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.
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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.
As an admissions team, we strive to review each application holistically and do not put set weights on GMAT score, GPA, and work experience. Rather, we use the entire application and interview process to answer the following questions:
• Will the student be successful in the classroom?
• Will the student be able to achieve their career goals?
• Does the student possess a genuine desire to attend Purdue?
• Will the student get involved and improve our program?
• Will other students enjoy working with this student?
• Will the student contribute to the Purdue alumni network?
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?
We prefer our students to have some full-time professional work experience before applying to Purdue. On average, Purdue M.B.A. students have about three to four years of experience prior to enrollment. However, we look at quality of experience in addition to quantity. Students who demonstrate extraordinary leadership potential in intern or volunteer roles may be considered for admission even if they fall below our average.
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?
I believe the Purdue M.B.A. offers a unique blend of academic excellence, meaningful experiential learning opportunities, a genuine focus on leadership development, and a truly diverse ecosystem which brings top students and faculty from around the world together to learn from each other.
Students coming to Purdue will receive an analytical and quantitatively focused education, numerous opportunities for leadership development and enhancement, and a diverse global 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?
The recommendation letter is unique because it is one of the only components of the application that is not in the direct control of the applicant. Therefore we pay very close attention to them. Good recommendation letters are written by someone with intimate knowledge of the applicant. We prefer the recommendation come from a professional (as opposed to a personal) contact who directly supervises the applicant. At Purdue, we place no weight on letters of recommendation from prominent figures who do not know the applicant well. On occasion, we will call references if we have any questions about an applicant or would like additional information about anything written in a letter of recommendation.
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
All applications are reviewed by at least two members of our staff. In addition some applications are reviewed by faculty, alumni, career services and/or current students. From the time an application is submitted, we strive to get back to students with an interview request, waitlist notification, or denial within three to four weeks. However, students who apply during the busiest part of the recruiting cycle may experience slightly longer response times. After an interview is conducted, we are usually able to provide admissions status and scholarship information within two weeks.
8. Which firms recruit heavily from your school? Which firms hire the highest percentage of your graduates?
The following firms hire the largest percentage of our graduates: Cummins Inc.; Amazon; Bank of America; The Procter & Gamble Company; Sears Holdings Corporation; IBM Corporation; SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS CO., LTD.; Dell Inc.; Shell Oil Company; Intel Corporation; Air Products & Chemicals, Inc.; Ingersoll Rand; Deloitte Consulting LLP; Johnson & Johnson; US Airways; AT Kearney; Cognizant Technology Solutions; GE (General Electric); and Raytheon.
9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
Some of the biggest mistakes we see on applications include:
• Incomplete or inaccurate information on the application
• Spelling mistakes or poor grammar on the resume and essays
• Lack of cohesion between the various components of the application (e.g., information in the personal statement is inconsistent with what is said about the applicant in the recommendation letters)
• Recommendation letters coming from a person with little knowledge of the applicant
• No strong desire to attend Purdue in the essays or personal statement
Some of the biggest mistakes we see in interviews include:
• No desire or ability to develop rapport with the interviewer
• Overly rehearsed answers that do not come across as genuine
• Lack of knowledge about Purdue University
• Inability to sell one's personal brand
• Inability to differentiate from other candidates
• Answers that seem like they are trying to impress the interviewer as opposed to genuinely answering the question
• Lack of questions for the interviewer
• Lack of follow up after the interview
10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?
Our typical student graduated from a top university with good grades and extracurricular experiences. He or she has worked for about four years, demonstrating progressive work responsibilities along the way. They are looking to earn an M.B.A. to enhance their career trajectory and are looking for a program offering strong academics, numerous experiential learning opportunities, and a diverse learning environment.
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