The Gatekeeper to Cornell’s Johnson School of Management

So in effect, the second read occurs by the committee.

Essentially, you almost do another read but this time you have more in-depth information. With the reading tool we have, you can highlight certain passages of the essays in a much better way. So when we decide, we decide as a group.

You actually vote? Is it possible that there could be four people in favor of an applicant and two against?

We don’t officially vote. We’ll talk through it. Essentially, it is up to me, though I don’t throw that out there. Everyone around that table has an equal say and I feel strongly about that. If I feel very strongly for or against, I’ll put that out there and I encourage them to do that as well. The admissions committee is a sacred environment. It is where you have to be honest about people and about what you think. You can’t be afraid to throw out anything that you are thinking. That’s why when I was hiring these two recruiters in my office I talked a lot about this admissions committee. What is said in committee is confidential. These are our applicants and we don’t talk about our applicants outside that office.

And when do these meetings begin?

Hopefully, by the beginning of December.

What percentage of the pool do you interview?

We get about 2,200 applicants. We did about 700 to 800 interviews last year.

So an applicant essentially has a one in three chance of being interviewed. And what percentage out of that would get a yes from admissions?

Our acceptance rate last year was the same even though our applications went up. That was 27%. I threw out offers to people I wanted in the class. We fought very hard to get them because we put them into alumni prediction dinners.

That’s a term I’ve never heard. What is an alumni prediction dinner?

In about 25 cities across the world, our alumni get together for dinner and it’s called a prediction dinner because they predict five to ten years out what will happen to the economy.  We feature high-profile alums. We invite anyone who was admitted to go to these dinners. And if you make your deposit, I will pay for your dinner. That’s a $75 to a $100 meal.

And do you have a lot of scholarship money available to help land the best and the brightest in the applicant pool?

I would say you never ever have enough. It has become more competitive. You use scholarship as merit based to bring in the best class. Everybody does it differently depending on their pool, how competitive it is, if their yield is down and what not. I feel fortunate that we bring in over 100 candidates over three different weekends to assess them for our most prestigious scholarships. It’s the Park Scholarships. We also look at The Consortium fellows and Forte fellows. We have military scholarships and we also have scholarships for specific areas like banking and marketing.

In a sense, I’m telling people, ‘Congratulations! You are the top of the round for us. This is a big achievement and we are bringing you in to get to know you better and to give you a sense of what goes on here.’ For all intent and purpose, it could be an admit weekend but with a little more competition to it because obviously we are all assessing over who is going to get a Park scholarship or a Consortium fellow scholarship.

And I bet there are more adcom meetings for those decisions.

Yes. Once you click into admissions mode, you get pretty impressed with the people you remember and who make an impression. That’s your intuition and your gut speaking to you.

Christine, what do you dislike about your job?

I’ve started to make a list of all the things I just can’t get to. There are a lot of ideas and initiatives I want to start. But there is only so much time in the day. You have to get through those applications. Right now, we’re switching off recruiting and get back in reading applications and deciding.

The Johnson School has a new dean. Does that factor into admission policies? Does the dean shape the admit pool in a discernable way?

That’s a really good question. Dean Dutta has said, thank you, we’re so happy to have you. He trusts me. He’s getting a lot of prospective students to talk to. He’s looping me in on those conversations.