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Kaplan Survey Finds Most MBA Programs Don’t Plan to Cut Essays Despite Trend Among Elite Schools

EssayMany leading business schools have been slashing the number of essays they require applicants to write in recent years, but a recent survey of schools across the United States reveals that it’s a trend confined mainly to only the most competitive MBA programs. Kaplan Test Prep earlier this week reported that only 13 percent of the 204 business schools that participated in its 2014 business school admissions officers’ survey had cut the number of admissions essays for this most recent admissions cycle as compared to 2013. Furthermore, only 3 percent reported plans to cut essays for the next admissions cycle.

“While it’s true that some of the most competitive business schools have cut the number of admissions essays or reduced the word count, our survey finds that the overwhelming number of MBA programs continue to see value in applicants submitting more information about themselves,” Brian Carlidge, Kaplan Test Prep executive director of pre-business and pre-graduate programs, said in a statement. “From what we’ve seen, the business schools that have cut their number of admissions essays are doing so to streamline the process, believing they can get what they need from applicants through fewer, more focused essays,” he continued.

Leading schools including Stanford Graduate School of Business, Yale School of Management, Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School have all reduced essays and/or word count for applicants in recent years. Other schools have introduced innovative alternatives to traditional essays. The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, for example, has for several years now invited applicants to submit a PowerPoint Presentation answering “Who Are You?” and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business asks applicants to provide a list of “25 Random Things About Yourself.”

As Kaplan’s Carlidge points out, some schools that have opted to reduce word count and essays have done so to streamline the review process for the Admissions Committee. He notes that fewer essays and lower word counts can actually prove a greater challenge to applicants, since it forces them to be more succinct and strategic in what they choose to include.

But as the Kaplan survey shows, the vast majority of business schools plan to continue to include essays as a critical part of the application process, viewing it as a piece that gives applicants the greatest opportunity to show how they would be a good fit for a particular school, more so that their test scores, GPA or work experience.

Read more about Kaplan Test Prep’s 2014 survey of business school admissions officers.