Saturday, 26 January 2013

Admit or Deny: How Business Schools Choose Their Applicants | LinkedIn

If you have ever applied to a top business school, you undoubtedly wondered about the process of admission once your application hit your target school. What would the admissions director for the school think of you? How would the entire admissions committee evaluate your candidacy?

How important were your undergraduate grades? Your GMAT score? Your work experience? And what attributes did they examine in your personal interview?

Generally, there's a unexplained mystery to these questions because the admissions process at most universities--business schools included--is shrouded in secrecy. Rarely, if ever, do we get a glimpse into the rooms where decisions are made on anxious candidates who have poured their hearts out to apply to a top school.

So that is what makes a recent story on the process at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management so unusual and so compelling. Last week, I was allowed to be a fly on the wall and witness what few people do: an admissions committee meeting to decide the fate of MBA applicants.

Right now, this scene is playing out in schools across the world as they deal with the avalanche of applications that came in by their January round two deadlines, typically the heaviest period of applications at business schools. The director of MBA recruitment and admissions at Rotman is Niki da Silva (photo above) and she is at the heart of this story. But all six of her assistant directors are crucial to the process.

For those who desire an elite MBA, the odds are daunting. At Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, the most selective B-school in the U.S., 94 of every 100 applicants will be turned down. Harvard Business School will rebuff nine out of every 10 applicants. Though Rotman’s acceptance rate is much higher, roughly half of the more than 1,200 MBA candidates expected to apply this year will be spurned.

What makes da Silva’s job tougher than most is that she is expected to increase the size of the entering class at Rotman while also increasing the quality of the admits. Last year, she managed to increase the students in the entering class to 313, up from 265 a year earlier, while increasing the class’ median GMAT score 20 points to 680 in one year. The school expects to welcome 400 MBA students by 2016 so that its total enrollment is similar to such schools as Stanford, MIT, New York University’s Stern School and London Business School.

On a brisk, snowy day in January, da Silva’s admission committee will render decisions on seven applicants from all over the world: a pair of software engineers employed by one of India’s most successful global companies, an out-of-work Brit who lost his job in asset trading after his firm was acquired, an ambitious Chinese woman who is employed by a global investment banking firm, a Russian woman with entrepreneurial ambitions who lives in New York City, and two young female Canadians who work in consulting and communications.

Their GMAT scores range from a low of 620 to a high of 780. They range in age from 24 to 30. And they’ve been educated at a wide variety of undergraduate universities from the London School of Economics to the University of Auckland in New Zealand. They are among the first 300 applicants to the school who have gone through the review process for what will become Rotman’s Class of 2015.

It will be a productive day for the committee: six of the seven applicants will receive good news and three of their files will move forward to a broader committee for a shot at an award from a $2.4 million pool of scholarship money. A 28-year-old software engineer from India with a 710 GMAT will be thrown into the reject pile.

If you want to see how Rotman makes these decisions, have a look at our compelling story on the admissions process:

How A Top Business School Sifts Through A Pile of MBA Applicants

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