by Kim Clark

We posed questions to admissions officials at the University of Richmond Robins 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?

Our most successful applicants have an ability to articulate how an M.B.A. fits into their long-term career plan. They've already shown evidence of success on the job and are able to see (and discuss) how graduate management education will help them advance. They combine that vision with strong GMAT scores and solid work experience.

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

Although essays are not required at Richmond, we do encourage applicants to provide a personal statement when submitting their applications. Typically, this statement would center on their particular interest in our M.B.A. program and address what they hope to gain from an M.B.A.

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 score is a very important criterion for us, certainly more important than the undergraduate GPA. The quantitative GMAT score has proved a very good predictor of success in our program. The overall undergraduate GPA is less important than the applicant's record of success in particularly challenging courses like those in calculus, statistics, and economics. Clearly, the academic reputation of the institution matters a great deal. I would put the type and amount of work experience second to GMAT scores in terms of its importance in the profile.

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?

We expect our applicants to have a track record of success as full-time employees, with a strong preference for a career that shows clear evidence of increasing responsibility. The typical work experience among accepted applicants in recent years is six to 10 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?

We have had a very serious commitment to experiential learning for more than a decade, including a required international consulting project that we launched in 2000. Our students are very closely connected to the business community, not just in the mid-Atlantic region but also around the world. We are fortunate to operate in a city that is home to a dozen Fortune 1000 headquarters. Executives from each of those firms, many of them alumni of our program, are active with our student body.

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 have decided to reduce the emphasis on recommendation letters in recent years. Our very strong preference is to meet with each applicant for an interview and to have each applicant spend time visiting classes and meeting current students during the application process. Those experiences tend to be very helpful in determining whether an applicant is a strong fit for our program.

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

Once all of the materials (application, transcripts, GMAT scores and résumé) have been received, we are able to provide a response in two or three weeks. Although our deadline for applications each year is May 1, we receive and respond to applications as early as January.

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

We have built a very strong relationship with MeadWestvaco, an international packaging firm that is doing neat things related to branding. They are now hiring our students and graduates regularly. The Federal Reserve Bank is another strong recruiter as is Genworth Financial and Bon Secours Health Systems. We have placed our graduates at Dominion, Deloitte, Harris Williams, and CarMax, too.

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

Failing to properly prepare for the GMAT exam is one common mistake. Another is failing to specify why they have decided to pursue an M.B.A. and especially at Richmond.

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

A 30-year-old manager in a Fortune 1000 firm, educated at a very strong undergraduate institution, though more often in engineering or the humanities than in business, with a GMAT of 650 and several years of interesting and relevant experience. The best students combine a strong desire to learn with humility and selflessness that means collaboration is more desirable than competition during the M.B.A. program.

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How to Get In: University of Richmond Robins School of Business