What is the admissions committee really looking for? (Part 2)

Apr 4, 2011
Tags: School Selection

Written by Monica S. Powell, PhD, Associate Dean, School of Management , University of Texas, Dallas

Although most programs look for similar attributes—intelligence, drive, experience—there are slight differences, especially after the basic attributes are displayed. At UT Dallas, for instance, we have the luxury of being a small program and, as such, can spend a great deal of time discussing each applicant. We are primarily trying to determine if the applicant will contribute to the class. Will they speak up? Will they want to participate in social or community service activities? Do they have valuable insight to a specific industry or function? Is this someone we would want on a team? In a program of 60 students, having each and every one of them contribute is essential.

Keep your eyes open and you should be able to figure out what admissions committees are seeking. Do they require an interview? What kinds of questions do they ask? How long do they spend with you? Do they encourage you to come to campus to visit? Do they offer an alum or current student for you to meet or talk to? Do they refer more to the essays about your accomplishments or about your future expectations? 

What’s most important is to show your personable side. The truth is most programs can fill their seats easily with individuals that show an academic ability and meet their requirements. We all know, however, that business is all about selling your image. It’s your personality that can win them over. 

A few additional things to keep in mind:

  1. Do your test scores, GPA, and work experience match or exceed the averages for that school? If so, you have already proven that you have the ability, so focus on something else. If you have done something exciting or different in your life, if you have interests outside of business or if you have a talent, like music or dance, tell us about that.
  2. If you are low in any of the basic attributes—test scores, GPA, etc.—focus more on explaining why that should not be a concern. For instance, if your GPA is low but you have extensive work experience, you may want to focus primarily on your professional accomplishments. If your GMAT score is lower than their average, you may want to highlight your academic ability through your undergraduate performance.
  3. Make sure your GMAT scores are a high as they can be. It’s not that they are the most important, only that they are the only thing that is most within your control during the application process.
  4. Show that you have focus in your career. Even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, demonstrate that you have done your research and have a general idea, as well as an ability to articulate how your previous experience ties in and how your business degree might fill any gap.
  5. Show a willingness to go the extra mile. The drive you display in the admissions process will demonstrate your overall drive. If the situation lends itself, offer to rewrite an essay, retake the GMAT, or make an additional visit to campus. Your additional efforts will reflect well on you.
  6. Meet in person when possible. There is no better way to stand out in someone’s mind than a face-to-face encounter.
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