Give me a couple of examples of tough calls from this past year.
Last year, we had an applicant who presented many strengths in his application including his professional work experience, strong letters of recommendation and a solid interview. Our primary concern was that he was not quantitatively prepared for Tuck. The applicant took advantage of the opportunity to get feedback from an admissions officer and the re-applicant was proactive in making improvements to his application. The feedback included improving his quantitative skills, retaking the GMAT, and he was given feedback on his essays. While this applicant was not a clear admit in all categories during his first application to Tuck, we were impressed with his proactive approach to making significant improvements to his application and was admitted this year.
I can think of another applicant this year who also took advantage of the opportunity to get feedback on her application after initially being denied admission. She too had compelling work experience that was well substantiated by her letters of recommendation. There was evidence that she had strong leadership and team skills among other strengths. Again, based on her quantitative grades in college and quantitative skills, we were concerned about her ability to succeed in the quantitative rigor of Tuck. She too sought feedback on her application and took several steps to improve her application and was admitted the following year.
It’s interesting to me that you chose as your examples two people who re-applied after initially being turned down. How come?
Tuck has a strong history of working with high-potential applicants who choose to reapply to Tuck if they are not initially admitted to Tuck. I chose these two examples because there is so much anxiety among applicants about the GMAT and their quantitative ability. For applicants who present multiple strengths in the application process but who aren’t quite quantitatively prepared, the good news is that this is a skill that can be improved upon over time.
We offer feedback on many aspects of an application and I highly encourage applicants to take advantage of this opportunity. There are many examples of exceptional students at Tuck who were successful as re-applicants. We value their persistence and pro-active steps in their application efforts but more importantly in their efforts to improve skills that will serve them well both in business school and in their careers.
Dawna, in the past two years, many business schools have reduced the number of essays they are requiring of MBA applicants. This year, Harvard reduced its essays to only one and even made that optional. Tuck went to three required essays with one optional from four with an option last year but did you consider going further?
We thought really long and hard about this issue. In the late spring, we go into a series of meetings to consider changes. We don’t want the Tuck application to be more cumbersome than the norm, but it is part of the application that adds color and helps us get to know the applicant better. We think it is useful to the decision-making process, and us especially when applications are up and the quality level is high. The more we get to know the applicant, the better decision we can make.
We came to the conclusion that applicants want the opportunity to tell admissions committees about themselves. The open interview policy and the essays give the candidate more of an opportunity to be heard and that is in sync with our brand.
The opportunity for an applicant to be heard is a key reason for your open interview policy. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School is similar, but applicants to all the other highly ranked business schools have to be invited to interview.
We are definitely an outlier. If you are an applicant and come for a class visit from Chicago or Nebraska, you go home and then you may be invited to come back a second time at many of our peer schools. We don’t feel it’s realistic to have that expectation. It is expensive to get here. It is time consuming. So we let everyone come once and interview at the same time.
When someone comes for an open interview at Tuck, what is it like?
We have a hybrid process. Everybody has an opportunity to interview, but not everybody takes advantage of it. Still, we do from 1500 to 1800 a year out of the 2500 to 2900 applicants a year. You could come on your own. But say you live in Nebraska and apply but don’t interview. If we think you are a good candidate, we also have the option of inviting you. We say we think you are a strong candidate and we would like to invite you for an interview. So it is a kind of hybrid process.
I would think that anyone who wants to come to Tuck would interview. The risk is you don’t get invited if you don’t come for the open interview process. That happens. The same risk applies to the other schools. At least here, you have the option of coming on your own. Every day we have people visiting from India, Korea, and China. It’s amazing how many people come such an incredibly long distance. In those populations, we wouldn’t penalize them. If someone is applying from Boston and they haven’t asked for an open interview, it certainly raises some questions about how interested you are if you couldn’t get up here for two and one-half hours.
So it seems that applicants who interview have a clear advantage.
The summer before last we ran some data on interviews and I think the admit rate is higher for open interviews than it is for the general applicant pool because we know more about them and an interview is required to be admitted.
I’m so staunchly in favor of an open interview policy but there are people who argue that it’s more efficient for an admissions office to only interview by invitation. You have a funnel and you only put all that energy into the people who look good on paper. The problem is that when you have 80% of the folks who look good on paper, you may not be making the best decision to weed someone out. I think that more information is better.