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Monday, August 09, 2004

Lies, damn lies and statistics 

I was browsing through the B-week boards whilst waiting for my bath to run (it takes quite a while) and I cam across a posting from someone about the lower number of applicants to 'top' schools. His/her contention was that, if you were aquainted with the laws of probability, it would be obvious that it was easier to get into a school if there were on 1,000 applicants than if there were 3,000. Now this might be true if the school has 1,000+ places, but other than that, I don't buy it, and it's started me musing about the whole admissions statistics issue.

I know it can be really depressing to look at the relatively low percentage of applicants who are accepted each year. I think it's important that we remember though, however much people may talk about an 'application lottery' the ad-coms don't simply pull our names out of a hat (or at least I sincerely hope they don't!) Not all applications (or all applicants) are created equal. No matter what school you apply to, there will be some people who can't (or don't) demonstrate the academic aptitude to cope with the course. There will be others with great GPAs and GMATs who are lacking skills in other areas, and those who think that their scores alone will get them in and so don't put enough effort into the essays etc. And of course there are those who are applying to the school simply becasue it is a 'top school' or who want to do an MBA because they can't think of anythig else to do, or because it's the 'expected next step' in their career, and who can't come up with convincing answers to the 'why MBA, why now, why here?' questions. All of which mean that the applicants with 'good enough' scores; who can demonstrate their inter-personal skills, leadership potential etc; who put sufficient effort into all sections of the application and who articulate well thought out and convincing reasons for wanting to do an MBA at this school and at this point in their career, are going to have a better chance of getting in that the raw admissions statistics would suggest.

It's pretty impossible to quantify this but I'll useWharton as an example. According to the B-week statistics they accepted 16% of applicants. So 16 out of every 100 people who applied were offered a place. However, according to what's said by Alex, FF etc on the S2S board, 70-80% of applicants are qualified on the basis of academic aptitude, which means that 20-30% aren't. So, looking only at 'academically qualified' applicants, 16 out of every 70-80 were offered a place, making the admission statistic for someone in this group between 20% and 23%. Still not huge, I admit, but better than 16%. Factor-in the other factors, and the admitted percentage will increase further. And of course the real thing to remember is that we each only need one place in the class. We can't influence how many other people apply or how good their applications are, but we can each make our own applications as good as they can be.

Hope that's a suitably uplifiting thought for a Monday morning!


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