by Kim Clark

We posed questions to admissions officials at the University of Connecticut 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?

We look for candidates who have leadership and drive with proven skills and accomplishments who can clearly articulate their career goals and know how the UConn M.B.A. Program can help get them there.

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

The essays are critical tools for us to get to know an applicant. Since the essays are our first introduction to the individual, we look for applicants to put a lot of time into writing their essays to ensure that they share substantive information with us, but in a clear and concise manner. Through the essays, we look to get a better understanding of the applicant as an individual with professional accomplishments, varied life experiences, and career goals, as well as an understanding of their personal character.

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?

The GMAT test score is an important factor in the admissions decision, but it is not the deciding factor. There are many factors that go into an admissions decision. We look at the quality and quantity of work experience in terms of skills, responsibilities and accomplishments; teamwork; and maturity and leadership. The admissions committee will also look at how a candidate expresses themselves in their essays and their goals for an M.B.A.; their official GMAT test score; recommender comments; as well as previous academic performance. Of the three, work experience carries the most weight. Academic performance is also important, as we want to ensure that all of our students succeed academically.

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?

Work experience is extremely critical in our admissions decision. We find the level of learning in the classroom is significantly higher when you have individuals who have substantive work experience and can share their knowledge and skills. The M.B.A. classroom is a highly interactive environment with much discussion and analysis, and having accomplished professionals come together in this setting truly raises the bar. The average work experience of our students is 5.3 years. We look for at least two years of full-time professional work experience to be considered for admission.

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?

We pride our program on the level of experiential learning our students can experience over the course of two years. We started with our first learning accelerator--edgelab (a partnership with General Electric in a specialized, high-tech facility)--10 years ago, and we now offer five different types of accelerators. These include edgelab, our Innovation Accelerator focusing on startup companies, SS&C Technologies Financial Accelerator focusing on financial services, Sustainable Community Outreach and Public Engagement (SCOPE) focusing on social entrepreneurship and innovation, and our Student Managed Fund involving investment decisions using $2 million of real money. All of our students will be required to participate in an accelerator during their second year in the program. During the first year, all of our students complete the Application of Core Teaching (ACT) Project with a sponsoring company. Working in teams, they do research, analysis, and solution development. All of these learning accelerators allow our students to work on real projects with real responsibilities, shoulder to shoulder with real executives. The accelerators allow our students to gain more skills and accomplishments, making their résumés look very different leaving the program from when they first arrived.

In addition, we have our students pursue an individualized plan of study. Under the guidance of a multi-faceted committee comprised of faculty, alumni/field specialists, and career center advisors, UConn's student-centric M.B.A. program focuses on the individual learner and his/her unique career goals and interests. UConn M.B.A. students graduate with a truly custom experience that uniquely differentiates and positions them in the marketplace.

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 look for recommenders to be able to comment on the professional skills and character of a candidate and indicate how they see the M.B.A. degree benefitting the candidate. We do believe it to be very important that the recommender has worked extensively with the candidate in order to be able to provide a legitimate and thorough reference.

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

We have rolling admissions for the fall, but we also have recommended application submission dates to encourage early application. We identify the strongest prospective candidates and invite them to interview after receiving and reviewing all of their application materials. After the conclusion of the interview, an admissions decision is made. The entire process from receipt of all application materials to decision takes approximately three weeks. We then ask the admitted student to indicate within four to six weeks if they will be joining us.

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

Our Business Career Center (BCC) has developed an extensive group of corporate partners. The companies who most often recruit our students include IBM, Aetna, The Hartford, Covidien, and General Electric. We are consistently expanding our network of corporate partners through active engagement with our alumni to recruit our M.B.A.'s. The BCC works individually with each of our M.B.A.'s, to learn more about their career goals, and industry and functional interests to help them better focus their job-search efforts.

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

We expect our applicants to have done their research about what our program has to offer and to know how our program can help in accomplishing their career goals. One of our most frustrating experiences is interviewing a candidate who know very little about our program. It makes us question how serious this individual is about his/her M.B.A. studies. We also expect our applicants to carefully compile their application package, ensuring proper spelling and grammar and effective communication in their essays and résumé.

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

While our students overall are diverse in their backgrounds and experiences, we look for common traits of leadership, maturity, clear career goals with a purpose, compassion for their fellow students, and strong core values and integrity. We expect our students to actively participate and make the most of their M.B.A. education to make it a beneficial experience for themselves and their classmates, both for the period that they are in the program as well as in the future.

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