How to Get In: University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign College of Business

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

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Like many top graduate schools, the Illinois M.B.A. offers a challenging, case-oriented curriculum taught by award-winning faculty. However, Illinois differentiates itself from other institutions in the following areas:

—Our program offers unique flexibility, so after you complete the integrated first-year curriculum you can choose from a wide variety of business and non-business courses to meet your career objectives.

—The Illinois M.B.A. has a global experiential learning emphasis, which means we provide exceptional opportunities for you to gain experience beyond the classroom. A great example of this is Illinois Business Consulting, the largest student-run business consultancy in the United States. IBC offers students a chance to work on real-world problems for a variety of organizations.

—Our program has been consistently named one of the top M.B.A. schools in the United States by U.S.News & World Report, and that recognition garners the attention of prospective employers.

—We're part of a world-class university with an international reputation for academic excellence, so you'll learn from renowned faculty and benefit from the extraordinary academic and research resources on campus.

—We have the world's largest alumni network, which translates into vast opportunities for you to make valuable business connections.

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?

Recommendation letters are extremely important in the application process. The purpose of the recommendation letter is to provide insights on the applicant's professional capabilities including leadership and teamwork skills, work ethic, and ability to adapt to new challenges. Therefore, it is extremely important for the recommender to know the applicant very well. We place greater weight on the relationship between the applicant and the recommender than the recommender's title or position within an organization. Letters from prominent public figures who do not know the applicant well will not have a positive impact on the student's application.

We recommend students seek recommendations from the following (in order of preference):

—Superior/manager at current employer

—Superior/manager at previous employer

—Peer/subordinate at current employer

—Peer/subordinate at previous employer

—Professor/faculty member

—Leader of religious/community service organization

Please note that we do not consider recommendations from family members or friends.

7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?

All applications to the Illinois M.B.A. are read by at least two admissions officers in addition to a member of our student admissions committee. If the admissions committee is interested in learning more about an applicant, an interview is scheduled at the applicant's earliest convenience. While in-person interviews are preferred, we use Skype for applicants unable to visit campus. We try to inform all students of our admissions decision within two weeks of their interview, but it is not always possible given the number of applications we process. In general, students who submit their application earlier in the process, (e.g., before December 15) receive a response more quickly than those that wait until the final admissions deadline.

8. Which firms recruit heavily from your school? Which firms hire the highest percentage of your graduates?

Illinois M.B.A. graduates are in great demand in a variety of companies and industries. The following organizations hire Illinois M.B.A.'s each year: AT&T, Cisco Systems, Ernst & Young, Exxon-Mobil, LG Corporation, Nalco Company, Peabody Energy, Robert Bosch, Sears Holding Corporation, and U.S. General Services Administration.

9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?