In recent years, advances in technology and automated services have affected the higher education industry and the graduate admissions process in particular. Although the human input of admissions directors is still pivotal to decision-making, data-driven and automated technology is rendering the admissions process more efficient, and enhancing human capabilities.
Helping applicants stand out
First and foremost for applicants, new admissions software used by international business schools could improve their chances of admission by helping their essay responses stand out. According to Emilie Cushman, CEO of the assessment platform Kira Talent, more and more of their clients are saying that applicants who came in “just under the mark” in their admissions tests or GPA scores were actually admitted because the software had introduced new ways of looking at applications.
A new algorithm and service developed for the Kira Talent admissions platform in 2017 helps reduce the “reviewer bias” when checking submissions. Members of the admissions committee can rely on a collaborative yet asynchronous process whereby each reviewer is able to provide their input without being influenced by others’ opinions. Representatives at Kira Talent explain:
The algorithm helps schools see how an applicant performed across different reviewers and on different criteria, leading to fairer decisions.
Introducing video essays and interviews
Nowadays, video essays and pre-recorded statements play an important role in the admissions process of an increasing number of MBA programs. Many universities have opted to replace the traditional written essay for one recorded in a video format so as to gauge applicants’ authenticity and personal qualities. In some cases, the question or questions that should be answered are provided in advance but many schools actually prefer to generate the essay question once the applicant starts recording. John Byrne, business and admissions expert, pointed out the novelty of this method:
You can tell an awful lot by a spontaneous video question – how it’s answered and how the person shows up, how articulate they are, how they’re dressed. It’s amazing how much you can tell.
Moreover, as MBA admissions consulting firm ARINGO advises, the video interview format is also useful in highlighting the English proficiency and communication skills of foreign applicants. They add:
Applicants are not expected to prepare for the MBA video essays and there is no ‘right’ answer. Instead, schools hope that applicants who may not excel on paper will have a chance to shine and show parts of themselves and their personality that are not seen elsewhere in their traditional application.
Making the admissions process more efficient
Implementing new software solutions does not just usher in quality and innovation in current graduate admissions procedures - it also guarantees efficiency. Elite international business schools always stress that they assess MBA and Master’s applications holistically. This means that they look at all the components of the application package and review them in the context of the particular submission. Although holistic assessment does wonders in securing a strong and diverse student cohort, it also requires more effort and time invested. A study by the Council of Graduate Schools reported that 58% of schools that took the survey considered time to be a barrier to conducting a holistic review.
With up-and-coming software solutions in higher education, admissions directors have the flexibility and time to assess Master’s and MBA application submissions in more detail. For example, one school reported that they saved roughly 73 days of their typical admissions cycle, while another school said that they have cut their interview time in half since using the software, said Emilie Cushman from Kira Talent. Of course, balancing efficiency with quality work should be at the center of these innovations in the industry and they should never be mutually exclusive.
Clamping down on plagiarism
Technological innovations in the graduate admissions process have another important benefit. New software is designed to enable reviewers to more easily detect cases of plagiarism and fraud. While not all prospective applicants revert to duplicity to secure a spot in a top program – such as opting for paid essay services or fake transcripts – some of them underestimate the importance of an authentic application. With advances in higher education tech, admissions committees are able to see whether you have borrowed text from articles or other external sources without proper citations.
Besides Kira Talent, there are other companies which are doing their best to solve this problem. According to some MBA admissions consultants, more and more schools are opting for advanced fraud protection software such as Slate. Nathan Allen, author at Poets&Quants, elaborated further:
A product of Technolutions, Slate was created more than a decade ago exclusively for higher education admissions offices, and a few MBA programs have been using the software for a few years. [...] If an applicant wrote his or her recommendation letters and then sent them to their recommenders to submit on their behalf, the software could find statistical similarities in the applicant’s personal essays and recommendation letters — essentially, that they came from the same place.
Whether you have already tried and tested some of these tech trends as a graduate school applicant, the industry is certainly catching up with the times. Let’s see what other innovations will be introduced to make the Master’s and MBA admissions process smoother and more transparent in upcoming years.