Isser Gallogly doesn’t want to hear you drop the F-bomb, but when it comes to your personal Kryptonite, he’s all ears. Gallogly, assistant dean of MBA admissions at the New York University’s Stern School of Business, estimates he’s read more than 50,000 application essays during his dozen years at the school. While he and his colleagues assess specific attributes and deficiencies related to GMAT scores, undergraduate GPAs, work experience, communication skills, and fit with Stern, ultimately their evaluation falls under a framework they call “the three Cs”: how well applicants would do in the classroom; how successful they would be in their careers; and what kind of character they have.
“The piece that people don’t talk about as much is the character,” says Gallogly, a Duke University Fuqua MBA who spent seven years as a brand manager for Unilever and a year as a marketing manager for L’Oreal before arriving at Stern in 2003. “At Stern we talk about IQ vs EQ (intelligence quotient vs emotional quotient). It’s nice if they can do the curriculum part, the classroom part — you’ve got to be able to do the school work. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to fit in at Stern and you’re going to succeed in business. Character is very important. What sets Stern students apart is this IQ vs EQ, the fact that they understand how to interact with people, how to lead people, that they have superior communications skills, and are very collaborative.”
Applicants don’t, however, have to be perfect to get in. Superman, Gallogly points out, has a profound flaw. “No one would like Superman if he didn’t have Kryptonite. Nobody would really root for the guy if he didn’t have a weakness,” Gallogly says. What’s important for Superman is what’s important for Stern applicants: they should know their flaws. “The biggest sign of strength is being OK saying what your weakness is,” he says. “Self awareness is essential in the journey as a professional.”
ENGAGE BRAIN BEFORE OPENING MOUTH
So is a little self-censoring. It’s not that Gallogly has a personal objection to the use of profanity – it’s merely that some words are not appropriate for some situations, and, say, uttering the F-word in an admissions interview shows poor judgment. But it happens more often than one might think, Gallogly says.
Of course, in the B-school application process, doing the right things is as important as not doing the wrong ones. Any applicant can tell their story – but not every applicant can perform as well when an interviewer who has already scrutinized their application asks an unexpected question about their life and goals. When a would-be Sternie is talking about areas of career interest, she or he should be up to date on what’s going on in those spaces, and, ideally, provide examples of their experiences in them, Gallogly says. “If somebody says, ‘I want to get into private equity,’ and you say, ‘What’s your definition of private equity?,’ and they say, ‘That’s when you’re talking about investing a person’s equity versus a corporation’s,’ it doesn’t show a lot of depth.”
While Stern invites creative submissions for its personal essay, creativity in the application isn’t really what admissions is looking for. “It’s not about how creative it is,” Gallogly says, “it’s how insightful.”
Application materials and interviews should reflect detailed understanding of business fields applicants say they’re interested in – and Gallogly recommends research. “If this is an area where you have passion and interest, the more you read, the more you’ll want to read; the more people you talk to, the more people you’ll want to talk to. It should be really fun to learn about it.”
HEAVY PRICE NOT A DETERRENT
At $63,720 in tuition plus $4,000 in fees per year, Stern’s MBA is one of the most costly in America in the most expensive city in the U.S. Last year, Stern became the first business school to instruct students to budget more than $200,000 for school and living costs during the course of their studies – and that was based on a very conservative $26,000 estimate of annual room-and-board expenses in New York City.
Still, the price has not deterred applicants, and Stern remains one of the most selective business schools in the world. In the latest 2014-2015 application cycle, the school received about 3,700 applications for some 400 spots in the Class of 2017. That application volume in the latest cycle represents a five percent drop from a year earlier, but is on par with the year before that. Stern’s position in the major rankings has also remained fairly even over the past several years, rising a spot to 14th from 15th in Poets&Quants’ 2014 composite ranking.
“Being, you know, a top-ranked school certainly helps, and also being as global as we are,” Gallogly says. “We do very well across a range of industries and functions, where some schools are more dependent on a particular geography or a particular industry. if you’re into your portfolio theory, the more diverse you are . . . the more stable you’d be.”
As competitive as Stern is, potential applicants shouldn’t obsess over class-profile averages for GPAs and GMAT scores, Gallogly says. “I think sometimes people look at averages as a minimum requirement and think that ‘If I don’t have that number, I’m no good.’ I really hope that people don’t opt out because maybe they’re over-fixating on a factor or maybe looking at it incorrectly.”
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