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How to Get In: University of California—Irvine Paul Merage School of Business

What can you do to set yourself apart in your application? Admissions officials have the answers.

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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?

From a curriculum standpoint, we offer a number of courses that are specific to the Merage School experience:

Sustainability and Competitive Advantage, a new course offered starting last year, allows students to understand the challenge of addressing social and environmental sustainability from a strategic perspective. This course enables our graduates to capture business opportunities in sustainability while making a difference for this and future generations.

The EDGE course explores the roles of globalization, technology, and innovation in the changing landscape of business. This course prepares our students to proactively identify opportunities and challenges presented by globalization, technology, and innovation, and develop strategies needed to compete and be successful.

Leadership Strategies provides students with insights and perspectives into leadership and their leadership style. The course allows them to understand the frameworks of leadership but also how others see them as a leader. Students create a plan for enhancing their leadership and career.

We also have an Experiential Learning project that many of our students like to take advantage of. This course serves as an opportunity for our students to address real-life business challenges. Students contribute to the bottom line of organizations and it's good networking for future career opportunities.

The companies our students work with vary from year to year but recent companies our students have worked with include: Experian, Disneyland, Vizio, Johnson & Johnson, Hyundai, Wet Seal, Bausch & Lomb, Volcom, Taco Bell, and Marriott.

From a career standpoint, we consider our approach to M.B.A. careers to be unique and impactful:

Before students even set foot on campus, the career transformation begins with career-visioning exercises. We put a lot of emphasis on professional development and helping individuals find their career focus. Career visioning exercises help students hone in on their career interest, as well as strengths and weaknesses and are followed by a workshop to identify their career vision.

Then, our powerhouse of M.B.A. career counselors work one-on-one with each of our students to develop a customized career marketing plan to help them utilize all the resources the Merage School has to offer to connect them with their career goals.

The M.B.A. class of 2009, the first graduating class to complete the career visioning process, ranked No. 1 in the country for employment in 2009 with 92 percent of our M.B.A. students employed by three months after graduation. More recently, the class of 2011 also had 92 percent of our students employed within three months of graduation and 100 percent within five months. This is a testament to the career visioning process and the Merage School M.B.A. Career Center's ability to prepare our students for where they want to go in their career.

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?

Recommendation letters provide the admissions committee with an opportunity to learn about the candidate from someone else's perspective, preferably from a professional perspective. Therefore, having a recommendation from someone who works with the applicant on a regular basis will be more valuable than a highly ranking official who has minimal interaction with the applicant.

We are looking for quality insight into the candidate, their accomplishments and interactions with others. We want to see that type of insight and if a prominent public figure can speak to that, great. But the stature of the recommender does not impact the application in any way.

7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?