March 7, 2016

Are Korean MBA Applicants ‘Oversubscribed’?

I was just asked whether Korean applicants to business schools are over-represented in the MBA applicant pool—a lower-case version of the Indian applicant pool. This is my short answer: It’s true that Korea is one of the top-ranked countries in terms of number of total GMAT test-takers (its 4,527 in 2012-13 GMAT tables is behind only the US, China, India, Canada), and in 2013, Wharton admitted that Korea is the third-largest source of non-U.S. applicants after India and China. Wharton and Columbia have been admitting more Koreans than other M7 schools, which usually admit about 70~80 Koreans per year (across all M7 schools).

But these numbers are not comparable to Indian MBA applicants. Where an M7 school like Chicago Booth might admit 10 Korean applicants a year, it will probably admit at least 3 times as many Indians. Similarly, Korea is dwarfed in applicant volume by U.S., China and India (e.g., Korea’s 4,527 test-takers versus 90,540 test-takers in the U.S. in 2012-13; 53,000 in China). So while Korean applicants are not as rare and coveted as, say, applicants from Vietnam, Thailand, or Indonesia, they are not truly comparable to U.S., Chinese, or Indian applicants, whose nationality actually hurts them on some level in terms of differentiating themselves from other applicants. While not rare, being Korean in my opinion is still a ‘class diversity enhancer’.