Dispelling Myths about: Business School Admissions
MBA programs seek experienced, well balanced applicants
Triangle News Desk
Issue date: 10/14/05 Section: News
Director of Graduate Enrollment Services & Operations for the Lebow College of Business, Robert Palachick, granted The Triangle an interview to discuss the general aspects of the admissions process along with the integral ingredients of a business school application.
The following feature looks at the various components of a standard business school application and the importance it plays in the admissions process. The feature will also answer some general questions regarding the Master of Business Administration and the implications it has on a student's future prospects.
The admissions committee of any graduate business school seeks a talented, well-rounded and diverse group of students who strive to succeed in an academically challenging and professionally rewarding environment. The admissions committee seeks applicants who have many significant achievements and great potential for future success in a variety of areas. They look for a person that can add success to their campus and institution.
Potential candidates must take the Graduate Management Aptitude Test, the standardized method used to evaluate a wide array of applicants from diverse academic, social and economic backgrounds. Students must also possess a decent grade point average and a challenging course load in their chosen academic field in order to apply to an accredited MBA-offering institution. While work experience and extracurricular activities are beneficial to have on the application, they can make a difference whether a borderline student is admitted to the institution.
The GMAT's importance in the admissions process has been a source of anxiety for many potential graduate business students.
"The GMAT is an important component in the admissions decision, but it is considered along with other factors such as prior academic record and qualifications, letters of recommendation, professional experience and your statement of purpose," Palachick said.
Palachick feels that a high GMAT score will greatly improve an applicant's chance of being admitted into an institution. A high score also projects an individual as a candidate that exhibits both effective analytical and verbal skills, two skills integral to perform well in a management program and, by extension, the business world. The LCoB seeks applicants with a minimum GMAT score of at least 510.
The average GMAT score from top tier business schools such as Stanford University's Graduate School of Business was 725, while Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Business averaged 700 and the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business was 691.
The Graduate Management Admission Council, the group that creates and manages the GMATs, believes the GMAT are an integral part of the admissions process.
"GMAT scores have two important characteristics. First, they are reliable measures of certain developed skills that have been found to be important in the study of management at the graduate level. They have also been shown to be good predictors of academic success in the first year of study at graduate schools of management. Two, unlike undergraduate GPAs and curricula, GMAT scores provide school professionals with a consistent, standardized evaluation tool for all applicants," according to the GMAC's Web site.
Each school interprets the score in its own way; there is no pass or fail GMAT score.
The Grade Point Average
While the GMATs hold considerable weight, the undergraduate grade point average is also significant player in the admissions process.
"An applicant's undergraduate GPA, while important, it is only one piece of the larger puzzle," Palachick said. "A high undergraduate GPA will greatly improve an applicants chances of admission. It shows that an applicant will be able to handle the workload."
LCoB seeks applicants with a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0.
Kaplan Test Prep, Inc., one of the nation's largest educational service providers, claims that admissions officers evaluate the GPA based on the academic reputation of the college and the difficulty of the curriculum. Most committees hold more weight to the junior and senior year grades.
However, more admissions committees are looking at performances in quantitative courses, such as statistics or calculus, since they are good indicators of a student's overall likely performance. Students who lack these courses should strongly consider enrolling in one of these courses before they apply to graduate business school.
Extracurricular Activities Experience
While the GPA and GMATs hold significant weight to the admission process, extracurricular activities and work experience also play a deciding factor as well.
"Involvement in extracurricular activities shows us that an applicant is multi-dimensional and multi-faceted," Palachick said. "It can also help explain a weak undergraduate GPA. Activities that demonstrate self-awareness, leadership, teamwork, analytical and strategic thinking, community involvement and improvement of professional skills are preferred."
In regards to work experience, Palachick recommends students obtain four years in the workforce before they consider applying to a full or part-time MBA program. However, he also stated that different programs may have different criteria. For example, LCoB's full-time two year MBA program has students who possess an average of only two years of work experience while the Executive MBA students have an average of 12 years.
Letters of Recommendation and Personal Statement
The letter of recommendation and the personal statement serve to portray an individual's personality. For most schools it is a mandatory part of the application process.
"It's important for our [LCoB] Admissions Committee to hear what an applicant's peers and/or supervisors think of them as well as obtain a perspective of an applicants short and long-term career goals and their reasons for pursuing a graduate business degree," Palachick said.
What an MBA Can Do For You
Interestingly enough, Kaplan defines an MBA as the most efficient way "between where you are now and where you want to go."
It is important that students examine their goals and check to see the viability of pursuing an MBA. In addition, students may also want to gain a position of greater responsibility in a chosen career field. Or they may want to switch from one area of business to another or even change their entire career path. Most MBA students acquire expertise in their chosen field, such as nursing, teaching, performing arts or engineering, to either enter an entirely different field or stay within their field and move up to a higher managerial position.
In many cases, an MBA is an entry requirement needed to attain the higher management position. An MBA can help an individual obtain specific management training and expertise. While the MBA is a general management degree, most schools give opportunities to concentrate study in one or more fields of business. LCoB allows students to pursue specialized areas in marketing, finance, international business or economics as well as many others.
Kaplan admissions officials also claim that "an MBA signals a prospective employer that you have got the knowledge and skills a demanding job requires, as well as persistence, energy and even time management skills to handle it."
An MBA recipient tends to have a higher average salary than workers who only hold a bachelor's degree in a similar field of study. An MBA graduate's salary is highly influenced by his or her salary earned prior to receiving the degree. For example, an individual who earned $70,000 a year before pursuing the degree is likely to earn $120,000 a year following graduation.
In perspective, the median starting salary at Harvard University is $90,000 while Stanford was $87,500 and University of Pennsylvania was $80,000. However, when bonuses and benifits are included, a salary can jump an additional 40 to 50 percent.
While the salary increase may seem tempting, it can come at a huge cost. Some students end up leaving jobs for a couple of years losing full-time paychecks. Other students who pursue the degree part-time will have to devote a lot of time towards classes and studying and will lose a lot of time towards family, personal or leisure activities. The MBA is a great personal investment but needs to be weighed to see if it is worth the time and money spent.