Behind The Scenes: How A Business School’s Admission Committee Decides

Questrom School of Business at Boston University

Questrom School of Business at Boston University


Indeed. There’s a bit of video tape, too. For the first time ever, Questrom gave candidates the option to answer three video questions instead of doing a 750-word written essay. The majority of candidates opted into the video. Applicants are given 30 seconds after a random question pops up on their computer screens and then have 60 seconds to answer each one. The random questions are drawn from a bank of about 100.

There’s an unusual twist to the process at Questrom. The day or two after an application deadline, the admissions team does a quick assessment of undergraduate transcripts, test scores and resumes and immediately says “yes” or “no” to an interview. Roughly half the pool is interviewed in a given year. Then, those who get an interview with an admissions official have their application files assessed by another adcom staffer at the same time.

By the time applicant files come to the committee meeting, the candidates have already been interviewed. “It’s so more of us can know the candidate and also keep bias out of the process,” explains Siegel. “So all the candidates have the possiblity of having two advocates in the room.”


When the admissions committee starts its work, it goes to the video tape right away on a candidate who sports low quant grades but wrote an additional essay to attempt to explain away those lower quant scores. She’s a project manager in a finance company and she answers each of the following three questions with ease, demonstrating both presence and personality.

The flat screen mounted on the wall at the end of the table comes to life, and everyone’s attention is drawn to the twenty-something woman on it.

“You have many options for you’re MBA studies. Why do you want an MBA from Boston University’s Questrom School of Business?”

“If you could only accomplish one thing in business school, what would it be and why?”

“What does creating value for the world mean to you?”

Everyone is pleased with her answers. “That’s a winner!,” proclaims Matychak. She will soon be receiving an acceptance.


It went less well for an applicant who had been waitlisted last year and utlimately denied admission. His undergraduate point average is low, just 2.48, from a public university on the West Coast. It’s well under the 3.3 GPA average for the latest incoming class as well as the lowest GPA accepted last year of 2.9. His GMAT score of 640 hardly offsets his mediocre undergraduate transcript. The average GMAT of the class that entered last fall was 682, with a range of 610 to 740. So the applicant is a full 30 points under the average.

After rattling off the stats, Jennifer Cohn, an assistant director of admissions, expresses concern about his communication skills. “It wasn’t an incredibly compelling interview,” she confides. “He didn’t have a lot to talk about.”

Little discussion ensues. No one shows enthusiasm for an admit, though one admissions staffer confesses to being on the fence. Finally, Siegel weighs in. “I wouldn’t admit him,” she says flatly. “He hasn’t done enough since last year to assuage the concerns we had last year.”

Adds Matychak, referring to having put the applicant on the waitlist last year, “We don’t want to have these conversations again in April.”

He is rejected.

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