MBA applications for the next academic year are in full swing. Amidst those late nights of GMAT prep, refining your interview etiquette, and staring at essay questions over and over, there's one question on everyone's minds: how can you really know what admissions directors are looking for?
At Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business, the intention is to ‘make business personal’, and this philosophy extends to everything from scholarships to their application procedure.
The MBA program at W. P. Carey is currently ranked 29th in the US by US News & World Report, and with the school offering every incoming MBA student a scholarship ranging from 100% tuition to a grant, naturally, competition is high. The average GMAT for MBAs at W. P. Carey sits at 694, so knowing what their admissions team are looking for could be a big help when preparing those all-important essays.
For John Wisneski, director of the Full-time MBA program, the secret to impressing an admissions director at W. P. Carey is inherently tied to the school's 'Scholarships for All' philosophy.
“We’re making a very heavy investment in students, and we realized that if we invest in our students, likewise, we want our students to invest in one another,” he explains.
“We preach in the classroom about return on investment all the time, so we’re asking each student to be held accountable to return on our investment in scholarship dollars.”
How do you write the perfect essay?
This year, there’s been a marked change in the MBA application procedure at W. P. Carey—namely, in the phrasing of one crucial question on the application form.
“We have two essay questions on our MBA application,” explains John, “the first asks what do applicants envision doing with their new academic credentials, but the new, second question is more outward. We’re asking applicants what sort of impact they envision making while a student in the MBA program."
Specifically, the new essay question asks students to consider 'what specific contributions do you plan to make both in and outside of the classroom' while at W. P. Carey.
The change, though it may seem slight, adds a new element to the way that W. P. Carey evaluates admissions to their Full-time MBA program, and is ultimately tied to their belief that every student should have the chance to complete an MBA.
“It’s a thoughtful question that asks students to think about their experience and skills and how they’ll contribute in a unique and authentic way to the learning of their peers,” John adds. “We’re essentially looking for candidates that can describe clearly and concisely how they can make the learning environment better.”
So where do GMAT scores come in, then?
“The answer is very common across business schools—we look at all of it equally,” says John. “But we do believe that the qualitative responses are where students can really distinguish themselves.”
“The classic quantitative measures of GMAT or GPA are just that—they’re a forced ranking,” he adds. “Where students can distinguish themselves a great deal is in the characteristics of their career goals and anticipated contributions to the MBA program.”
How to impress the admissions director
Louise Hardman (pictured) is a recent successful applicant to W. P. Carey’s full-time MBA program—she started in September 2018.
Louise has a background in mechanical engineering and decided to do an MBA to “gain that fundamental business background,” she says.
“I want to really apply strategies and high-level thinking to help companies grow and drive innovation,” she explains. “The Full-time MBA at W. P. Carey School of Business has a strong focus on self-transformation, there are a lot of career switchers and a lot of resources for mentoring and career coaching.”
Coming from such a technical background, Louise says she found the application initially quite tough. “The hardest thing was trying to visualize my career path moving forward,” she explains. “When I was writing my essays I was really thinking ‘what are the MBA skills that are going to add to my engineering skill set.’”
To flourish in your MBA applications, engineer or not, Louise suggests one thing. “Be honest with yourself and figure out why you want the MBA,” she says.
John has the same tip. “The best advice I can give is for students to be as authentic and genuine in their applications as they can possibly be,” he states.
“It’s that genuine response that we’re really looking to evaluate,” John adds. “If the candidate is not genuine in expressing what their goals are it’s really hard for us to make a good decision, both for them and for us.”