Last week, BusinessWeek published an article detailing its research on business school admissions and identified applicants from Swarthmore College as having the highest average score on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), a standardized test mostly used for applying to business schools. The test has four components — Analytical Writing, Verbal, Quantitative and Integrated Reasoning. The average score of applicants from Swarthmore was 742.5; the maximum a test-taker can score is 800.
This news surprised many at the school since the college does not offer a major in business. As the BusinessWeek article acknowledged, however, economics is one of the most popular majors on campus.
Professor of Economics, Garret Christensen, voiced his surprise. “I found it really surprising because when I think of a standardized test I don’t associate it with the kind of education a liberal arts college gives you,” he said.
Nancy Burkett, Director of Career Services, was thrilled with the news but admitted that Career Services does not play a big role in helping students with business school applications and GMAT preparation. “Students usually apply to business school after working for a couple of years after graduation, so they don’t take the test or start preparing for it while at Swarthmore”, she said. She added that a student has never approached Career Services for help with preparing for the test.
Post-Graduate Statistics from 2004 through 2012 shows that most Swarthmore graduates choose to go into employment for profit. The report on the website states, “The majority of graduating seniors enter business careers, including consulting, investment banking, financial services, marketing and management.” The report also notes that “45% of our graduating seniors secure employment in the for-profit world.” Such jobs can be viewed as a step towards being admitted to a business school.
Constance Mietkowski ‘16, who plans to attend business school in the future, is heartened by Swatties’ success on the GMAT. She said, “It’s great that we do so well. I think it has something to do with how Swarthmore teaches us to deal with academic pressure and stress.”
Swarthmore’s academic rigor is a popular explanation for this particular accolade. Diane Anderson, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Swarthmore, voiced an opinion similar to Mietkowski’s in the BusinessWeek article. She said, “Swarthmore is a very rigorous school and we have amazing students.”
Provost Stephenson too expressed surprise at the results of the BusinessWeek study but did not think that the graduates’ test-taking abilities were honed through the college’s demanding academic work.In an e-mail, he said, “I believe that our curriculum should prepare students for whatever challenges they might face, including a rigorous business school curriculum, but I did not necessarily expect to see our alumni necessarily performing well on standardized testing. Of course, many of our students did well on college entrance exams like the SAT and the ACT, so perhaps this ability to perform on such tests predates coming to Swarthmore. So, we may be a somewhat pre-selected population in terms of aptitude for these tests.”
Swarthmore ranked higher than the Indian Institute of Technology and Harvard College for this distinction.