The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business plans to discontinue the admissions practice of having current MBA students read the applications of candidates who want to attend the school’s MBA program. Instead, candidate applications will only be read by admissions staff starting with the 2014-2015 application season.
Booth’s decision follows the same change at Wharton two years ago when the East Coast school stopped using MBA students as the first readers on applications. Booth administrators say the change was made to better make use of student time as well as to get more consistent evaluations of the nearly 4,500 applications that annually flow into the school for its roughly 580 seats in an MBA class. Students will continue to play a role in on-campus interviews of applicants who are invited to interview.
BOOTH HOPES TO ‘FURTHER ENGAGE STUDENTS AS AMBASSADORS’ FOR THE SCHOOL
“The consistent read piece is only a small part of why we have changed the GA role,” explains Stacey Kole, deputy dean of the full-time MBA program. “The bigger piece is that we are always evaluating how to make the best use of our resources and student involvement is no exception. The driving force behind the change in our Graduate Fellows Program is to further engage students as ambassadors, providing meaningful connections between our students and those not yet in our community. Needless to say, students are among our finest ambassadors and we’re excited to have them contribute in this way.”
Initially, the change was greeted with some uncertainty by students who have been involved as first readers. “Many of us initially had mixed reactions, but we had the opportunity to engage in a healthy discussion with the admissions staff before the final changes to the program were presented to the Deans for approval,” wrote Vladimir Andonov, a Class of 2014 MBA at Booth, in an opinion piece in Chicago Business, the student newspaper. “The changes are nuanced and far-reaching, the driving force being to increase the interaction between Booth students and applicants via on campus programs, communication, branding, and interviewing,”
It was during a meeting with admission officials, added Andonov, that he “realized how much being an AF meant to every single one of us. The impulse was to preserve the core elements of the existing program, but as the discourse progressed, it became clear that our overarching objectives were aligned: to most effectively adapt Booth’s admissions program to the evolving applicant pool which the school seeks to attract.”
FELLOWS HAD GRADED EACH INCOMING MBA APPLICATION
Until now, applications at Booth were assigned to one of 42 chosen second-year MBA students known as Admission Fellows. The Fellows are chosen on the basis of their first year involvement in giving tours and running Admit Weekends, along with the passion they demonstrate for the school. At the height of the admissions cycle, each Fellow was handed 10 to 12 files a week.
Fellows then would grade six separate parts of every application on a scale of one to six (with one being the highest score possible): 1) Test scores (GMAT or GRE plus TOEFL), 2) Quality of academics (Chicago looks beyond the GPA and more deeply into undergraduate (and graduate) transcripts to examine the courses you took and what grades you received in them), 3) Work experience, 4) Extracurricular activity, particularly as it reveals demonstrated leadership, 5) Essays, and 6) Recommendations.
The first reader then provided an overall score for the application as well as a “Fit to Booth” score. The latter metric is entirely subjective: it’s a stab at deciding how well the applicant would fit into the school’s culture. Besides the raw scores, the Admit Fellow would write commentary and color on the quality of the essays and a summary highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each application.
Starting later this year, those files will now all go through an admissions staffer—rather than a student.