Why business school admissions should look beyond GPA

Business programs are faced with the challenge of striving for equitable admissions processes that ensure access to applicants from all backgrounds. The goal is to attract diverse cohorts that truly reflect the reality of the communities that businesses serve. The managers and members of boards in these businesses best serve communities when they reflect the diverse social fabric of the societies in which they operate. 

Many questions pose challenges to business school admissions teams, including: 

  • How do we attract and fairly review applicants with diverse backgrounds and experiences?
  • How do we reduce bias while meeting enrollment targets with quality applicants?

In a recent Insights Report, the AACSB states, “admissions models that consider candidates based not only on academic achievement but on life experiences, leadership background, and potential…can result in more equitable opportunities for education”. Therefore, by going beyond GPA when considering candidates, you can create more opportunities and access to individuals who might have previously self-selected out or not made it past academic cutoffs.

Moving away from traditional measures

Over the past few years, there has been a trend towards moving away from GMAT and other traditional measures within the admissions process. This is due to evidence that these measures of an applicant’s ability are not necessarily holistic, equitable, or reliable. Research has also found, reference letters are not an effective measure for high-stakes decisions, such as admissions. They provide almost no truly useful information about an applicant, may contribute to bias within admissions, and have proven to be poor predictors of candidates’ future success. Personal statements have been found to be mainly unstructured with each program generally assessing something different; and tend to be a measure of maximal, not typical, performance.  

GPA can also be seen as a poor predictor of performance, and applicants from lower socioeconomic backgrounds tend to experience lower GPA scores due to a variety of reasons. This includes having to work part-time jobs to support their families and therefore, they are unable to spend an abundance of time studying, which statistically results in higher results.

The GMAT and GRE exams come at a high cost for applicants who are already paying application fees. There are considerable concerns that these tests can be a hurdle to diversity given evidence shows they could be inherently unfair to applicants from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, women, and underrepresented minorities. Research has also shown GMAT to have low validity with there being little correlation between candidate GMAT scores and success within MBA courses.

What are holistic admissions?

Statistics show 3 in 4 employers struggle to find graduates with the interpersonal skills their companies require, including professionalism. Holistic admissions go beyond book smarts by reviewing an applicant’s individual experiences alongside academic measures to increase student diversity. Including a standardized measure of applicant’s non-academic skills in the admissions process contributes to a more holistic approach. 

Casper is our open-response, online, situational judgment test, which measures an applicant’s professionalism and social intelligence. It has been proven to hold a high level of validity and reliability. The applicant is shown a series of text-based and video-based scenarios to which they have to answer a series of questions. This allows their life experiences and rationale to shine through. Casper gives admissions committees a more clear picture of the applicant, and helps to reduce bias within your admissions process.

Why is social intelligence and professionalism important?

Non-technical personal attributes and professionalism, such as leadership skills and interpersonal communication “directly impact individual career progression and organizational productivity”. A recent LinkedIn survey found the top three most sought after soft skills were communication, organization, and teamwork. These important interpersonal skills can also earn businesses new clients and expand the scope of work from existing clients. 

Therefore, by considering professionalism skills within your business school admissions process, you will be ensuring the future success of your learners and ultimately the success of your program.

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