We posed questions to admissions officials at the Arizona State University W.P. Carey School of Business regarding the application process, what they look for in applicants, and what sets their school apart. These are their responses:
1. What can applicants do to set themselves apart from their peers?
We encourage applicants to engage with our admissions and recruiting office early in the application cycle. We invite applicants to attend our recruiting events, network with our 63,000 alumni located worldwide, check out our Online Alumni Community, visit us on the road (schedule to be released in summer 2010), attend a recruiting reception, attend our Fall or Spring Preview Day, or visit our office for a one-on-one advising appointment.
To impress admissions staff, applicants should demonstrate they are knowledgeable about the unique features of the W. P. Carey M.B.A. program and articulate how those features align with their experience and future career goals. Perhaps most importantly, applicants should make an effort to demonstrate not only their technical capability but also their interest in leadership, since we are focused on building the skill sets of emerging global leaders. Our admissions and recruiting team is very approachable and wants to work with you to find the best program that will meet your academic and career goals.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
Essays should be focused, organized, and well-written, allowing the reader to understand the applicant's background and interest in the W. P. Carey M.B.A. We are looking for insight into the applicant's professional experience, community involvement, and leadership responsibilities at work and in the community. We also center attention on an applicant's understanding about how prior work experience combines with the W. P. Carey M.B.A. curriculum, specialization choice, and internships to shape the applicant's future career path and potential.
Applicants should focus on the qualities and characteristics that separate them from their counterparts. How are you unique? Deal with weaknesses honestly. In terms of describing a weakness, an applicant should clearly identify the area of concern and describe how a potentially negative component of the application has been addressed and even resulted in a stronger overall profile. Finally, the essay also reflects written communication skills of the applicant. Since communication is essential to success in the classroom and in business, we look for a well-crafted, cleanly written essay. We appreciate the unique perspective students bring to the classroom. Articulate that perspective in your essays, if you can.
3. How important is the applicant's GMAT score? How do you weigh it against undergraduate GPA and work experience? Which of these carry the most weight? The least?
The GMAT is used to assess the potential to succeed in graduate business studies. The admissions committee reviews the verbal and quantitative portion of the exam, as well as the writing score. GPA is also important because past success in an undergraduate program will assure the committee the applicant has the potential to perform well in an academic setting and has an important drive to achieve. Applicants who were "less focused" in their undergraduate programs often offset a less competitive GPA with a strong GMAT score.
While both the GMAT and GPA are important components of an application, the admissions team at the W. P. Carey School of Business is looking for much more. To assess leadership potential and interest, the admissions committee considers all components of the application, including the essays and personal interview. For the W. P. Carey M.B.A. program, every candidate is interviewed on campus. The interview is a great opportunity to make a positive impression by demonstrating strong interpersonal and communication skills. We invest significant resources in the personal interview because it assists us with: (1) assessing the fit of each applicant to the W. P. Carey M.B.A. program culture, (2) identifying an applicant's motivation for pursuing an M.B.A. at the W. P. Carey School of Business, and (3) understanding leadership initiative and ability to work with others. Best words of advice: Be engaged, be prepared, and be yourself.
4. How much does prior work/internship experience weigh into your decision making? What's the typical or expected amount of work experience from an applicant?
We appreciate applicants with a diverse set of work experiences, both nationally and internationally. On average, applicants to our program have five years of work experience, but a minimum of two years. Students join us with work experience in business but also in engineering, the sciences, education, government, the military, and even in the not-for-profit domain. Experiences come in many forms, including work, travel, and personal development. Share your unique experiences with us, so that we understand who you are, why the W. P. Carey M.B.A. fits your needs, and how you see yourself leveraging this experience in the future.
5. What sets you apart from other schools? What can students gain from your school that they might not be able to find anywhere else?
The W. P. Carey School of Business has one of the highest-ranked M.B.A. programs in the country. The school has 300 faculty members who consult with organizations worldwide and then bring that knowledge to the classroom. Our M.B.A. program is relatively small, so no class exceeds 50 students. This intimate setting fosters a strong exchange of ideas and collaboration, where a customized and personalized experience is highlighted. Students appreciate our flexible curriculum that allows them to choose among many electives in their second year. Students can choose to specialize in supply chain management, finance, marketing, information systems, or real estate. They can also take electives across functional areas to round out the M.B.A. curriculum experience. We are a small program nestled in a large university context, which means access to an enormous alumni base, great research, education centers, and entrepreneurial activities. Because we also have a large undergraduate program, we attract many employers across virtually all industry segments to our campus, with more than 1,900 companies coming to recruit graduates at all levels last year. There is a lot happening at Arizona State University. We are recognized nationally and internationally for our research and innovative approach to education. This approach allows us to attract top students into our programs.
We seek students who are interested in leading organizations, have the ability to work well with and through others, and are invested in success of the organization, as well as the community they are serving. We seek applicants who are very bright and interested in building their leadership potential in our program. Every student admitted to our M.B.A. program is personally interviewed. Every student is assessed and builds his or her emotional intelligence. Every student is evaluated by his or her peers in an effort to develop team-related competencies. Students who are open to feedback, willing to accept personal accountability for decisions and able to support their decisions with data and documentation would do well in our program and with our corporate recruiters.
6. What do you look for in recommendation letters? How important is it that the letter's writer has worked regularly with the candidate in an office or school setting? Do you put much weight on letters from prominent public figures who may not know the applicant well?
Letters of recommendation should be written by managers and supervisors who have direct and firsthand knowledge of the applicant's skills and abilities. The letters should mirror key points in the essays and résumé and endorse your candidacy to the program. Sit with your recommenders, provide them with your résumé, and speak specifically about why you are asking them to write a letter of recommendation. You will be surprised by how much the letter quality is improved with this simple step.
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
We have four major deadlines per year, with the first in early fall. Generally, we have two deadlines in the fall and two deadlines in the spring. Applicants are encouraged to apply early to ensure successful admission and consideration for scholarship dollars and graduate assistantships. Once the application is complete, the applicant will be reviewed for consideration to conduct an in-person interview. If invited and the application is complete, an applicant can expect a response in four to six weeks.
We begin early engagement with admitted students through webinars, E-newsletters, and networking receptions. We like our students to create an early network before enrolling in the program, so they can reduce the stress of beginning a rigorous program before having met anyone. We've seen students create fantastic networks online by Facebook. It's fun to watch applicants meet up to find a roommate, get advice on how to be prepared for the program, or begin exchanging knowledge for future entrepreneurial projects.
8. Which firms recruit heavily from your school? Which firms hire the highest percentage of your graduates?
We have a number of companies across industries seeking to hire students from the program. From manufacturing, consumer products, banking, finance, real estate, and high tech to the service industry, our students have opportunities to engage with hiring firms very early during the program. This year, a sample of companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, PetSmart, Bank of America, Intel, Dial/Henkel, and A. T. Kearney, have actively engaged in our on-campus recruiting program.
Our career management center (CMC) does an excellent job coaching, advising, and providing feedback to our students to ensure they are well prepared for the corporate interview. In addition, the CMC works with students to engage them in regular 360-degree feedback assessments, focusing on the student's emotional intelligence, leadership, and teamwork. During an internship between the first and second year, the students will focus on two to three development areas they would like to improve. During the second year, the students are reassessed to measure progress. This personalized development approach has been received very positively by our students, alumni, and corporate partners.
9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
Common mistakes include not taking the process seriously, not following up on feedback from the application process, being unfamiliar with the W. P. Carey M.B.A. program, and not putting together a well-prepared application.
10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?
The archetype is a student who is not only smart but also has an innate ability to lead. This individual is outgoing, involved in the program, takes initiative, and joins programs or clubs to improve the program and contribute to the overall M.B.A. experience. He or she is a valuable contributor to classroom discussions, very actively engaged in his or her own job search, leveraging every resource possible to find the perfect opportunity. These are students who want to make a difference, be strong leaders, see impact, and facilitate change. They embrace diversity of thought and culture, since that is what globalization will require of leaders of the future.