview invitations are typically sent out between September and February. It can start a little earlier, but September is pretty typical, and this was posted towards the end of September.
I responded to this fellow with some sympathy, but I also wrote:
“For your information, whether you get an interview invitation in September or January, as long as that interview invitation ends up with an acceptance, it doesn’t matter when the invitation comes and whether you apply once or more than once. As long as you get in, you’ll still spend the vast majority of your working life as a physician.
“So whether you go for a Ph.D. or become a physician depends not on whether others get interview invitations or acceptances but on how badly you want to be a physician versus the Ph.D. in science. They can provide very different careers and lifestyles. It also can be fairly difficult and competitive to get into Ph.D. programs.
“Finally, the people you feel are mediocre and disingenuous may have something going for them in terms of their achievements and insight into their experiences that you are unaware of. It happens all the time. They also may have presented their qualifications and fit more effectively via their application.
“Don’t automatically blame ‘the system’ and fail to take responsibility. Doing so will prevent you from improving what needs to be improved, whether you need to apply to med school or decide to pursue a different path.”
Why has this post from someone I never met stuck with me and bothered me so much?
It reflects an attitude that I feel is very disempowering and just unhealthy. I firmly believe that graduate school is a means to an end. Anybody who has listened to this podcast knows that’s what I think. First, you determine what you most want to do and the education needed to achieve that goal. Then you figure out if your goal is worth the effort and resources required to attain it and go for it. But realize that the application process and the study or the program of study you’re trying to get into are means to an end. They are not an end in themselves.
So whether you go for plan A or plan B, and whether that’s becoming a business person, a lawyer, a doctor, whatever it is, it should not depend on whether someone you feel is worthy or not is invited to interview. That should be really irrelevant to your decision-making process.
It should not depend on whether you get an invitation to interview at the beginning or end of the evaluation process.It should not depend on whether you agree with the admissions committee’s decisions vis-à-vis others or not. It should depend on your goal. That should be your starting place and your guiding North Star throughout this process.
Furthermore, this fellow was comparing himself to other individual applicants that he knew. Please, please, please don’t do that. Just stop it. Don’t do it. It’s a big mistake. You may not see something in the other applicant that makes them highly qualified for their goal or perhaps they want to go into an area of your field for which they are well suited, and you are poorly suited and vice versa.
Your information could easily be incomplete. Alternatively, you can be completely correct about their fitness for their goal however, they did a better job than you did of presenting themselves in the application.
Let’s also face it, this is not a perfect system. There are times when somebody less deserving might be admitted than somebody who is more deserving. That’s just reality. That’s life. By blaming the system and the unfairness of it all, you relieve yourself of all responsibility as well as any agency and ability to improve and change the outcome.
That was the most troubling part of the post for me. This individual had obviously done a lot of work. I think he was a re-applicant. But when you talk about the system, in other words, vague circumstances beyond your control that are definitely out there and everybody has to deal with, you can’t do anything. You can’t change. What you need to do as an applicant, whether first-time or re-applicant and not getting interview invitations, is focus on what you can change, influence, and control to achieve your goals.
Steps to take now for your 2023 applications [13:58]
If you’re a current applicant, assume rejection until you are admitted. Prepare for reapplication so that you’re constantly improving your qualifications. They’re not mutually exclusive but one will assist the other. Do everything you can to get admitted to this cycle. So can you improve your qualifications at this point, even if you’re applying now? Or if you’re beyond the point where you can improve your qualifications for this current cycle, then prepare for reapplication.
Can you improve the presentation of your qualifications if you need to reapply? Because a successful application requires good, competitive qualifications and a successful presentation of those qualifications. Did you aim too high? Should you change your target schools?
Finally, you do have to ask the question, and that is, do you still want the goal you originally set for yourself so much that you were willing to take the steps necessary to achieve it from this point in time going forward? Not what happened six months ago or a year ago, but at this point in time.
I’m going to be repeating myself here a little bit, but when or whether people you feel are worthy or unworthy receive interview invitations or acceptances – that’s something you have zero control over. Focus on what you can influence. Focus on what you can control. That’s your qualifications and your presentation of those qualifications, as well as where you apply.
So that’s my message to you as you dive into 2023. Empower yourself by focusing on what you can influence, change and, most importantly, improve.
One of the things that you can definitely influence and control completely is when you start the process. Yes, folks, it’s that time. If you plan to apply in the summer or fall of 2023 and have not started, start today. Start now. Move forward. Begin your test prep if it’s required for your particular course of study. Begin school research or advance school research. Take notes that you’ll be able to refer to. Consider journaling about your own experiences so that you will have material for essays and interviews.
Most importantly, assess which of your qualifications need improvement and start working on them and engage with an Accepted consultant as soon as possible to map out your plan and application timeline. Yes, we will work with you later in the application cycle, assuming we have availability. But you will get so much more out of the collaboration, assistance, the guidance if you engage with us early. You have no idea how starting early can improve your qualifications, your applications, and of course, the outcome.
To engage with an expert Accepted consultant, go to www.accepted.com.
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