Harvard Vs. Wharton: How to two B-schools played the Pandemic admissions
The outbreak of COVID-19 disrupted the MBA admissions season that has led to this fall’s beginning classes was the most uncertain and chaotic ever. Many of the arrangements made during the early spring has had a huge impact on the look and shape of this year’s incoming groups of MBA students. As of for admissions is concerned there has been competition between top business schools: Harvard Vs. Wharton pandemic admissions
If you’re looking for diversity, look no further than Harvard Business School and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, both of which published their class profiles last week for what will be the Batch of 2022. The utter plunder of the admissions season is clearly reflected in those demographic snapshots that reflect the judgments of admission officials coping to deal with all of the dilemma and anxiety that came with the pandemic and the recession.
It’s nothing less than a tale of two business schools. The contrasts are stark. Harvard chose to enroll an entering class of just 732 first-year MBA students, roughly 200 fewer applicants than a more typical incoming cohort. It was the smallest HBS class in decades. Wharton, on the other hand, chose to break a record for the size of its entering class: 916 students, up 7% from the 856 who enrolled in the year-earlier class. The conclusion: For the first time ever, a Wharton MBA class will be larger than Harvard’s.
THE FINANCIAL OUTCOMES: A $16 MILLION LOSS FOR HBS; A $5 MILLION GAIN FOR WHARTON
The financial connotations of the admission choices are significant. Harvard’s smaller class will cost it more than $16 million in lost tuition revenue in the first year alone. That loss occurs at a time when HBS has already predicted–long before the full impact of its admission decisions–that revenue will plunge $115 million and cause a $22 million loss for the school this year. Wharton, on the other hand, will succeed in having a record MBA tuition revenue as a result of a class that is 60 students larger. If all of those students pay full freightage for their degrees, that will mean an extra $4.8 million in tuition and fees this academic year, or nearly $10 million over the two-year program.
There are several reasons for this outcome, all within the control of the school’s admission chiefs. At HBS, Chad Losee, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid, eliminated the school’s round three deadlines in 2018. The last date by which Losee received applications from mainstream MBA candidates was Jan. 6–long before the pandemic hit. And unlike many of its counterparts at other business schools, he decided against adding a new deadline or extending his R2 cutoff once COVID changed everything.
Some business school deans, most notably UVA’s Darden School of Business Dean Scott Beardsley, instantly recognized that the pandemic-induced recession would bring a whole new crop of MBA candidates onto the market. Darden’s decision to extend its deadlines and go with a more adaptable admissions policy led to a 25% jump in MBA applications. At HBS, apps were merely stable, rising under 1%, after two consecutive years of decline.
WHARTON EXTENDED ITS DEADLINES AND ADOPTED MORE FLEXIBLE ADMISSIONS POLICIES
Blair Mannix, director of admissions at Wharton, actually chose to extend it due to the pandemic by 14 days to allow more candidates to apply. She made that decision as a direct result of feedback from applicants. Mannix also agreed to evaluate applications from candidates who did not yet have an official standardized test score, giving candidates until early August to hand in official scores. She also prolonged the deadline for recommendation letters an extra five days.
The increased flexibility Wharton allowed, along with the holding of its third application deadline, helped the school gain a 21% rise in candidates seeking admission. So Wharton, and many other schools, got to see and choose from a much larger candidate pool, including many extraordinary applicants that were locked out of HBS.
Losee made another decision as well that would contribute to the shortfall in this fall’s entering class. He granted postponements to any admitted students who requested them, whether they were domestic or international candidates. HBS made that policy decision when it became clear that many international students would have difficulty obtaining student visas while most embassies were shut down due to COVID. Some students, including those already in the U.S., might also decide not to attend HBS’ hybrid start where many classes would be taught online. The smaller class size at HBS this year is a direct result of this more liberal policy on postponements.