We posed questions to admissions officials at the University of Rochester William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration 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?
There are a number of ways that applicants can set themselves apart from their peers—the essays and interviews are two main areas where we really want to get to know the candidate and use those details in our admissions decisions.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
We look to see that the applicant has answered all facets of the question(s) asked. Additionally, we are looking for genuine responses that help us to better assess the candidate and their potential fit for the program we offer.
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?
While we cannot ignore the GMAT completely, it is by no means the only aspect considered in our decision making. We do not have a specific weighting for the GMAT or any other credential in the application, but there are times when it will be used—especially when a candidate may not have a business or quantitative background. The GMAT can be a useful tool in forecasting a applicant's potential for academic success in the core M.B.A. classes at Simon. Also, if a candidate has a weaker undergraduate GPA, the GMAT can be a metric to help offset that potential liability. Ultimately, it is a comprehensive review of all facets of the application, that ultimately factors into the final decision making.
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 and internships are very important as they often are an indicator of potential for future career success, post-M.B.A. We are evaluating both the decisions a candidate makes on where they choose to work (and why), as well as the overall career progress prior to B-school. While the majority of students have two to eight years of prior work before starting at Simon, we do enroll a number of Early Leaders: individuals with less than three years of prior work experience, including some exceptional candidates who are coming directly from undergrad. We also have some candidates with 10+ years experience. Ultimately, it is up to the candidate to make a case for "why now" is the best time for pursuing an M.B.A. degree.
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?
Due to our small size, internationally diverse student population and team-study approach, there is an opportunity for substantive, globally enriching interaction with faculty and fellow students. Simon gives our students the tools to solve business problems creatively and to make tough decisions in real-world situations through an economics-based curriculum that is functionally integrated across disciplines. Simon also emphasizes leadership development, both personally and professionally, in an environment that fosters coaching in 1:1 and small group formats. Finally, we have a strong history of helping students to successfully navigate their job search toward their post-M.B.A. dreams and aspirations.
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 are looking for a recommendation letter to come from someone who knows the candidate well and can provide tangible examples of past success and forecast future potential. It is crucial that the applicant select individuals who they work with or interact with on a close level—ideally a current or recent past supervisor or client. Letters from prominent public figures may get our attention, but they generally lack the detail necessary to provide enough impact in the decision making process and ultimately may fail to set the candidate apart from their peers.
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
Generally, the online application posts in late summer (July/August) with the first application deadlines in the fall and early winter. We operate on a rolling basis with deadlines, meaning that we use deadlines to manage when we guarantee a decision to the applicant, but we also post decisions sooner if they are available. We have an interview by invitation policy that requires U.S. candidates to come to campus and international candidates to interview over Skype or in person, if we are visiting their home country. Admission offers generally start in the November/December timeframe and continue until the class is full. A candidate usually has three to six weeks to respond to our admission offer, depending on the time of year when we make the offer and whether they were also offered a merit-based scholarship.
8. Which firms recruit heavily from your school? Which firms hire the highest percentage of your graduates?
Some companies that come to mind that frequently hire our graduates include Citigroup, Constellation Brands, Cigna, Deloitte, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Goldman Sachs Group, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods, M&T Bank, Merrill Lynch & Co., Novartis Consumer Health, Reckitt Benckiser, Unilever, and Xerox. By no means is this an exhaustive list, as we have a broad set of corporate relationships that we are managing.
9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
Not editing their essays—either boilerplate essays that are generic and do not answer the questions or, even worse, referring to another school in their essay. Also, not being genuine; this usually bears itself out during the interviewing process when we spend time getting to know the candidate and find that what they say may have changed since the time when their essays were first submitted.
10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?
Strong interpersonal skills, a compelling reason for B-school that includes internships and/or full-time employment, as well as campus or community leadership, and solid academics. Finally, and most importantly, a strong sense of self and good research that demonstrates why Simon is the right fit for their business school plans.