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?
The boutique size of our program is one of the major benefits of our program. We enroll only one cohort of students, which not only fosters a strong sense of community, but also ensures the highest quality education. All of our M.B.A. professors are rated by our M.B.A. students each year. Because there is only one cohort, every student in the program is taught by the highest-rated professors.
While the difficulty of getting corporate recruiters to campus is sometimes one of the downsides of a small program, our stellar career statistics show this to not be a problem at all for Georgia Tech. Similarly, the network is not just the M.B.A. network, but the Georgia Tech network. Georgia Tech has been ranked as having one of the most loyal alumni bases for a public university in the country. Whether you have an undergraduate degree in engineering or an M.B.A., you are a part of the Georgia Tech network.
6. 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?
As with most M.B.A. programs, professional references are preferred. Again, most M.B.A. admissions officers will look for direct supervisors, team members, former employers, or clients—really anyone the applicant has worked with on a regular basis. Certainly we do not want applicants to jeopardize their jobs by asking a direct supervisor for a recommendation, so another option may be former professors.
Also, if the applicant has been involved with a community service organization, someone from that organization who can talk about the impact the applicant has made in his or her time as a volunteer would also be a good choice.
Finally, friends or colleagues who have attended rigorous M.B.A. programs may also be an option. The thing to keep in mind is to make sure the letters are professional in nature and address the contributions the applicant can make to the M.B.A. program. Stay away from personal references.
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
Georgia Tech admits applicants on a rolling basis, so as soon as the application is complete, the committee will begin reviewing it. While a prospective applicant can schedule an informational interview at any time, admissions interviews are by invitation only.
8. Which firms recruit heavily from your school? Which firms hire the highest percentage of your graduates?
The Georgia Tech M.B.A. program boasts one of the highest job placement records in the country. More than 100 companies recruit our M.B.A. students through the Jones Career Center each year, representing functional areas such as leadership development, strategic and functional consulting, operations and supply chain, technology, corporate finance, and marketing. Here's a partial list of companies who have recruited our M.B.A. students on and off campus.
9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
I think one of the most deadly mistakes applicants make is not treating the M.B.A. recruiting and admissions process like a job search. Applicants should present a professional appearance and demeanor in every interaction with the school, no matter if it is a phone call with the receptionist, a coffee chat with a current student, or meeting the admissions director.
Many times, applicants are on their best behavior when they are with one of the members of the admissions committee but, believe me, we know when someone has been rude or disrespectful with someone they do not deem to be in a position of decision making.
10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?
Corporate recruiters love Georgia Tech M.B.A.'s because they possess that typical Georgia Tech attitude of "roll your sleeves up and get the job done." Our students are very smart and highly motivated, but the atmosphere of the program is ultra-collaborative. There is not a hint of a "cut-throat" attitude here. The admissions committee actually looks for a personality fit for the program during the interview in addition to potential for academic success and career goals.
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