How A Top School Screens MBA Applicants

Claire Gumus, assistant director of MBA admissions


“Ok,” she says turning to Gumus, “who do you have?”

Gumus is the team’s resident admissions expert on China. She has spent months traveling the country, from big cities to small towns in the hinterlands, helping to recruit applicants for the school and then evaluating them once their files come in. Today, Gumus has an unqualified winner, a young woman who had done a two-year stint with a global accounting firm before ending up at one of the world’s most prestigious investment bankers.

“We have Changying from Beijing, China. And unfortunately I have never met her in person but luckily she went to our dinner in Beijing last night for incoming and prospective students. I have been working with her since last year because she started her application then but for family reasons she couldn’t continue and she carried over her application.

“She is bringing six years of experience. She is 27 and she studied in New Zealand at the University of Auckland and did really well with a 3.7 GPA—a double major economics and finance. Her language skills are very strong. We had a very good Skype interview. She presents herself really well. The GMAT score is 750 and she is working toward her CFA level two. So she is very serious and progressive.”

Gumus keeps giving more detail.

“She was an accountant for two years—2007 to 2009. Then she moved to the investment-banking firm in Chengdu. I’ve been to Chengdu. It is a small town and she is very accomplished because she then got a promotion and was transferred to Beijing. The references are very strong. In the interview she mentioned that she is not a career changer. She wants to continue with banking. She is mainly interested in Canada. She was an international student before so she knows the challenge of being a student in another country. She finds Canada to be very friendly so a Canadian business school is on her radar, but we are not the only Canadian school on her radar. She didn’t mention any names but I have a feeling we know who she is after.

“She is very mature given her age. Her analytical skills are her key strengths. I have no doubt she is going to survive in the program.  So I think she is a good fit given that she has this diverse experience. In Australia she did lots of volunteer work and she was a relief volunteer during the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. I really admire what she has been doing with her life so far. My recommendation is to bring her to the broader committee to get Leigh’s perspective and to see how she interacted at the dinner with others.”

“Sounds like a scholarship candidate,” advises Paterson.

“I think she will end up with multiple offers so I think we need to make a competitive offer,” adds Gumus. “I think she has a lot to offer.

“Are we missing anything?” asks da Silva. “Are there any red flags? She’s almost too good to be true. She’s perfect. What about her interview?”

“In terms of the interview,” responds Gumus, “we do have equally strong candidates but she is going to be a good fit. Her paper application was too good to be true so I was waiting for the interview eagerly. The interview was very impressive. Unfortunately, I don’t have a video essay for this person because she started her application last year and carried it over.”

“I think we definitely want to review for scholarship,” agrees da Silva.

“And lots of money,” adds Paterson.

“Who goes next?” says da Silva.

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