by Kim Clark

We posed questions to admissions officials at the Babson College F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business 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?

Applicants can set themselves apart from their peers by thoroughly researching the M.B.A. program they are interested in prior to applying. Part of their research should include a school visit. An M.B.A. is a life-changing experience and represents a serious investment of time and resources. We believe that successful candidates need to make an informed decision about the school at which they choose to study.

2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?

The essays are an opportunity for candidates to tell us their personal narrative. The essays help us assess: an applicant's fit for our community and program; an applicant's knowledge of the program and how s/he will leverage the various curricular and extracurricular opportunities available; the applicant's language skills and writing abilities. We encourage candidates to submit an optional essay to provide any additional information or address any concerns (low GPA, low GMAT, work history, personal challenges, etc?).

3. How important is the applicant's GMAT score? How do you weigh it against undergraduate GPA and work/internship experience? Which of these carry the most weight? The least?

A successful applicant profile includes a competitive GMAT score, solid work experience and career progression, and demonstrated academic success. Competitive applicants also are able to persuasively present their in background, interests, and fit with Babson during an evaluative interview.

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?

Our average full time M.B.A. student has five to six years professional work experience. While many of our students plan to change careers after earning their M.B.A., previous work experience may influence or affect post-M.B.A. career opportunities.

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?

Babson offers the resources to equip our graduates with an entrepreneurial mindset. This mindset--a relentless bias for action, an ability to create opportunities in a variety of contexts, and the entrepreneurial skill to ultimately drive results and run businesses-- positions our graduates to succeed across the entire spectrum of global organizations needing leaders. Our suite of graduate programs gives our graduates the confidence and tools to compete in a competitive global market. They develop the skills to see the working world not from a single perspective, but from a multidimensional viewpoint. They learn to see every challenge as an opportunity and develop the ability to capitalize on it. Our graduates succeed in large corporations, startups, family businesses, nonprofits, or any organization that needs creativity and innovation to develop new products, processes, and markets.

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?

We require two professional recommendations and prefer that the recommender be someone who has worked with the candidate previously as their manager, team member, or client. We ask the recommender to provide feedback on the candidate's communication skills, quantitative skills, problem-solving skills, decision-making skills, ability to work with others, initiative, maturity, and creativity. In addition, recommenders should comment on the candidate's strengths, areas for improvement, as well as leadership potential.

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

Each of Babson's M.B.A. programs has its own life cycle. Through our on- and off-campus recruitment events, and through our website and printed materials, we provide candidates with all the necessary deadlines. In addition, each program is managed by a member of the admissions team who guides candidates through the admissions process.

8. Which firms recruit heavily from your school? Which ones hire the highest percentage of your graduates?

As an institution dedicated to developing leaders with an entrepreneurial mindset, Babson works with companies around the globe that culturally align with our students' relentless bias for action, as well as their ability to create opportunity and drive results. While 10 percent of the students from our full-time M.B.A. programs go to work for long-term, on-campus recruiting partners such as Fidelity, IBM, EMC, Johnson & Johnson, National Grid, CIGNA, Staples, and Sovereign Santander, students are increasingly seeking and securing opportunities with start-up ventures and emerging partners dedicated to innovation and rapid growth. Companies in this category--such as Athenahealth, EnerNOC, Vistaprint and Simon-Kucher & Partners--represent areas of job creation and heavily recruit from Babson to fulfill their talent development needs.

9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?

Applicants sometimes do not make appropriate choices when engaging in the admissions process. Some of those inappropriate choices are, but are not limited to:

-- Not thoroughly researching the program and showing why the program is the right fit for them

-- Not answering the essay questions or answering them with generic, unspecific information

-- Selecting a recommender that does not know them very well

-- Not preparing for the interview

10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?

The archetypal Babson M.B.A. student is an entrepreneurial thinker and innovator. S/he is globally and culturally aware, adaptable, collaborative, and a risk taker.

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