By Kerry Miller
Stanford Smiles On GRE Scores
Trying to widen its applicant pool, the university will now allow B-school hopefuls to skip the GMAT for a less costly exam.
Accepting GRE scores for all full-time MBA applicants is a novel idea that could have far-reaching implications. Admissions officers at other top schools like Wharton and Chicago will be watching closely to see how Stanford's decision, which starts with the admissions cycle for the class entering in the fall of 2007, will play out.
DESIRE FOR DIVERSITY. In recent years many B-schools have started waiving the GMAT requirements for applicants to executive MBA programs (see BusinessWeek.com, 8/8/05, "Sidestepping the GMAT"). And a few schools, like Harvard, have waived the GMAT requirement for their MBA programs entirely, out of concerns that the test cannot predict how well a candidate will succeed in B-school. (Harvard has since reinstated the GMAT requirement.) Most schools allow Business PhD candidates to submit either the GMAT or the GRE, and some waive the GMAT requirement for MBA applicants who already have advanced degrees.
Yet Stanford's decision is driven by different set of concernsâ€”part of a larger discussion among B-schools about reducing barriers to admission for underrepresented minorities, women, and applicants from developing economies.
The lack of socioeconomic diversity in business school classes is a major problem, Bolton says, and reducing the upfront costs of applying to B-school is one way to make the admissions process more equitable, as well as to broaden the pool of applicants.
COVERING THE COSTS. The GMAT is one of the most expensive exams to takeâ€” it costs$250 worldwide, an amount Bolton notes can be a hardship, especially in developing nations, depending on the relative value of the U.S. dollar. While the price of the GRE is set to increase in July 2006â€”to $130 in the United States and U.S. territories, $175 in China, Korea, and Taiwan, and $160 in all other countriesâ€”it will remain less expensive than the GMAT. While a limited number of GRE fee waivers are available for U.S. citizens or residents eligible to receive financial aid, no fee waivers are available for the GMAT exam.
GMAC, which administers the GMAT exam, has tested several voucher programs, one in South Africa in 2004, and one at a number of U.S. schools in 2005. GMAC is still studying the outcomes of those programs.
Rod Garcia, director of admissions at (MIT Sloan School of Management], says his office is seriously considering the idea of accepting the GREs. For MIT, he says, the primary thought behind accepting the GRE would be to widen the applicant pool to include top nontraditional candidates, such as liberal arts majors, who may also be applying to several other graduate or doctoral programs.
"SLICE" SEARCH. Broadening the applicant pool is crucial, Bolton says, with the top schools already competing for the best applicantsâ€”in particular the best female and racial/ethnic minority students: "If you look at your applicant pool and you're missing a certain slice, then you go after that slice. We need to start thinking about making that whole pie bigger." Excluding applicants who might not have the financial resources to apply to a school like Stanford does a disservice not only to Stanford but to the business world at large, given the school's role in forming future leaders, he said.
The decision to accept either the GRE or the GMAT also seems to align well with the watchwords of Stanford's newly redesigned MBA program: customization and flexibility (see BusinessWeek.com, 6/6/06, "Stanford's New Look MBA"). Announced earlier this month, the new curriculum will tailor each student's course schedule individually, based on past education, work experience, and future goals.
It may also allow Stanford to admit more women and ethnic minorities like blacks and Latinosâ€”who on average do not perform as well on the GMAT examâ€”without affecting their overall GMAT score, and therefore, their overall ranking by information sources such as BusinessWeek and U.S. News & World Report.
Other schools are taking a wait-and-see approach. Rose Martinelli, associate dean of student recruitment and admissions at the University of Chicago's (Graduate School of Business], says she is interested to see how Stanford fares with the new policy, but says Chicago will probably hold off until more research is done about the differences between what is measured by the GRE versus the GMAT.
AIMING TO ASSIST. Susan Kaplan
, director of business school programs at Kaplan
Test Prep, says that while the two tests have similar sections (verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing), they focus on different types of questions, and the ability of the GRE to predict performance in business school has not been proven.
Accepting the GRE isn't the only way Stanford is trying to reduce the up-front costs of applying. Like several other schools, Stanford already offers waivers of its $235 application fee for college seniors receiving financial aid. Offering waivers to other applicants for whom the steep fees might be a deterrent has been trickier, Bolton says. "How do you screen? Do you set income limits? What if companies are paying the fees?"
One model might be the Fee Assistance Program offered by AAMC, which administers the MCAT exam for medical school entrance. That program grants assistance to MCAT test-takers whose total family income is 200% or less of the federal poverty level; eligible applicants pay $85, instead of $210. The University of Chicago also waives application fees automatically for applicants who have recently served in the military or the Teach for America program. Waivers for other applicants who demonstrate "extreme need" are granted on a case-by-case basis.
Bolton says his office is also discussing the idea of waiving fees for applicants from certain developing economies, starting next year. First, he says, his office would need to find a way to deal with the tremendous increase in applications that would result.