Written by Joanna Hughes

As MBAs endeavor to attract more students (and to diversify the students they attract), they’re taking innovative steps to get more applicants in the door. One increasingly popular tactic? Offering “math camps” aimed at helping candidates with liberal arts backgrounds prepare for the math-intensive rigors of business school. Here’s a closer look at the trend, as recently reported by The Wall Street Journal.

A Changing Landscape

With most students originating from traditional pre-MBA fields like finance and consulting, MBA programs once replied on the math-heavy GMAT during the admissions process. Now that the majority of b-schools also accept GRE scores, which leans more toward the social sciences and humanities, they are reporting increased enrollments among students from non-traditional backgrounds.

However, just because these students get in doesn’t mean they’re ready for MBA coursework. Says Michael Malone, an associate dean at a leading business school, “There’s an industrywide recognition from business schools. If they’re coming and feeling unprepared, that has an impact on their experience.”

Meeting Math Requirements

Enter “math camps.” These abbreviated programs offer students with weaker quantitative backgrounds access to training in topics like calculus and statistics. The measure is not punitive, but preventative. “If you’re coming from a background of no quant, no math, you need to get yourself prepared,” insists MBA program admissions director Christie St-John.

And while incoming MBA students may not be delighted by the prospect of taking more math classes, math camps serve an important goal: Ensuring that students have the skills they need to succeed. Says Jeff Lenar, a former history major who took a math prep course before the first year of his MBA program, “You could complain about it, but I was well aware that business school was going to be difficult, so I took it as an opportunity.”

For students who don’t want to participate in math camp, meanwhile, there’s an alternative: taking business-focused classes during your undergrad studies instead. “I want to encourage people to take those quantitative classes before they even apply. It makes life easier when you’re in an MBA program, and it increases your chances of getting in,” proposes b-school director of admissions and financial aid Dawna Clarke.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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