We posed questions to admissions officials at the University of California—Los Angeles Anderson 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?
When applicants show genuine passion for their goals, we know they have a sense of direction. But when applicants show they have a whole career plan, then we know they have a map, too. M.B.A. candidates should start with a long-term dream that resonates deep within them and then work backward to figure out the practical steps to get there.
Business school knowledge, opportunities, and contacts make the new future possible. But first getting into business school requires proving academic and managerial potential through action. Tough test preparation is vital, as is highlighting leadership roles taken at work and in the community, and making a case for the future with contagious enthusiasm.
[Discover more insights on how to gain admissions to the country's top business schools.]
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
The best essays tell a clear story from the past to the future by way of our school. For the UCLA Anderson M.B.A. application, we only require two essays—one asking about the formation of the applicant's character and the other about goals and the specific appeals of UCLA Anderson. Too many applicants just recycle essays from other business school applications without customizing them much. Instead, we prefer those who conduct due diligence on our program and their target field, and describe specific activities they will undertake to build skills and a network here. Ideally, both essays flow together as key qualities in the person are revealed in creative expression, and the development trajectory to a compelling career becomes clear.
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 just one data point, like the GPA, work experience, essays, and everything else we evaluate to predict each candidate's potential for success. Ours is an academically rigorous program and we want students with strong life skills, too. This means taking into account not just the numbers but also the subjective quality of the school and the coursework completed, along with grade and score trends.
We want people from different backgrounds in terms of undergraduate majors and professional fields, so we are flexible on diverse metrics—as long as the applicant shows enough quantitative skills to handle M.B.A. material and the verbal skills to discuss it.
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?
UCLA Anderson's M.B.A. program has no minimum work requirement. The average student has five years of post-undergraduate experience, with the range from 0 to 20 years. Those who have less experience balance their profiles with academic and extracurricular strengths, while others are veterans with great workplace stories to share. For us, the quality of experience is more important than the quantity. For instance, how does the applicant compare to peers, in terms of increasing responsibilities in managing projects and people? Do they know what transferable skills they bring to their post-M.B.A. goals, and do they have a focus for adding value during business school? We want diverse people in the class who have worked in finance, marketing, science, engineering, government, etc., so we look for those who know how to learn from others and transition to a new reality.
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?