You must have a lot of committee meetings.
We do. Throughout the season, every Friday there’s a committee meeting from 9 to five. We go all day. We spend a lot of time with this. It’s an important part of the process. And again it’s iterative. The more we discuss, the more we help ourselves calibrate and the more people understand that we’re paying too much attention to one element of an application or too little to another part. It helps get people into the same framework of how we look at an application. At least that’s my theory.
And how will the video play into this evaluation?
That is the wild card. The way it is working is that the video will be one additional element. We reduced the number of essays from four to two and partly that was to create slack for the video questions and partly it was a nod to the fact that we wanted to have a more balanced application. This shouldn’t be a writing contest. This isn’t a PhD literature program. We care about how people communicate in writing but effective leaders have to do much more than that. That is one of the reasons for the video questions.
As we review, there will be a rating for the videos as with other elements. They will be seen in each substantive read, and we’ll see some during committee review. When we piloted this in the previous year, we have wired up the room for committee. But I don’t think we’ll do this for everybody because that could bog things down.
What did you learn through the pilot about the use of video in admissions?
Part of it was trying to work out the kinks on the technology. In the first go-around, there were more bugs and glitches than we would want. Now that we have announced it, we are getting a lot of questions and there’s a lot of stress. One of the things we’ve realized is that people generally do a good job and people shouldn’t be quite so stressed because it’s not make or break. It will hopefully help us identify people whose interpersonal skills could be an issue, including their English ability. We have eliminated the TOEFL requirement and will use the video questions to help us assess someone’s English ability. So I think there will be some sorting by that. There were times when we used the video questions to help clarify certain aspects of the application.
How limited was your video pilot?
We did them in the third round for everyone so there were a few hundred candidates who tried it out. We got a decent number of data points but we didn’t see the whole year. Having more data points and seeing candidates throughout the year will be informative for us.
With video, some candidates worry that they will be judged by their looks. Is that possible?
Everybody already interviews the applicants anyway so this isn’t anything different. They all joke that when schools started to interview candidates initially all the classes immediately got taller and better looking. Subconsciously, social psychology shows that people who are taller and better looking are perceived as being more competent. But we are not looking for attractiveness. We are really trying to evaluate people on how well they can articulate their thoughts. It’s not just poise and polish. When we do interview training, I try to distinguish between polish and professionalism. You can have someone who comes off as very slick and polished but that doesn’t mean that they are competent and have substantive abilities. So you don’t want be overly swayed by that. With the video questions, we are not focused on how they are dressed, though I am telling people not to do this in their pajamas. But you don’t have to be wearing a suit and tie. We are really trying to get at the more substantive traits that have to do with someone’s ability to articulate their thoughts–not what they look like or how they present on a superficial level.
Can you recall a couple of tough admission decisions and how they got resolved in this last cycle?
The types of decisions that tend to be tougher are for people who have strong work experience and recommendations but then the quantitative element is lacking. We struggle with those quite a bit and there actually are times when we get the faculty involved. We tend to meet as an admissions committee but will identify a handful of candidates we really, really like but because of quantitative ability we have concerns about. So we bring faculty in and talk it through with them.
A lot of your non-profit types may fall in this category, right?
Yes. I remember one in particular this past year who was in her first year of law school at Yale. Obviously, being at Yale Law School is a sign that you are a smart person and very capable. But she didn’t have the quantitative background or the score on the GMAT. So we worked closely with her to gain comfort with her quantitative ability. We ultimately accepted her and she is starting the program and it’s great because we value students from the law school because they tend to be fantastic students.
More typically, applicants that raise quant concerns are advised to re-take the GMAT and get a better quant score or to supplement their transcript by taking a few quant courses and acing them. In this case, how did you work with the applicant?
We gave her a little extra time to study and re-take the test to show her ability that way. She did and it was great. Usually, taking classes can help to supplement a profile but there are some people who are so far below that we say a couple of classes isn’t going to give us that much comfort. So we may ask them to re-take the GMAT. Whatever you think of either the GMAT or the GRE and the limitations of those tests, they have been validated to predict at least first-year core grades. So it’s useful in that limited sense. It’s not meant to predict how you do afterwards or even in your second year of business school. But it’s helpful for that limited purpose.
It’s tough because we are trying to put together a diverse class. So we have a lot of discussions on someone in this area with a specific skill set from a finance person who has done well but might have a more narrow focus to someone in the social sector who doesn’t have the same quantitative background. That’s where a lot of the conversation comes in.
On the other hand, we do have some candidates who are technically capable but on the interpersonal side we are concerned about how well they will do in the program and how much potential they may have to be a leader afterwards. We definitely look at that as well. The numbers could be fantastic but we may end up saying this person might not be good for us at the school.