How to Get In: Rice University Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business

What can you do to set yourself apart in your application? Admissions officials have the answers.

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We posed questions to admissions officials at Rice University Jesse H. Jones Graduate 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?

The Rice M.B.A. Application process is designed to give applicants the opportunity to tell their story and help the admissions committee get to know them as an individual. We encourage applicants to use the application essays and interview to highlight not just their strengths as a professional and prospective M.B.A. candidate but also the elements of their personality and life experiences that make them unique.

2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?

The admissions committee uses the essays to get to know the candidates and also to assess the candidate's self-knowledge, maturity, and writing ability. We like to see thoughtful, well-organized, and well-written essays that tell the applicant's story while responding to the essay prompts. Essays are also used to gauge a candidate's knowledge of and compatibility with the Rice M.B.A. program, so we encourage candidates to reflect on the unique elements of the Rice M.B.A. and how the program will help the candidate reach his or her goals.

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 admissions committee reviews applications holistically; each component of the application is reviewed and considered as the committee makes its recommendation. If one area of the application is below average, it benefits the candidate to have other portions of the application that are above average—but no one area carries more "weight" than any other area.

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?

While the admissions committee does not require a minimum amount of post-undergraduate work experience, the students in the full-time program have an average of five years of experience when they start the program. We prefer to see candidates with several years of work experience for three basic reasons: work experience provides context for students and helps them internalize the lessons learned in the classroom; because the Rice M.B.A. is a team-based program, students learn a great deal from the experiences of their teammates; and students with greater work experience can leverage their pre-M.B.A. experience throughout the recruiting process.

5. 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 require two professional references, and prefer the recommenders to be the candidate's current or former direct supervisors, or other professionals with whom the candidate has worked closely. We prefer professional recommenders, rather than academic, so we would steer an applicant away from using an undergraduate professor as a reference unless they also worked with that professor in a professional context. Letters of reference are used to assess how well the candidate performs in a professional setting, so recommenders should have been in a position to observe the candidate's work. As such, letters from prominent public figures or high-level executives who cannot comment on the candidate's work style or contributions to his or her organization are less valuable than more substantive letters from a direct supervisor.

6. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?

We accept applications throughout the admissions cycle, which runs from roughly September through April, and we review submitted applications in a series of rounds. We publish the application deadline for each round, and also the decision date for each round, which is generally five to six weeks after each deadline. In order to be considered in a particular round, the candidate's application must be complete by the application deadline. This means that test scores, transcripts, and letters of recommendations, and the electronically submitted application and essays must be received in our office by the deadline. We offer admissions interviews to selected students, either in person or via phone or Internet. As an example: a student who applies for the first round deadline (which is typically early November) and whose application is complete by the deadline will know if he or she is being invited to interview within a week or two. The candidate will receive his or her admissions decision by the published decision date for that round (typically mid-December for the first round), as long as the interview can be conducted before the published decision date.