by Kim Clark

We posed questions to admissions officials at the Old Dominion University College of Business and Public Administration 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 need to treat the admissions process like a job application process. Follow the steps outlined, completing each item completely, and have appropriate, professional followup. While the process utilizes technology, there are people behind the technology every step of the way, so be sure to behave in a professional manner throughout the process.

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

We look for a truthful outline of goals and clarification of any self-perceived application weaknesses. The essay is supposed to tell us what the applicant's goals are once they finish the degree. It is important for the candidate to know what s/he wants to do with the degree so that the most can be gained from the education experience.

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?

We try to keep it a fairly equal balance between GMAT and GPA with work experience being a trailing element.

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?

While we don't require work experience, we find that students with at least three to five tend to get more out of the education experience as the course work seems more relevant to them. Our average work experience for the past five years has been between five and seven years.

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?

Our program is diverse, flexible, and challenging. Our students and employers tell us that our students come out of our program with strong decision-making skills. We have students from all walks of life, which is more similar to a real work environment, giving them very real world experience while taking classes.

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?

It is valuable in the process if the writer has had a direct working relationship with the applicant, but it is not required.

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

Once an application is complete whether online or hardcopy, it can take up to six to eight weeks to get a decision. Applicants can check their status regularly using our online tool. Decisions will be mailed to the address on the application.

8. Which firms recruit heavily from your school?

Government agencies, government contractors, healthcare administration, and port and maritime operation companies.

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

Taking any part of the process for granted. Some applicants don't take the GMAT seriously and prepare for it. Still others don't take time to double-check spelling on résumés or in essays. In essays be sure to have the correct school name. These are important items to do well in the process and give the impression that you really want and deserve to be in an M.B.A. program.

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

We have students from all walks of life; some are married, with children, 20 years of military experience, and some are the exact opposite of this. We have students from around the globe and some who have never been out of Hampton Roads. We have a wonderfully diverse program and pretty much every student will tell you that people associated with the M.B.A. program students, faculty, and staff are nice and helpful.

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