Director of Admissions The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business
I THINK FIRST AND FOREMOST we want to get some sense of the inside of an applicant's head and in particular what it is that is prompting this person to pursue a graduate education in business—what has led them to this point, what they think the MBA will do for them in terms of their educational desires and objectives as well as their career goals. That is certainly important to us. We want to know not only what they hope to get from the experience but also what they hope to contribute while they're with us. We have two other essays designed to be more fun to answer and these may help us get a certain sense of someone's creative side. All of the essays give us a sense of the applicant's written communication ability and also provide a dimension that is outside the more strictly objective demographic or academic data that we look at.
Mistakes? Sometimes because applicants are busy, they rush through the process and don't check their work for grammatical correctness, spelling, etc. The way in which someone prepares the work, just in terms of their presentation, can be very important. Sometimes they'll send the wrong essays to the wrong school, which certainly doesn't look real good. Or they take an essay written for another school, take that school's name out and put our school's name in. Then the essay almost sounds so generic that it doesn't mean a lot. Sometimes applicants think we have a certain idea of the kind of answer we want them to give on these questions, so they have to write accordingly. If they do that, it causes them to appear fake, not genuine. This causes us to be a little more skeptical than if someone simply answers the question in the best way he knows how and thus tends to be himself. I often tell applicants that yes. we are evaluators but we are not psychologists; these are not trick questions, we are not trying to "psych" anyone out, we just want to get to know you better. I've been in admissions for almost seventeen years now and one begins to be able 10 get a sense of when people are pulling your leg. If the personality and presentation are both good and real and genuine, that means a lot.
The best advice 1 can give—and I know this is easier said than
We look for reasons to admit people; we don't look for reasons to deny them.
done—is for applicants not to approach this process so seriously that they become paranoid about it and end up hurting themselves. This is about being yourself and doing the best you can to present an accurate picture of who you are. That will help admissions committees get a sense of whether you are really a good match for our school. We look for reasons to admit people; we don't look for reasons to deny them. Be honest and forthright and present yourself in the best way you can.
There are three readers. The first person is one of our first-year students who serves on what's called the dean's student admissions committee. We select about 100 people from our 500-member incoming class to read applications for us. They go through a very extensive reader training program with our staff in the month of October, which leads up to our first application deadline in November. They read the application first and fill out an entire reader's sheet on which ihey evaluate the applicant in several areas and then make a recommendation as to what decision should be made. Then that recommendation is taken out of the file and it goes to a full-time member of my staff-an associate or assistant director—who does a second identical read and fills out the same sheet; however, this staff member doesn't know what the first reader said. These two recommendations are placed back in the application, which then comes to me. I do review every one and I make the final decision after that. In some cases, I'll get another opinion if 1 think 1 need it.
Assistant Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid Columbia Business School
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