We posed questions to admissions officials at the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College 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?
In my opinion, it's important for applicants to accomplish three things when applying to M.B.A. programs. One, be true to yourself. Don't try to present yourself as what the admissions committee might want to see. Be confident in who you are and be proud of what you have accomplished. Secondly, make sure you have done your research on each school and present why you think that school is a fit for you both academically and personally. Each school is different, with a different ethos and culture. Make a case as to why you think you fit that school. Finally, enjoy the process! Start the research and application processes early and have fun with the interview. The application process is a great time for self reflection. It's a time to ask yourself the tough questions: What do I want to do with my life? How am I going to impact the world in a positive way? How will an M.B.A. help me to accomplish these things?
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
Speaking for the Admissions Committee, we look for essays that are crisp and concise in both design and concept. In other words, write the essays like you would a newspaper article. Have a great lead and get your main thought out early. The lead is a great way to show your creativity, but it's also very important to have a specific point to your writing. The essays need to be perfect grammatically and in spelling. No mistakes are allowed here!
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 a very important aspect of the application process because we know that it is generally a good predictor of GPA in the first year of studies within our M.B.A. program. It is also the one common denominator that every applicant must go through. It's not an end--all be-all, but it does allow for comparison among the applicants. Ultimately though, we are looking for academic aptitude and leadership potential from these areas—not a particular GMAT, GPA, or work experience number. The overall application package is what supports admission, not just one or two data points.
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?
There is no magic number that makes an applicant an admit or not. The quality of work experience is more important than the quantity. it just so happens that most applicants need about four to five years to accumulate quality work experience. We typically measure quality of work experience by looking for good career progression, a clear and logical career development plan, the ability to work well in teams and experience managing people and resources (e.g., budgets). These things are typically good indicators of leadership potential and help to separate great applicants from good applicants.
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 University of Notre Dame M.B.A. Program is not for everyone. First and foremost, we are much smaller than most of other top M.B.A. programs. We typically have around 330 students in the entirety of our M.B.A. program, while many other top programs have incoming classes that are two and three times that large. This is a conscious choice that we have made as a program. We think that this small intimate class size ensures that you will build real and meaningful relationships with your classmates and with the professors and staff. It also ensures an environment of teamwork and shared accountability. The importance of this dynamic is hard to overstate, but also hard to fully explain to those that haven't experienced it. All we can tell you is that being 1 of 300 is much different than being 1 of 2,000. At the end of the day we think the relationships and the sense of camaraderie among the students, staff and faculty is why the Notre Dame Alumni Network is so passionate and connected to the University.