Cornell Launches LinkedIn Application

MBA applicationCornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management has launched a redesigned application for its Ithaca-based MBA programs. The revamped form gives applicants the option to share their LinkedIn profiles and allows the business school to track the candidate relationship from the first encounter to post-graduation via a Salesforce platform.

The move is expected to make the application process more convenient for students and to streamline communication, according to Ann Richards, Johnson’s interim executive director of admissions and financial aid. “”[LinkedIn] is a resource that they’re familiar with, and it will give us a more holistic view of the candidate and a more well-rounded view not only of their work and educational experience but also of what their peers or supervisors may have to say about them,” Richards says. “It allows us to see the candidate the same way their professional peers do, or headhunters do.”

In recent years, adds Richards, the business school’s admissions officers sometimes glanced at applicants’ LinkedIn profiles. “Given the volume of applications, we never would have the time to systematically check everybody’s LinkedIn profile,” she says.  “If there was a red flag on an application or some information that wasn’t consistent, we might have Googled somebody or checked their LinkedIn profile. But that was really on a case-by-case basis.”


The 2014-2015 application features changes to the essay word counts and a different format for recommendation letters. Under the new system, students will have a limit of 1,000 characters for each essay. Last year’s application featured a 300-word essay and a three-part question with a 150-word maximum for each part (for a total of 450 words). The number of essays hasn’t changed; however, this year the second topic is optional. The changes mark a dramatic reduction in essays – consider that 2012-2013 applicants were required to write three essays with word counts between 300 and 400.

The B-school also unveiled a new recommendation system. Previously, applicants entered email addresses for their recommenders, who were asked to answer a 10-question form and fill out a matrix about the candidate. This year’s application asks recommenders for a general recommendation letter, and candidates can either upload it themselves or enter their recommenders’ email addresses.

While not mandatory, adding a LinkedIn profile will auto-fill parts of a students’ application. Glowing employer reviews and endorsements on LinkedIn can also add luster to a mediocre application. Richards cautions that these extras will not be part of the formalized admissions process. “It’s not a structured part of the application,” Richards says. “So we’re not going to be tracking that candidate A has eight endorsements and candidate B has none, but it will give us the opportunity to identify a candidate who may have some really positive comments from a former or current supervisor or peers.” In other words, a few glowing reviews certainly can’t hurt.


The changes piggyback on the innovative application launched last year for the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA program in New York City. The program enrolled its first class in May 2014. “We had the luxury of testing it out on a smaller population, and it worked so well that we really wanted to roll it out for the residential program,” Richards says. While applicants to the Cornell Tech program were encouraged to submit a creative element, such as videos and mobile apps, the application for the Ithaca MBA programs does not include this requirement.

Despite the changes, Heidi Russell, Cornell’s senior admissions and application manager, maintains that the meat of the applications hasn’t changed. “I hope that people don’t panic so much…those features may look a little different, but we are still getting at the same types of things here,” she says.

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