How A Top School Screens MBA Applicants

Niki da Silva


Da Silva goes on. “Her recommenders point out the same things that were fairly apparent in her interview. I gave her a 17 out of a 20 on her interview.”

At Rotman, admission officials grade candidate interviews on five dimensions, ranging from self-awareness to leadership ability and intellectual curiosity. Some attributes can be graded as high as a five (on a scale of zero to five), while others might be graded no higher than a three.

“She is very impressive,” adds da Silva. “She has some room for growth and development but seems quite coachable. She is aware of some of her areas of weakness. She’s young. She turns 25 this year.”

“She has done well,” affirms Lynda Paterson, an assistant director of admissions, who once was a Montessori teacher before joining Rotman in 2004. “She is very accomplished.”

“For me she is a very strong admit recommendation,” adds da Silva. “I don’t actually see any red flags apart from the GMAT score which is below our average.”

“She hopes to continue in consulting?,” asks Sheldon Dookeran, the only male admissions officer in the room. With the exception of da Silva, Dookeran, a slim young man with a neatly trimmed mustache and beard, has been involved with admissions at Rotman less than anyone else in the room. He joined the team in April of 2011 after eight years of recruiting and admitting undergraduate students at the University of Toronto.

“Good point,” notes da Silva. “She doesn’t want to continue in consulting. I asked what is next for you and she jumped to wanting to transition into retail strategy. She is trying to focus herself and built her brand as a leader in the industry. She said a Lululemon summer internship would be ideal. So she has done her research and her homework.”

Lululemon, a fast growing company based in Canada that makes and retails fashionable yoga and workout clothes, is one of the hot MBA employers on campus right now. In fact, Rotman is the only Canadian school at which Lululemon recruits MBAs.

“So it’s not a huge career switch,” observes Paterson.

“So I didn’t see any issues there,” agrees da Silva. “She came in overall with a 42 on our ratings system. She is incredibly bright and has had fantastic work experience. She is strong in self-management skills and in team skills. She might be someone we want to insure comes to Rotman with a small scholarship. I would like Leigh’s (the head of career development) perspective. She is a definite admit.”

“Do you know if she is considering anywhere else?,” asks Dookeran.

“She didn’t really disclose if she was considering any other place,” says da Silva.

“I have seen her at two fairs and a lot of events,” says Marie-Eve Roy, an assistant director who has been at the school since 2006. “She seems to be very well researched in terms of doing her MBA. She is really personable. You can tell she is quite bright. I definitely concur with what you’ve said from my interactions with her.”

“Alright,” says da Silva, “who’s up next?”

The entire discussion took slightly under six minutes. There was no disagreement and surprisingly, perhaps, no debate over the candidate’s GMAT score which is 50 points below last year’s median for the class. But typically in rounds one and two, da Silva believes, a school sees its best applicants and Rotman tends to over admit in these early rounds.

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