We posed questions to admissions officials at the Purdue University—West Lafayette Krannert 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?
I believe applicants who do the following differentiate themselves in a positive way from their peers:
Show some spirit: At Purdue, we believe we have a fantastic M.B.A. program nestled within one of the top public universities in the world. We're excited about our program and are looking for students that feel the same way. If you are considering applying to Purdue, I'd recommend understanding what makes our program unique and talking about how our offerings are consistent with your career goals. If you are applying to multiple schools, try to personalize your application with insights on why Purdue is the right fit for you. If possible, speaking with current students and alumni can give you greater insights on our program, culture, and critical success factors.
[Discover more insights on how to gain admissions to the country's top business schools.]
Address red flags directly and honestly: There is no such thing as a perfect M.B.A. application. If there is a weak area on an application, such as low test scores, low undergraduate GPA, or gaps in work history, it's better to address them openly and honestly in the application. Often, these situations can be explained in a way that actually enhances a student's application. For example, I once met a student with a low college GPA. In talking with the student, I learned he started his own business and was working 60 to 80 hours per week. If you have some areas of concern on your application, you can use the optional essay to explain the situation.
Make your personal statement count: The personal statement is one of the most nebulas components of the M.B.A. application. However, it's one of the most important sections. The personal statement is your chance to introduce yourself to the admissions team and make a case why you should be admitted to the program. Use the personal statement to tell a unique and compelling story about your professional background and accomplishments, reasons for wanting to pursue an M.B.A., reasons for wanting to study at Purdue, and how you plan to utilize your talents to improve the student experience and alumni network.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
For me, essays are one of the most important aspects of the application. While many other parts of the M.B.A. application are quantitative and structured, the essays allow the applicant to tell a compelling story and create an emotional connection with the admissions team. They also illuminate an applicant's structured thinking abilities, ability to be persuasive, and can give us some insights into whether a student is genuinely interested in Purdue or just cutting and pasting the same essay for multiple schools.
I look for essays that are well structured (answer the question asked, but also highlight individual strengths and interest in Purdue), have the appropriate level of detail, and are persuasive, unique, and genuine.
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 score is one indicator of a student's ability to handle the academic rigor of the Purdue M.B.A. While it is an important factor, it does not tell anything about a student's leadership capability, interpersonal skills, or whether or not they will make our program stronger. While we do not have a minimum score, we do expect all applicants to achieve a reasonable level of proficiency on the exam. Those that score well below our published average should consider retaking the exam after further preparation.