We posed questions to admissions officials at the University of Washington Michael G. Foster 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?
Applicants can stand out from their peers by demonstrating that they have thought carefully about their post-M.B.A. plans and thoroughly researched the programs they are applying to. Clearly connecting the dots between your background, the M.B.A. and your future plans shows the admissions committee that you have thought carefully about why you want an M.B.A. and, more importantly, why you want an M.B.A. from a particular school.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
The application essays offer the admissions committee an opportunity to ask you specific questions about your plans and how you will make a unique contribution to the program. While this may sound obvious, your first priority in writing your essays should be to make sure that you are very specifically addressing the questions that have been asked. The best essays are those that are straightforward, honest and thorough.
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?
The GMAT helps the admissions committee to assess a candidate's potential for academic success in the program. We also consider a candidate's undergraduate performance and their work experience when assessing academic potential. We use a holistic approach to the application review process so there is no one factor that is more important than another. However, a strong GMAT score can somewhat offset a lower GPA and vice-versa. As an applicant you should be familiar with the program's average GMAT and you should make sure that your application adequately reflects your abilities.
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?
When reviewing a candidate's work experience, we consider both quantity and quality of work experience. We're interested in what a candidate will be able to contribute to the program (both in and out of the classroom) and we look for qualities such as initiative, leadership potential and ability to collaborate in a team environment. We also consider how realistic a candidate's post-M.B.A. goals are, given their level of work experience. Realistic post-M.B.A. goals are usually the result of thorough research, and can demonstrate a readiness for the M.B.A. regardless of the number of years of experience.
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?
The Foster M.B.A. offers a highly customizable curriculum, outstanding networking opportunities and a unique leadership development program that prepares graduates to be effective, strategic decision-makers in whatever post-M.B.A. path they choose. Students tailor their studies to target their unique post-M.B.A. goals and benefit from countless opportunities to build up their résumés through projects, active student organizations, business plan competitions, and internships. And Seattle is home to unique, innovative companies both large and small, and offers a perfect mix of a cosmopolitan lifestyle and easy access to the great outdoors.
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?
Candidates should choose recommenders who know them well over impressive names or titles. The ideal recommender is generally someone who has worked with you in a supervisory role long enough to watch you progress and grow.
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
The Foster M.B.A. Program has four application deadlines, each with a specific admission decision notification date. Generally candidates receive a decision within about two months after the application deadline. Interviews are by invitation only, so candidates will be contacted after their application has been submitted if the admissions committee wishes to conduct an interview.
8. Which firms recruit heavily from your school? Which firms hire the highest percentage of your graduates?
Foster attracts an extremely diverse set of employers, from small startups, to non-profit organizations, to big-name companies like Microsoft and Starbucks. Our program provides highly personalized career coaching, and we strive to help each student find the company and the job that best complements their interests and goals. For this reason, the list of hiring companies each year is quite long relative to the size of our program.
9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
Be sure to put your best foot forward by carefully following the application instructions and making sure to proofread your entire application. While small mistakes here or there won't bar you from admission, your application will appear less polished overall. Submitting all of your documents correctly and on time makes a great first impression.
10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?
The Foster M.B.A. program admits a widely diverse class each year, but there are some common characteristics among the students. Foster M.B.A.'s are driven to succeed but care deeply about their community. They believe that leadership comes in many different forms, including effective team collaboration, innovative thinking and a willingness to roll up your sleeves and do what it takes to make a difference. And they develop strong, lasting relationships with one another that stretch well beyond their years as M.B.A. students.