We posed questions to admissions officials at Rollins College's Crummer Graduate 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?
They should have an idea of a potential direction they might like to pursue. This will give the committee that reviews their application context of the candidates overall career plans and will convey that the applicant is serious about business school.
Although applicants do not need to know exactly what they want to do with the M.B.A., such as what type of job they want to secure (this can come later through the coursework and internships), they must at least have an understanding of what an M.B.A. degree actually is and what doors it could possibly open. This direction could change while in the program, but they should at least be able to understand how the M.B.A. fits in with an overall career strategy.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
We leave our essay topic open-ended, calling it a personal statement. The essays help us to understand what the applicant views as important, and why they want to be in our program. Their ability to respond to a question in a clear and concise manner is also important. Finally, we suggest they have someone else review and proofread the essay before hitting the "submit" button. You would be surprised at how many people do not proof their work and we factor this in our decision process. In our mind, typos and other mistakes show that the candidate did not take the application process seriously.
3. How important is the applicant's GMAT score? How do you weight it against undergraduate GPA and work experience? Which of these carry the most weight? The least?
Our merit-based scholarships are awarded based on the GMAT score. However, as it relates to admissions decisions, we consider each applicant from a holistic perspective; each component of their application is carefully evaluated as not every applicant is a strong standardized test-taker. Since our Early Advantage M.B.A. program does not require work experience, the GPA carries a great deal of weight. As stated, not every applicant is a strong standardized test-taker; however, students are given an opportunity to offset their low GMAT if they have a high undergraduate GPA which helps substantiate their ability to apply themselves in a program.
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?
Our full-time, Early Advantage M.B.A. does not require work experience. Our primary target market for this program consists of recent college undergraduates or individuals who are taking a sabbatical from work to immerse themselves in a full-time program.
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?
We offer a unique general business M.B.A. program designed for students from all majors. They gain hands-on experience in a small classroom environment. Students are taught by senior faculty—no teaching assistants—who help facilitate the learning process by also bringing in business leaders to the classroom. We also provide a structured career development component that is facilitated through combined efforts of the Career Development Center and a course specific to career development, which encompasses a required internship before students graduate from the program.
Our program is also team-based and cohort-based. We find that this structure closely resembles a real workplace, where people often work on teams to solve problems and accomplish everyday tasks. Students are placed on one team for all of their core courses, and cannot fire a team member or resign from a team, just like in an actual work environment. This helps our students to learn to work with people from different academic and professional backgrounds, with different personality types and behavioral preferences and different perspectives in general, which causes our students to graduate with extremely strong team and leadership skills.
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?
One suggestion for applicants when selecting recommenders is to have them thoroughly review the recommendation form that we use. We ask recommenders to evaluate the applicants in a number of areas such as intellectual ability, leadership potential and interpersonal skills. You should have a thorough understanding of how well people know you before asking them to write a recommendation. Applicants should review this form and then select a person they know would be able to evaluate them in those areas. We've actually received applicant evaluation forms with "reservations." This, of course, places a red flag on that individual's application.
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
We use rolling admissions, so we evaluate applicants as their files become complete. We typically begin making decisions in December for the following fall. Once the file has been reviewed, and the admissions interview complete, we are able to make a decision within two to three weeks.
8. Which firms recruit heavily from your school? Which firms hire the highest percentage of your graduates?
We have a very diverse group of companies that hire our graduates. However, Disney, Tupperware, Siemens Power Generation, and Lockheed Martin consistently hire the most.
9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
One error is when applicants with outstanding metrics, such as a decent GPA and GMAT score, do not approach the admissions process professionally and thoughtfully. Some applicants also ask for recommendations from people who may not think that highly of them, and who will be honest in their evaluations. Applicants need to be on the lookout for "warning signs" that a recommendation will not be good, such as a recommender who suggests the student asks another person.
Other common mistakes include not devoting enough time and effort in the admissions essay, and not being adequately prepared or even professional in the admissions interview.
First impressions are lasting; therefore, casual dress attire sends a negative message about an applicant's judgment. When this happens, we automatically associate the behavior to a potential interview with an employer.
10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?
The type of student that will do well at the Rollins M.B.A. is a student that is invested in the program and who takes the initiative to manage their academic studies and their career. We look for students who are going to take advantage of the opportunities we provide to them to further themselves and own their career development.