We posed questions to admissions officials at the Georgia Institute of Technology College 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?
A little research goes a long way. The more research an applicant does on the program before they apply (and especially before they interview), the better. For example, we have had applicants from Atlanta who interview for the program who have not attended an information session. The question is always, "Why not?" We host them at least once per month and on different days of the week, including Saturdays. For people who are not local, most schools host webinars. Attending events like these make the applicant more prepared if they are invited to interview.
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2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
This is another indicator of how well the applicant has researched the program. When they can clearly articulate why they want an M.B.A. and why Georgia Tech is the best school to help them reach those goals, that indicates focus and interest in the program. If possible, naming two or three companies or jobs they would like to have upon graduation is great.
However, many M.B.A. applicants aren't sure what they want to do and many change their minds when they enroll, but to be able to say, "As I see it right now, here is what I think I would like to do with my M.B.A.," helps the committee to determine if we can help the applicant achieve their academic, professional, and personal 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 GMAT is obviously important because it has been shown to be the best predictor of academic success in the first year of an M.B.A. When it comes to admissions, I would say the GMAT is a "qualifier"—meaning that while a high GMAT score doesn't guarantee admission, or even an interview, submitting a GMAT score that is competitive with the students currently enrolled in the program means that there is a possibility to move to the next phase of the admissions process.
I would say that the GMAT is given a bit more weight than grades. However, performance at the undergraduate or graduate level (both positive or negative) is certainly a factor in admission. If a candidate does have a low grade point average, the optional essay is a good place to address this. Again, if grades are low, this is where having a strong GMAT score can help to provide evidence of potential for academic success in the program.
Also, the admissions committee does recognize that there are some schools and majors that are more rigorous than others, so that can factor in as well.
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?
Work experience is a huge factor in the admissions decision. Here at Georgia Tech, we strongly recommend at least three years of full-time professional experience before entering an M.B.A. program; the average student in our program has five years of experience.
There are two primary reasons why work experience is weighted heavily. First, since M.B.A. programs have a strong emphasis on classroom and group discussions, the ability to make meaningful contributions to these discussions is important.
Secondly, corporate recruiters tend to prefer students with at least three years of work experience plus the M.B.A. So while I know it is tempting for students to want to go right into an M.B.A. program from undergrad, they should look at the years of work experience they gain prior to the program as an investment that will pay off later.
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?