No Essay and No Waiting: What’s Not to Like?

Shanti Elangovan

Shanti Elangovan

Shanti Elangovan didn’t plan on enrolling in business school. An elementary school teacher who’d earned masters degrees in education at Columbia University and public health at Boston University, Elangovan dreamed of working in educational administration and reform (or even launching her own school). In 2013, she began researching a Ph.D. in educational leadership at the nearby University of Iowa. As Elangovan reflected on the business professionals entering education, she wondered if a better alternative would be an MBA that would fill her gaps in areas like finance.

That led her to visit the University of Iowa’s Tippie School of Management’s website where a splash page touted a “One and Done” program. The premise? Prospective MBA students could visit campus and receive an admissions decision within 24 hours. Tippie would pick up lodging (and even reimburse travel costs for top candidates). As part of One and Done, candidates would meet with different departments, dine with students and alumni, and complete a 45-minute admissions interview. And the best part? No admissions essay! Candidates just needed to supply a resume, transcript, and a GMAT (or GRE) score to potentially qualify.

“This was perfect for where I was,” she says. “I didn’t realize this is what I wanted to do.” After meeting with an admissions representative, she decided to participate in a June One and Done session. Elangovan walked the halls and quizzed administrators, faculty members and students. She was surprised by their openness, flexibility, and passion. “I got a real flavor for the program….It was better than interviewing with one person, where you don’t always get the full aspect of the program.”

In the end, Elangovan earned a scholarship and started classes at Tippie in the fall of 2013. During her first year, she was elected by her peers as president of the school’s MBA Association. She takes a handful of classes in the university’s school of education. Although she initially dreaded finance, she now seeks such courses out. At the same time, Elangovan collaborates with Tippie administrators on an alumni outreach initiative. What’s more, her schedule allows her to be home by dinner to care for her two year-old son.

Looking back, Elangovan confesses that she believed she was too late to apply for business school and had no shot of getting in. “I would not have gone to Tippie if not for One and Done.”

ONE AND DONE BASICS

For many students, applying to business school has become a drawn-out slog. After taking the GMAT, they submit applications, replete with essays, to various schools. Then, they await word, first for whether they will get an admissions interview and then months later to get a decision. All told, it’s not unusual for a school to take three full months to make an admit decision after an application is turned in.

One and Done inverts the process. Instead of waiting, participants receive a decision (and financial aid package) within 24 hours of attending. Of course, it’s a lot easier for a school to do this when it gets roughly 250 applicants a year for fewer than 60 seats in an MBA class. Still, how did the program start and how do students qualify for it?

According to Jodi Schafer, assistant dean for Tippie’s full-time MBA program, the idea came from a prospective student, who’d mentioned that a competing school – The Wake Forest University School of Business – was offering 24-hour admissions turnaround. “We thought it was a genius idea,” Schafer says. But the school decided to take it a step further. “We also wanted to make the process simpler. So we actually waived the essay (and application fee), in addition to guaranteeing a 24-hour turnaround.”