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Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

January 03, 2008

University of Chicago GSB's Top Ten Myths of the Admissions Process

As usual, the University GSB provides great information related both to its own and other top MBA programs. Their just released "Admissions Insider: Top 10 Myths" is really worth looking at, so I have reproduced it in italics and added my own additional comments to it below:

In monitoring the discussion forum, talking with GSB applicants on the road, and meeting prospective students here on campus, the Admissions team is often reminded of the strange ideas and misconceptions prospective students have about the Chicago GSB admissions process. Adcoms finally attempt to de-bunk the top 10 myths.
Myth 1: The GMAT is the most important part of the application. There is no one admissions requirement that is more important than the other. While the results of your GMAT exam are important to us, they are by no means the only tool we use to make an admissions decision. The GMAT score is not a "make or break" item. At Chicago GSB, our application process is a holistic one in which the Admissions Committee attempts to learn all about you in order to determine a fit between you and the GSB. And that goes above and beyond your GMAT score.
See my post last month on this very issue. The higher the school ranking, the more generally it is the case that the GMAT is just one aspect of the process.
Myth 2: A campus visit is a must if you expect to be admitted. While we'd love to get everyone who applies to see Chicago GSB in person, we realize it's just not possible for everyone to make their way to Chicago. We do strongly encourage applicants to visit campus at some point, but not visiting won't negatively affect your application. Visit our website for more information about planning a campus visit.
In my experience, whether or not my client has visited GSB or not is not a real factor in their results. For some applicants, especially those with weak English language speaking skills, it might be better not to visit ahead of time. Also if you do attend an admissions information session at Chicago, at least based on the session I attended, you should be prepared to briefly introduce yourself to the other attendees and the admissions officer conducting the session.
Myth 3: It's impossible to be admitted during Round 3. While Round 2 sees the greatest number of applications, Round 3 is truly no more or less competitive than Rounds 1 or 2. It's just that fewer spots are available by Round 3. The best advice is to apply when you believe that you can turn in the application that you're most proud of and that best reflects your strengths and talents. However, we do encourage our international students to consider Round 1 or 2 in an attempt to avoid potential difficulties in obtaining a student visa prior to the start of classes in late August.
For international applicants: If the visa processing issue is a problem in your country, applying to the 3rd round might be problematic. At least here in Japan, it is not an issue at all. It is not so uncommon for applicants to gain admission in either the 3rd round or even later if they are waitlisted.

Myth 4: You must attain a minimum GPA or GMAT score and have at least 5 years of work experience to be considered for admission. This is an easy one; there are no minimums for these factors! Anyone who has or will obtain a bachelor's degree and can report a GMAT score is eligible to apply for admission to Chicago GSB. You can view our class profile online to see some statistics for the class of 2008.
Whether it is Chicago GSB, Wharton, Stanford GSB, Kellogg, or Harvard Business School, I have seen clients with a variety of profiles admitted. If anything, the overall trend at top programs is to have less rather than more stated minimums. The minimum work experience issue just does not apply to most programs anymore.
Myth 5: Being interviewed by a staff member will increase your chance of getting admitted more than an interview with a student or an alum. Each year, we rely heavily on our alumni all over the world to conduct interviews with applicants. The same holds true for students here at the Hyde Park Center and those who may be studying abroad. These two groups, each member of which has been carefully trained, conduct the vast majority of interviews. At times, the Admissions staff will also conduct interviews in certain locations. Regardless of who your interviewer may be, the feedback is valuable and is weighed equally in each and every case.
See my comments above regarding visits. If you are an international applicant, you may find it more strategically useful to be interviewed by an alum from your own country, depending on what your English ability is. That said, when it comes to overall fairness, I would take an admissions officer from an top program over either students or alums, after all admissions officers are trained to value diversity and measure people across a variety of factors. The worst MBA interviews, not necessarily involving Chicago GSB, that I have heard about all involved either a student or an alum. Sometimes the student training (again not GSB in particular) is not sufficient to provide applicants with someone who is professional or fair enough. I have heard reports of older alum interviewers (not necessarily at GSB) with very fixed, out of date, and preconceived notions of what their alma mater is and this can impact applicants who don't fit into the interviewer's mold.
Myth 6: The earlier you submit your application before the deadline, the earlier your interview invitation will come. The interview invitation process lasts a few weeks for each round as our staff and graduate assistants read and review thousands of applications. The process of inviting applicants to interview is entirely random, and the point at which you hear from us is not a reflection on the strength of your application or the timeframe in which you submitted it - we promise! And we really do extend interview invitations all the way up until 9:00 am on the mid-decision date!
This invitation-selection method specific to GSB, but the advice above applies to most other programs as well. Don't fixate on these dates more than you have to and when in doubt about the process, look over the school's website. Each school has its on method for choosing candidates to interview and a unexpected increase in applications, staffing, and/or technical issues may result in the process not proceeding as initially stated.
Myth 7: If you were not a Business major, you are at a great disadvantage during the admissions process. Students who apply to and enroll at Chicago GSB come from a variety of backgrounds with respect to their undergraduate studies. In fact, 34% of the class of 2009 had liberal arts backgrounds. We are always excited by the unique experiences that each student's education brings to the community at the GSB.
I was not aware that anyone actually believed this. All I can say is that any good MBA program is trying to build a diverse class and the last thing they would do is fill it with business majors.
Myth 8: Chicago GSB prefers applicants from finance and consulting backgrounds. At Chicago GSB, we value diversity in all its forms, including career industry. Many of our applicants come from finance or consulting backgrounds; but many more have work experience in other industries, including military service, marketing, education, retail, and non-profit work, just to name a few. It's not what you do that matters - it's how you do it and the experience you'll bring to the classroom and study groups.
Based on my experience with Chicago GSB, I can say that is certainly true. It is also true at other top programs. Many may go to Chicago GSB to acquire advanced skills in finance or consulting, but not necessarily have a background in it.
Myth 9: The Admissions Committee members only read the first essay in the application - they disregard the rest. Those of us who read applications night and day for weeks on end sometimes wish this was true! Our staff, including our Graduate Assistants, reads each and every essay, recommendation letter and transcript that crosses our desks. This makes for a great deal of work; but we're committed to putting together the best possible class and to do so, we feel we need to get to know each applicant well. This process is a part of what makes Chicago GSB a unique place. You've worked hard to submit your application, and we appreciate that effort.
The reason they have you write the essays is so that they can read them. With schools that specifically state they have use a holistic process of evaluation and have no absolute minimums, assume a full review of your application.

Myth 10: A letter of recommendation from the CEO of my company/a GSB alum I met once/the Governor/the President of the United States is better than getting one from a supervisor or another colleague who knows me well. Choose your recommenders carefully! Letters of recommendation are a crucial part of the admissions process and while you may be tempted to impress the admissions committee with the connections you've made, you'll want to work with someone who knows you and your accomplishments, talents and skills well. Your current or former supervisor and a colleague or client who can speak at length about your value to your company or organization is a much better choice than someone who may have an impressive title, but little insight into you as a person or future Chicago GSB student.
This myth is one of my favorites. Admissions officers frequently make the same point as GSB does and yet there will always be some fools who get the "power recommendation" and then get dinged. The more common form of this would be selecting a senior level executive over someone who knows you well. The reality is that you should get recs from people who actually have something to say about you.
Anyway, I have to get back to admissions consulting with my clients. I hope you have a great 2008!

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to.

-Adam Markus
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