The MBA Gatekeeper To Michigan’s Ross

I would imagine you are looking for that in general. But if you have a 580 GMAT then you are really looking for those things in an extreme way and you want to confirm it during an interview. So the other parts of the application assume far more importance, right?

Yes. What we found is students with less than 700 GMAT scores are often leaders in our community. They lead the clubs and organize conferences. They do very well in recruiting, and there’s very little correlation to the GMAT. Every year, at the end of the school year, what we look at is the quality of our incoming class. We look at their GPAs. I ask my director of career development to identify the students who were very successful in the recruiting process and the students who really struggled. I get input from the director of student life on who where the leaders of our school community and who struggled there. I ask our core faculty who were the students who stood out, who were the superstars and who struggled in class. I do the lists of superstars and strugglers and we go back and review their applications to see if there were things we missed or whether there were commonalities among the superstars and strugglers that we should look for going forward.

Interestingly, GMAT has no correlation to who the superstars in the class are. I think there are some applicants who probably put all of their energy into studying for the GMAT at the expense of other things or that is just their predisposition. And they have not emphasized as much of the emotional intelligence or teamwork so they don’t tend to be leaders. That is not to say that everyone who submits a GMAT of 700 or over is not a leader, but it’s interesting to see that there is no correlation. Now the GMAT is supposed to be an indicator of success in academics and even that isn’t always true. The correlation is not that strong because once students get to business school, they re-prioritize. They say, ‘I’m going to put all of my energy into this or that. It could be a set of classes or it could be developing their leadership skills. So they have different ways of approaching their experience.

So let’s get back to that application. It comes it and is put into a database. A spreadsheet is spat out of the computer for tracking purposes and then who assigns each application to a reader?

My senior associate director will randomly assign the applications in the first review. After the first screen, the second readers do the full evaluation and theirs is much more thorough. They might spend an hour commenting on everything. No grades. More commentary.

The ones where the first evaluations say they are not competitive in this pool, they come to Senior Associate Director Jon (Fuller) and me and we review them all. And even at that point it’s not final. Valerie Suslow, the associate dean for graduate programs, reviews all the decisions as well. She has a signoff on everyone. Everyone who is turned down or accepted. She is looking at it on a macro level. She’ll get the big spreadsheet and she might say, ‘This looks funny,’ or ‘I want to know more about this one,’ so she may get the file. She’s not reading every single application. Jon Fuller (senior associate director of admissions) and I review all of them.

For the folks who are going onto a second review, there’s the comprehensive evaluation. There’s not a letter grade or number grade, it’s more of a where we think they fall along the spectrum of admits, waitlist, or deny. So the second evaluators do comment on that. WE take that as a recommendation. That is not a final. Then it goes to our region experts. We’ve got three international region experts—one for Asia, one for India, and one for Latin America, Europe and Africa– plus Jon who does domestic. And then they review the file with the interview reports from second-year MBA students and alumni who are trained for this purpose.

How long is a typical interview?

Thirty minutes. An applicant can request to do it in their country with an alum or with a student on campus or via Skype.

What percentage of the applicants do you interview in any given year?

I’d say about 40% to 50%. We try to manage that number. Part of the reason we went to interviews by invitation only is that the number of interviews we were conducted started ballooning. People weren’t taken it as seriously and it didn’t make for a quality interview experience for the interviewers, especially our alumni. Time is valuable, and we want to know that the people who are applying are very serious about Ross and very interested in the school. So when I became the director six years ago, we moved to an interview-by-invitation-only process and it has made for a much more positive experience for the interviewers as well as for the interviewees because they then put their head in the game.