And so are their alphabet or numerical grades a first reader puts on an application during the first read?
In the first evaluation, they are looking at the full picture and saying ‘I want to know more’ or ‘I don’t want to know more.’ Basically, the evaluative rating is would like to know more, need additional review, or ready for my review. Those (latter) folks were the ones who were not as competitive in the process. So after someone on the team reviews it and decides we don’t think this person is competitive, then I review it.
Can the first person say, ‘We need to interview this applicant?’
Absolutely. That’s would like to know more. But all applications will get a second review. There are two reviews for everyone who will eventually be admitted, and everyone will be interviewed as well.
But it you’re rejected in the first review, you’re rejected, right?
Possibly. I will read all of them and decide ‘Well, you guys missed someone, or ‘There is a gem in this pile,” or ‘Yes, I agree with you.’ So there are two paths but not differentiated in terms of admissibility. Some people will be yes, go ahead and invite them to interview because we don’t want two batches. Just to make sure that the process is flowing. What we found is that if we waited until everyone had a second review before interviewing, the window of time to interview hundreds of candidates was just so narrow that it was almost impossible to get them done. So in order to try to keep the throughput going, we decided to go in batches. Some folks will get invited to interview in the first batch after the first evaluation as they continue on to a second reader. We have a team of ten contract readers. Several of them have returned over the years.
Who do they tend to be?
Former admission staff or folks with MBAs or they are also readers for other graduate programs here. But each year we train them anew because there are different questions and ways that we are weighting components of the application. For example, this year I told the reader team to absolutely read the essays but keep in mind that this year you’re weighting the interviews a little bit more heavily. It doesn’t change how they are reading it, but I wanted to orient them to how we will use their assessments in our overall evaluation.
Soojin, you’re putting more emphasis on the interview largely because you’ve become more suspicious that too many applicants are hiring people to write their essays?
Yes. We want the real you. Another thought is that the interview may be a better indication of how successful someone might be in the MBA program and in the on-campus recruiting process. How they present themselves and how they talk about their experiences is important. While it’s very important for someone to have good writing skills and good thought processes, it’s a much different skill set than what you are going to have to use on the job or in an interview process. So we feel the interview will be a more helpful indicator of what will be useful for a business school experience.
What’s the hardest part of evaluating an application?
It’s hard when someone has a really strong academic profile and then their essays miss the mark. You wonder if it is an effort issue or is it an indication of how important our application is to the applicant compared to other schools where they applied. And then in some applications there is the obvious, ‘Wow, this doesn’t look like it could be the writing of this person whose GMAT score or Toefel suggests a different kind of essay.’ And that is what promoted part of my move to focus more on the interviews, the authenticity question.
Do your readers have quotas or guidelines on minimum GMATs or a specific age range, if only to help them deal with the volume of applications?
No. It’s holistic.
So of all the people you accepted last year, what was the lowest GMAT?
I think it was a 600 or a 580. I’m surprised when I hear peer schools admit that they have admitted applicants with GMATs of less than 500.
Of course, as you know there are a lot of people who won’t even apply to a school like Michigan unless they can score a 680 or 700 on the GMAT. They just think the odds are so heavily against them that they don’t have a chance.
That would be unfortunate.
Yes, it would. But what kind of person can submit a 580 to you and still get in?
It’s a whole variety of things: very strong work experience, strong in demonstrated success in an industry that may be underrepresented here or could add value to the learning of classmates, demonstrated leadership potential, and a good fit with us in terms of being collaborative, having emotional intelligence, taking a lot of initiative and being engaged–not just in the substance of their work but things outside their work. It’s an interest in engaging in everything they do. We want them to do things with gusto. They ideally have this real striving mentality, an ‘I-want-to-make-a- difference’ mentality. And it’s not just about social impact. It could be, ‘I want to make a difference in my firm,’ or ‘I am going to lead something,’ or ‘I could see an opportunity.’ Those kinds of people really stand out.