We posed questions to admissions officials at the George Mason University School of Management 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?
Just like people, no two completed applications are alike. Equal GMAT scores are seldom the result of identical verbal/quantitative scores. Undergraduate transcripts represent all types of colleges and universities. The transcripts reveal different courses of study and even different grade trends. Essays are completely unique in tone, personality, and perspective. So, too, are letters of recommendations. And, no two interviews are ever alike. Applicants who present themselves in the strongest possible light should never be concerned about setting themselves apart from anyone. They need to stand up straight and provide a clear picture of what has made them who they are and how the M.B.A. program will make them what they want to be.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
The essays provide a great opportunity to share "who you are" with the admissions committee: your goals, your personality, and your interests, whether professional or personal. Realize that this one of the few areas of the application where you can showcase yourself and how you will be an asset to the Mason program. We want to know that you are a professional, but also want to know about you as a person and how you became that person. What we don't want is cookie-cutter platitudes based on what you think we want to read or hear.
Our essays are deliberately structured so that they can be written in any tense and voice and are a potential strong selling point for their authors. They are open-ended but proper spelling and grammar are nonnegotiable requirements. The best essays share information not captured by applicant statistics. Statistics don't tell a story and the best, most compelling essays usually do.
3. How important is the applicant's GMAT score? How do you weigh it against undergraduate GPA and work/internship experience? Which of these carry the most weight? The least?
No portion of the portfolio is weighted more than another; the admissions committee considers the entire application to ensure that they have a complete profile of a candidate's professional and academic qualifications. A demonstrated ability to handle the rigorous quantitative requirements of an M.B.A. program is always an advantage.
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 students in our program are demonstrated leaders committed to professional growth in their industries. It is recommended that students have at least two years of professional experience, but most average more than six years. They represent a wide variety of industries and specializations; this diversity of backgrounds fosters a dynamic learning environment from which all students benefit. Having an engineer sit next to a NGO executive sitting next to a military officer sitting next to a mortgage banker—that makes for a stimulating class.
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?
Mason M.B.A. students greatly benefit from the program's cohort structure, which actively promotes leadership, teamwork, and communication skills. Within M.B.A. cohorts, students learn to think creatively, critically, and independently. Management problems solved in class can be immediately applied to the workplace challenges that students face each day.
Hands-on experience is the hallmark of our global residency program—and a valuable opportunity for M.B.A. students to gain insights into other business cultures. But the exposure to different business cultures begins in the classroom through the experiences of fellow students.