We posed questions to admissions officials at the Ohio State University Max M. Fisher 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?
Applicants should keep in mind that admissions officers are reading hundreds of applications for their programs each year. The applications that stand out are those that help bring the candidate to life from the paper; those that provide a comprehensive and candid assessment of the candidate from his/her own point of view, as well as from the references that were selected to corroborate his/her story. Applications should showcase the candidate's personality and communicate his/her potential for success in the M.B.A. program at our institution. Strong applicants effectively demonstrate their ability to connect past accomplishments and previous behavior with the attainment of future goals. Applications should give us a clear indication that the candidate has thoroughly researched our program and has given significant thought to the ways in which our program specifically can help him achieve his/her career potential.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
Application essays give the applicant a wonderful opportunity to bring color to his application, to give the admissions committee insight into the applicant's personality, character, past accomplishments, and future goals. We don't want to read application essays that look too "prepared." The essays should be written in the voice and tone of the applicant. They should provide an honest assessment of the applicant's background and well articulated thoughts about the reason for pursuing the M.B.A. and why our institution in particular can help him accomplish his personal and professional goals. While the undergraduate transcripts and GMAT score can help us evaluate a candidate's academic aptitude and potential to succeed doing the coursework in the program, the essays help us evaluate whether his interests and goals are appropriately aligned with our program offerings and, ultimately, whether he would be a good fit with our program's culture.
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 was designed to help business school professionals predict whether applicants would succeed in completing the rigorous coursework that is required of a leading graduate management program. The GMAT and undergraduate GPA are the two quantitative measures we have to evaluate applicants on a more level playing field. That being said, in many cases, an applicant's undergraduate GPA may not be reflective of his potential for graduate study. Similarly, we often see candidates who have experienced academic and professional success despite a history of poor standardized test taking. For that reason, we take a very holistic approach in evaluating candidates for admission to the program. We want to know that the candidates we admit will be academically successful and will add meaningful value to the program through active participation in both classroom discussion and outside activities, organizations, and professional associations. GMAT, GPA, and work experience are all elements that are carefully considered when making admissions decisions. A candidate with a below average undergraduate GPA will want to demonstrate academic aptitude with a competitive GMAT score. A candidate with a weak GMAT score, even after a second attempt, will have to highlight his undergraduate academic record and work experience to overcome the poor GMAT performance.
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?
The quality of a student's experience in the M.B.A. program is heavily influenced by the other individuals that comprise the M.B.A. class. The learning methodology is generally very interactive, team oriented and discussion based. In order for the students to have a positive learning experience, they need to actively participate in classroom discussion, contributing their perspectives based upon their previous experience. Students without significant post-baccalaureate work experience or meaningful internship/co-op experience often have less to contribute, as they don't have the benefit of enough work and life experience to engage in rich and relevant discussion about business issues. Our students generally have an average of four to five years of work experience prior to enrolling, although we will consider younger students who have outstanding academic records, evidence of success in leadership roles, and demonstration of personal characteristics that are reflective of a high-potential leader.