Fortuna Featured in Financial Times Article About Innovation in MBA Admissions

July 07, 2015 | by Matt Symonds

In a recent Financial Times article, reporter Jonathan Moules writes about some of the latest changes that have been made in the admissions process for top MBA programs. For expert admissions insight he reached out to several members of the Fortuna Admissions team to help explain more about the changing nature of business school admissions. With the release of new b-school applications in June and July, now is timely to highlight some of the application trends and innovations observed this year.

Saying More with Less

In the past, b-school applications were longer and many schools required applicants to complete several lengthy essays. As Matt Symonds, co-director of Fortuna, explains in the article, “The bigger trend is for shorter applications. There [seems] to be this pressure with generation Y to reduce everything to a tweet, but each school has different reasons for making changes.” The article points out that at Harvard Business School, under the direction of Dee Leopold, the school has significantly reduced the number of admissions essays, from four in 2011 to just two for this year.

European business schools have also considered making changes to their essay formats, although the likes of INSEAD and LBS have maintained a longer list of questions. According to Fortuna’s Caroline Diarte Edwards, former Director of Admissions at INSEAD, “While many schools have been making great efforts to reduce essays and word count, I doubt essays will ever be completely eliminated from business school applications. They provide very useful context for the facts and figures of the candidate’s resume, and some valuable insights into the candidate’s personality and motivations. INSEAD has given a lot of thought to reducing the number of required essays (currently 2 career related essays, and 4 “motivation” essays), and has streamlined the application somewhat over the past few years, but otherwise the school prefers its lengthier format: they get a very complete view of the candidate, given the breadth of questions asked.”

Communicating your Story with Presentations

Other schools have incorporated different formats for applicants to share their personal stories, including the use of PowerPoint presentations. Chicago Booth asks candidates to share information about themselves in a four-slide presentation. This requires applicants to really focus on communicating key information clearly, concisely and effectively. Business schools are looking for applicants to be authentic and to share insights about who they are and how they would fit in to their respective b-school communities. For an application reader reviewing hundreds of applications, a presentation format can be a nice break from reading pages of long paragraph essays and a way for them to learn more about an applicant’s individuality.

Evaluating teamwork

At Wharton, the admissions office added its Team Based Discussion to the admissions process three years ago. This component is meant to simulate the type of experience MBA students would have in the classroom, as they are assigned to a small group to work on business cases and develop team recommendations. According to Judith Silverman Hodara, former Acting Director of Admissions at Wharton, “The Team Based Discussion (TBD) is a way for Wharton to simulate their classroom interaction with applicants, highlighting the ways that the collaborative culture operates in real-time. While applicants may worry that the half an hour allotted for the interaction is difficult to manage, and that it is dependent not on their own abilities but how the team functions as a group, Wharton recognizes that this is in fact how the real world works. You don’t get to always choose your team members, and you may be working under stressful conditions.”

Video essays and interviews

Business schools are increasingly using technology to expand their assessment options, and Kellogg, Yale SOM and Toronto Rotman are among those schools using video platforms to capture the ideas and thought processes of applicants from around the world. “Sharing your post-MBA career plans or accomplishments in a short video recording requires a level of confidence and ownership of your story,” says Matt Symonds. “The schools are looking at your presentation skills, spontaneity, and the ability to concisely respond to the question asked. Though you may regularly use Skype or other online communication tools with friends and colleagues, delivering a compelling response in 90 seconds requires practice to master this format.”

We can expect that schools will continue to incorporate new elements in the admissions process, including more video and social media components, as they strive to recruit the best talent for their programs. For more details about admissions process innovations and to read the complete Financial Times article, Admissions teams innovate to find ideal candidates, click here.


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