Most Transparent MBA Admissons: Tuck, HBS, Ross & Fuqua

Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management

Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management


Without a single exception, consultants laud Tuck’s approach, noting the role that current students and alumni play as ambassadors for the school. They point out that Tuck, Fuqua, and Kellogg all share several important attributes. All three schools are well-known for highly collaborative and supportive cultures and also boast open-interview policies for any and all applicants who want a sit-down. Most business schools, in contrast, only interview candidates by invitation, after making the first cuts in their applicant pools.

“The schools at the top of this list are widely recognized for their relatively warm, friendly, team-oriented student cultures,” says Bauer of The MBA Exchange. “So, it’s not surprising that they’re viewed as making an extra effort to understand the character, values and personalities of applicants. And it’s not coincidental that all three programs feature applicant-initiated interviews vs. the ‘invitation-only’ model of their rival schools. Applicants appreciate the certainty that they’ll get a chance to sit down and engage 1-on-1 with a decision maker.”

“Tuck’s open invitation to interview all applicants who visit Hanover exemplifies their commitment to getting to know their candidates,” believes Tyler Cormney, co-founder of MBA Prep School. “Let’s face it. Accepted students are going to be stuck out in the woods with their classmates for two years, so Tuck has every interest in making sure their admitted students are going to love the experience and are going to fit in with other Tuckies.”


Tuck’s openness also was demonstrated when it became the first prestige business school to actually host MBA admissions consultants on its campus. “Our industry organization AIGAC emerged from conversations at a unique conference Tuck hosted several years ago when they invited a dozen admissions consultants to visit their campus,” says Chad Troutwine, co-founder and CEO of Veritas Prep. “Our hosts asked a lot of questions and demonstrating unprecedented transparency shared valuable access to their admissions process. If you were to survey my contemporaries in this space, they will point to that Tuck conference as a watershed moment. We are all indebted to the Tuck admissions team for helping transform MBA admissions consultants from pariahs to professionals.”

Alex Leventhal of Prep MBA Admissions Consulting reinforces the notion that the strong results for Tuck, Kellogg and Duke are partly driven off of their open-interview models. “I will say that when I look at my own customer base, some of my ‘nicest’ clients wind up choosing these schools, and sometimes over Wharton and Columbia,” he says. “Culture matters, and who you go to school with is, to some degree, who you walk through life with.”

Cormney also says he is a big fan of Duke’s 25 fun facts essay question. “It’s why I rated Duke as a school that gets to know their applicants well,” he says. “By comparison, Columbia asks for one pleasantly surprising thing and Duke demands 25. It’s pretty telling when an applicant runs out of fun facts after listing only a handful or can’t resist copying in a few resume bullet points. Fuqua’s out to find the fun ones in the bunch, and I’m guessing the MBA experience will be much more fun as a result.”


Adam Markus, a long-time admissions expert, has a slightly different perspective on Tuck and Duke. “Tuck and Duke really work hard at giving applicants a great experience when they visit campus,” says Adam Markus. “Tuck also facilitates access to alumni to help applicants learn even more about the school. I think Tuck and Duke do a great job of helping candidates understand their schools and that all three schools give applicants an opportunity to have an interview report included in their applicant file during initial consideration.”

Still, unlike some other consultants, Markus doesn’t necessarily equate open interviewing with getting to know applicants well. “All three schools (including Kellogg) significantly outsource their interviewing to alumni and students and conduct blind interviews using very predictable questions,” he says. “From my perspective, a blind interview is a useful data point, but is not the basis for knowing some well because the interviewer is underprepared to ask applicant specific questions. Given the interview reports that come out of all three schools, a well prepared applicant can easily game the system. Tell me what sort of high performing organization outsources its interviewing to non-employees? From my perspective HBS, Stern, MIT, all do a much better job at getting to know applicants than they are given credit for because admissions officers are conducting interviews and asking questions related to the specific applicant.”

INSEAD also won praise for its efforts. “INSEAD understands its role as an international school and does a terrific job in getting to know my clients, especially those who are unable to visit one of their three campuses,” says Michael Cohan, who heads up MBAPrepAdvantage. “INSEAD hosts and participates in a great number and variety of global events that they open to prospective applicants, such as coffee chats, alumni panels, diversity events,  and The MBA Tour. INSEAD is also one of the only schools to interview candidates twice during the admissions process.”

INSEAD's campus in Fontainebleau, France

INSEAD’s campus in Fontainebleau, France