Want to Get Into Business School? Write Less, Talk More...

Business schools want to know more about their applicants. So, they’re asking them to do less. Some elite M.B.A. programs have been cutting the number of required essays for admission, while others have trimmed or streamlined requirements for recommendation letters. Paring down requirements can help pump up applicant volumes and ease the burdens on admissions staff, B-school consultants say. But schools also say the changes reflect a renewed focus on interviews, videos and other live interactions to get a sense of how applicants really thinkĀ—and not what admissions officers want to hear. Babson College and the business school at University of Michigan are both eliminating one essay this year, while in the past few years the University of California at Los Angeles’ Anderson School of Management, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and Harvard Business School have done the same. Even recommendation letters, which students solicit from mentors and managers, are streamlining, with some schools cooperating on common recommendation questions. RELATED Harvard’s Sassy New Business-School Application Soojin Kwon, the admissions director at Michigan’s Ross School of Business, said the three required essays turned up limited insight for application readers. Current applicants must write two short essays, for a total of 800 words. “Applicants increasingly tell us what they think we want to hear,” Ms. Kwon said. “They have become quite cookie-cutter.” Ross is also asking applicants to provide one recommendation letter, instead of two. Ms. Kwon said the additional letter often didn’t yield new, worthwhile information. Meanwhile, she said Ross will shift its emphasis to one-on-one interviews and team exercises in their evaluation of candidates. Harvard Business School last year asked applicants to provide only one essay, and even made that optional. Dee Leopold, managing director of...