We spoke with Admissions Director Sherry Wallace about advice she had for applicants to the Kenan-Flagler Business School. Here is what she said.
Q: What makes a candidate stand out?
A: “There are a couple things to consider. First, everything we require is in there for a reason, so we really do examine each of those components because each thing is bringing some different information to us, all of which is important to the overall decision.”
“Perhaps the first thing we look for is the person’s professional and career potential. At our school, we are very focused on enrolling experienced candidates. The typical student that’s enrolled here has, on average, five years experience gained after the first degree. We generally expect each student to have a minimum of two years work experience. Of course, there are exceptions, but in general 99% of students enroll here with at least two years full-time work experience. We are looking to see what they have accomplished during the time they have been working, what they are looking to do after the MBA, and how they are able to present themselves as a viable candidate for that future goal. That is probably the first cut for us because regardless of how great the transcript and test scores and all that are, if they don’t present themselves as someone who’s going to be marketable for whatever it is they’re intending to do, that can be a reason for not making our final selection.”
“Once we are satisfied that this person is incredible from a future career perspective, then we go back and try to sort them against each other looking for those who have done better than the pool at large academically and on the GMAT.”
Q: How do you weight GMAT scores in relation to other materials / factors? What is the most important part of an applicant’s application packet?
A: “The GMAT score is a helpful tool for us because we are reviewing candidates who are educated in many different schools all over the world. The GMAT score can be one common thread that helps us compare and contrast people. The quantitative sections of the GMAT are particularly important because the core curriculum of our MBA program is to test those skills. We are certainly looking for people who have demonstrated a strong potential to handle quantitative coursework. We look at the GMAT in combination with all the other factors in the application, such as the courses they take and how well they’ve done in those courses. In some cases, people may already be doing work that is quantitative in nature and they’ve done this kind of work every day of their professional lives.”
Q: Do you prefer the GMAT or the GRE for admissions? Why?
A: “The season we’re in now is our second year of accepting the GRE or the GMAT. The vast majority of our applicants are still providing the GMAT. If I were advising someone who did not already have a GRE score, I would say you probably ought to do the GMAT. Both are fully acceptable here, but we have a lot more experience comparing people on the GMAT than we do on the GRE. The GRE is really good if there’s someone who maybe has already done a previous master’s and has already gotten the GRE and is comfortable and has a good score and there is no reason to make them test again. For someone who is at the beginning, though, and wanting to know which test to take, I would certainly tell them the GMAT.”
Q: How will you use the new Integrated Reasoning Section of the GMAT in business school admissions?
A: “We will review it as part of the admissions process. I don’t believe that section is going to affect any admissions decisions we make this year. We will probably look at it for a while and see if we can start to see any trends in our classes that might be traced back to what that score might have indicated, but I think for now we are well too early for that.”
Q: Is there anything else you would like a candidate to know about your school?
A: “I would like for a candidate to know and keep in mind that it’s a competitive process. Sometimes people think of test scores or they try to see averages that are on our profiles online and they think, ‘If I get this, I’ll get in.’ Just recognize that those are really good markers to kind of assume that, ‘Gosh, most of the people in the class are there so I need to be in that range,’ but it’s so important for applicants to do a good job telling us why they want a MBA. The most thoughtful candidates, combined with those who also have really strong other components, are the ones that get in.”
“You asked me initially what makes a person stand out and I would say probably my best answer is when we see an application or interview a candidate where it is very clear to us that he or she knows where they want to go and really understands it. They are very different and very confident and they project a really different image. Knowing what you want, why an MBA makes sense, what the possibilities might be, what some of your liabilities might be– the things you want to address in business school–that candidate is going to be more attractive to us. The more honest and direct a candidate is, the better chance they’ll have.”
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