We posed questions to admissions officials at the Indiana University Kelley 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?
Kelley applicants can set themselves apart from their peers by having clear short- and long-term career goals, and by demonstrating not only what they can gain from the M.B.A. experience, but what they can contribute as an M.B.A. student—what their classmates can learn from them. Candidates can also set themselves apart by demonstrating genuine interest in and knowledge of the school. If possible, applicants should visit campus and attend local recruitment events sponsored by the school.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
Essays provide a candidate with the opportunity to bring their application to life. We learn quite a bit about an applicant by reviewing their résumé, academic records, and so on. But the essays allow us to learn even more. They provide us with an understanding of the applicant's goals and reasons for pursuing an M.B.A. We learn about their unique qualities and the contributions they can make within the Kelley M.B.A. community. The content of essays also provides us with a sense of what's important to the applicant. Ultimately, we are simply trying to get to know them through their essays. The degree to which candidates follow the essay guidelines and actually answer the questions asked helps us get a sense of their attention to detail. Based on the information an applicant chooses to share, we sometimes learn about a candidate's judgment.
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?
The GMAT is one factor among many that we consider. The M.B.A. is a rigorous academic program. We look at an applicant's academic record and test scores to confirm that they have the potential to be academically successful. When reviewing the academic record, we consider far more than the cumulative GPA. We look at grade trends, the rigor of the curriculum, the nature of courses, and so on. A lower GMAT can be offset by a strong academic record, just as a less successful academic record can be balanced by a strong GMAT score.
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?
Kelley M.B.A. students have an average of five years of full-time, post-undergraduate professional work experience. We like to see candidates with no less than two years of experience. Having a base of solid work experience often helps candidates develop and confirm their future career goals. Students with experience have more to contribute in the classroom—they can draw examples from their past employment to share with their classmates. We value students from a diverse range of industries and functions. We look for an applicant's professional accomplishments and the positive impact they've had on the organizations and firms they have been associated with.
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 Kelley M.B.A. Program cultivates an environment where everyone—peers, faculty, staff, and alumni—are committed to student success. We offer an unparalleled classroom experience. Our innovative integrated curriculum provides a top-ranked, cross-functional management education delivered by remarkable faculty. By partnering students with faculty experts, Kelley Academies prepare students for their dream career by offering real-world consulting projects, deep career insights, and global perspectives. Academy Directors, faculty, and Graduate Career Coaches come together to create a personal team of professional guides whose priority is each student's success. When students attend the Kelley School of Business, they become a part of the Kelley family for life.
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 value recommendations from people who can speak meaningfully about an applicant's past professional success and future management potential. The best reference letters are from those who have worked closely with the individual, and can provide specific examples to highlight the applicant's strengths and areas for improvement. Letters from those with important titles who don't know the applicant well are rarely helpful.
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
The Kelley School offers four application deadlines: November 1, January 5, March 1, and April 15. The first two deadlines are our priority deadlines for merit-based financial aid consideration. International students are also encouraged to apply by the January 5 deadline to allow ample time to secure a student visa if offered admission. Decisions are typically released via E-mail about eight weeks after each deadline.
8. Which firms recruit heavily from your school? Which firms hire the highest percentage of your graduates?
Last year, the top hiring firms for full-time positions included Cummins, Deloitte Consulting, Eli Lilly, Procter & Gamble, Target, Infosys, Intel, Kraft, Mead Johnson, Ernst & Young, Johnson & Johnson, Nationwide, Sears Holding Corp., and Whirlpool.
9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
On the surface, M.B.A. applications seem very similar from school to school. Therefore, many candidates appear to complete their applications without carefully reading the instructions. As a result, they neglect to submit required documents, miss deadlines, or submit materials in ways that are not preferred. Following instructions and submitting materials as requested is very helpful. Applicants should also carefully proofread their essays and résumés. Spell check is a very useful tool, but it can never replace careful proofreading.
We offer an optional essay. Many applicants use this essay to talk about an area of their application that they are not proud of—an aspect of their candidacy that is not an accurate reflection of their potential for success. Applicants who simply make excuses for the deficiencies are rarely successful. Those who identify a weakness, and then provide examples of strengths to balance the deficiencies are often more successful in the admissions process.
10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?
The ideal Kelley M.B.A. student has clear short- and long-term career goals, a track record of academic and professional success, a strong work ethic, and a solid team orientation. Our students are confident, driven, and success oriented, but they want to be successful with their classmates—not at the expense of their classmates.