We also provide experiential learning opportunities in the form of consulting engagements with regional and national businesses that provide students with a chance to apply the classroom skills they are learning to a real live business case. We require all students to take a class where these projects are executed; it is part of the first year core curriculum. These projects run the gamut functionally— accounting, finance, marketing, MIS, strategy, etc.—so that a student can be matched to a project that is tailored to their professional objectives.
Our communications class is also an important part of our core curriculum, and we believe it is a superior product when compared to our peers. We emphasize the importance of the so called "soft skills" and give the students plenty of case studies and simulations in which to practice both their personal and professional communication strategies. There is not a choice here between the "hard skills" of the technical classes and the soft skills of communication. Employers expect and demand both of these things, and we provide the opportunity for students to develop and learn in both areas.
Finally, our program offers focus areas in sustainable energy and health care, which is unique and differentiates us from other programs. Each area has an elective class from the business school as well as other units on campus. But we augment the formal course work with experiential learning projects in these areas, as well as networking and career panel events where we bring in professionals from these industries to educate the students on professional opportunities.
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?
We look for letters that provide specific examples of the candidate's achievements. Letters from previous managers are preferred, but a colleague or client that can attest to the candidate's professional achievements are also acceptable. We do not have much experience with the last case you describe (e.g., the prominent public figure writer).
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
We admit students in three rounds, with current deadlines of January 15, February 15, and March 15 for the upcoming fall. We turn the applications around in less than a month. We also will work with students that may have trouble completing the application (e.g., waiting on a final recommendation letter or official GMAT scores); we would review such applications provided the student could communicate when the last item will be received.
We require every student to interview with our admissions staff or the associate dean, either in person or over the phone. Logistically, this is a challenge for our staff, as we try to complete all interviews within two weeks following the application deadline. But in our view, it is worth it to make a real connection with the candidate to make sure that there is a good fit.
8. Which firms recruit heavily from your school? Which firms hire the highest percentage of your graduates?
—Ventana Medical Systems (Roche)
9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
An inability to articulate their career plans is the biggest detriment to the application, assuming grades and GMAT scores are acceptable. Also, in the interview process, an excessively casual attitude is frowned upon. We are not so strait laced that this needs to be an extremely formal process; we want to get a feel for the candidate as a person, but they need to understand it is a professional degree.
10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?
We look for someone who is energetic and looking to apply those energies to develop professionally and pursue excellence in a field that excites them. We do not want to push students in to certain areas that seem "hot" and may help our rankings if they pay high salaries. In the short run that would be nice, but in the long run in may not be sustainable as either the graduate's career satisfaction would be low, or our energies would constantly need to be redirected to new industries. Rather, we want the student to identify what they are passionate about—and then we can help them achieve success in that field. The student must also have the ability to think critically and communicate to others in a professional manner. These skills need not be perfected, of course, before they enroll here. It is our job to aid in development in these areas. But we do want to see evidence of some core strength that can be built upon through our curricular experience.