The Gatekeeper To Chicago Booth

Is it frustrating to you that most applicants don’t care all that much about fit. They are applying to schools based on rankings, their perception of the brand and their test scores?

Not necessarily. More and more people are becoming sensitive to the fact of where am I investing my time and resources where I think I am going to get the greatest return out of that. Chicago has an unbelievable brand, but the problem is it’s a younger brand. It hasn’t been that long that we have invested the time to let people know about us. All too often, the more frustrating thing is to hear people say Chicago is one of the best-kept secrets. That’s what frustrates me.

When you look back at this past year’s applicant pool, can you recall a specific candidate who would be a quintessential example of this ‘fit’ you describe?

I’d love to give you an example. But there isn’t a magic example I can provide. What is more important to recognize is that we try to create an application and a process that gets at authenticity. There are all these things from the PowerPoint question to the essays and the interview that cut through the superficial and get us to the authentic person. It’s hard to fake all these elements. I’d love to be able to give your readers that classic example but I don’t think it exists.

Do you think the GMAT correlates to success in an MBA program?

Absolutely. I think that has been proven.

Do you think the GMAT is more valuable than the GRE for admissions?

I think it was designed principally for business schools. Right now, we don’t take the GRE.

Why not?

I’ll be honest. Every year, it’s a constant debate about what we’re going to do with that, and every year we revisit it. I think that’s something we’re talking about right now. We wrestle with it because our Ph.d. program does take the GRE or the GMAT. I don’t represent the Ph.d. program so I can’t tell you why. It’s something we think about all the time.

Ok. So you think Booth admissions is different because of ‘fit’ and also because you are the only top ten school, besides UC-Berkeley, that still refuses to accept the GRE. Anything else?

I can’t claim first mover advantage on this but in the last several years we used to really focus on professional recommendations. We moved to making it one professional and one optional to give people more real estate to see which people want to speak on their behalf. Within our peer set, that is something that is important to us.

So how does that play out in the actual pool? Do candidates typically do one professional and one friend or relative?

It stretches the entire spectrum. Not surprisingly, the decisions they make on who to pick for recommenders you immediately begin to see what they value—without reading a word.

So it’s okay to choose your dad, right?

I hope they’re not choosing their dad.

Really. What’s wrong with that?

Being a father of three, I think I would err on saying nothing but great things about my kids.

And what about mothers?

The same deal. Probably more so than fathers.

Who would be the most common non-professional recommender a Booth applicant would chose then if it makes no sense to have your father or your mother in the mix?

Again, I’m going to go back to it’s all context. I’m not going to get the most discerning recommendation letter from immediate family members.

So who’s the most common non-professional reference?

Most people default to professional recs. I see a lot of double professional recs.

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