by Kim Clark

We posed questions to admissions officials at the University of Louisville College 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 in three ways: 1) By providing a strong undergraduate record and GMAT score, 2) by showing their ability to learn new information or relearn old information (as in the case with the GMAT), and 3) by proving to the admissions committee that they have strong reasons for pursuing an M.B.A. and that they are committed to the task.

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

We advise all applicants to write a one- to two-page essay indicating why they are pursuing this degree and how they intend to use it. The essays help us assess the applicants writing ability, and show us if they are able to explain their ideas succinctly.

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 solid GMAT score is essential to the M.B.A. application, as is a strong undergraduate record. However, if a student has a lower-than-average GPA due to a poor showing during the first half of college, they can offset their GPA with a higher GMAT score and with managerial work experience. While the GPA and GMAT carry the most weight for the application, work experience is also factored in, which at times may help a student with marginal academic credentials gain admittance. There is no one formula and each student is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

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?

As stated above, work experience is an important factor in the application process, especially if the student has managerial work experience. For our Entrepreneurship and Professional M.B.A. programs, we expect to see a minimum of three to five years work experience after college. However, our Full-Time M.B.A. is ideal for students without experience since it provides an 11-month internship with top companies in the Greater Louisville area for our strongest applicants.

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?

It is important that students choose the right business school, a school that will match their talent and motivation with a fast-paced, challenging learning experience and allow them to advance their career. We educate future corporate, public, and nonprofit sector leaders determined to successfully lead their businesses into the future. Many of our entrepreneurial graduates start their own businesses. Many of our graduates also remain in this region and help it prosper, while others are spread across the nation and the world. Our college has a national reputation as a leader in teaching entrepreneurial thinking and is continuously ranked as a top business school in the United States annually. We have been selected as a the National Model Entrepreneurship M.B.A. Program and our degree in entrepreneurship is regularly ranked among the very best in the world.

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?

For recommendation letters, we are looking for two individuals who are able to assess the candidates aptitude for business, their academic potential, and ability to work efficiently with others. Thus, it is very important that these letters come from individuals who have had regular contact with the candidate, either as an employee or professor.

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

Once we receive an application the candidate is contacted by our office and informed of all other materials needed. We work with each student to ensure that these materials are sent and received in a timely manner. Once all items have been received the admissions committee does a preliminary review. If the candidate has the potential to be admitted into their program of choice (i.e. they meet the criteria), we invite them to the College of Business for an interview with the admissions committee. Since we admit on a rolling basis, once the interview is completed the candidate will be contacted within seven to 10 days with our final decision.

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

This is difficult to assess given that the majority of our students are already working professionals. Very few take a leave of absence from a job to complete an M.B.A. However, many of our students are employed at major businesses in Louisville, such as Humana, Brown-Forman, ZirMed, UPS, Yum! Brands, Fifth-Third Bank, Aegon, and PNC Bank.

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

There are three common mistakes prospective students make during the application process: 1) Some applicants tend to neglect the importance of the personal essay and the recommendation letters. These two items help us evaluate the potential of each candidate, and a poor essay or poor recommendation effects their admissions status. 2) Some applicants wait until the final deadline to apply to an M.B.A. Since we admit on a rolling basis there is no guarantee that a seat will be available for admission into the program. Therefore, we encourage all candidates to apply early. 3) Some students neglect to prepare for an admissions interview, which reflects poorly on the applicants ability to compete for a seat into the program.

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

The archetypal student admitted to the University of Louisville M.B.A. program is a talented and motivated working professional who desires to add the skills and connections necessary to assume a leadership position in their industry.

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