How to Get In: The University of Iowa Henry B. Tippie School of Management

What can you do to set yourself apart in your application? Admissions officials have the answers.

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We posed questions to admissions officials at the University of Iowa Henry B. Tippie School of Management 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?

The interview provides a great opportunity for applicants to showcase their personality and share information that the admissions committee might not learn from their application. Although a strong GMAT and undergraduate GPA gives us an idea of a candidate's potential to succeed academically and work experience signifies the likelihood of their ability to succeed in a professional environment, the interview gives us a glimpse of the candidate's soft skills, which are critically important to M.B.A. employers. We encourage applicants to research possible interview questions and think of ways to provide an answer that's unique and thoughtful. If I walk away from an interview feeling as though we'd like to spend more time with the candidate, chances are they've set themselves apart.

2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?

The first thing we look for is whether or not the applicant answered the question at hand. We frequently see essays where the person never actually answers the question. It is not in the candidate's best interest to leave things open for interpretation since the admissions committee may not interpret their answer the way the writer intended. Essays help the admissions committee better understand whether the candidate will be a good fit for the program. There is some opportunity to show your personality when writing the essays, so use the essays to support your interview responses.

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?

We do not place a specific weight on individual admissions criteria, and we always look at the entire application. Both GPA and GMAT are important indicators of success in the classroom. We focus more on the GMAT because of its concentration on quantitative skills and the fact that it's the only consistent measure that is administered to all candidates. GPA is considered, but given the amount of time that has typically passed since undergrad, it receives less weight than GMAT. We look for GMAT scores that fall within, or are close to, the middle 80 percent of scores accepted for admitted students. Work experience is important because M.B.A. employers typically value prior work experience as much as the M.B.A. itself. Work experience ensures the student will be able to contribute to both team and classroom discussions, and after the GMAT, it's our second most heavily weighted criteria.

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?

Work experience is critical—its importance to M.B.A. employers and its impact on the student's ability to contribute in the classroom are key. Two years of post-baccalaureate experience are strongly recommended. However, we realize that candidates are unique and may have had internships or other experiences that adequately prepared them to be successful in an M.B.A. program. We will consider applicants that have held several high-quality internships and excelled in all other areas of the application, including academics, GMAT score, leadership experience, and the interview.

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?

Our program's dedication to learning by doing is a strong draw, and we do hands-on learning differently than most business schools. For starters, our students immerse themselves in their area of study in year one, instead of waiting until the second year. Also in year one, every student takes on the challenge of a real-world consulting project, while students in the process excellence track have the opportunity to earn their Six Sigma Green Belt. The combination of these elements makes Tippie M.B.A.'s highly marketable for summer internships, bringing the academic and experiential expertise to contribute in day one on the job. Students tell us often that they chose Tippie for its outstanding return on investment (we're at the top of the list for ROI in the country, according to the most renowned ranking publications) and the "just-right" class size (we enroll about 70 students each year, allowing our students to work closely and form strong relationships that last far beyond graduation). Our small class size has many advantages, including strong staff-to-student and faculty-to-student ratios that guarantee an M.B.A. experience tailored to each individual's needs and strengths.