For Isser Gallogly, the associate dean of MBA admissions at New York University’s Stern School of Business, admissions essays are so 1886.
“You know, where people have the quill and the ink and parchment and they write these letters to one another that would be delivered on horseback months later,” Gallogly says. “Essays, to me, in some ways are from a different time.”
With that view, Gallogly’s office last year implemented a game-changing addition: a Pick Six Pictures portion of the application process for the full-time MBAs and the school’s two “Focused MBA” programs for tech and entrepreneurship and fashion/luxury. Applicants include six photos they’ve decided best capture their personalities; Gallogly calls it “admissions meets Instagram” and says it was a huge win for the school and applicants.
“People have really loved doing this,” Gallogly says on a lengthy phone call with Poets&Quants. “They feel like it gives them an amazing way to truly demonstrate who they are across a number of different angles, in a relatively straight-forward means, but in a way you can really dramatize it in a way you can’t dramatize it in a written essay. And for us in admissions reviewing them, the committee has also loved them as well. It gives you a very quick view and impression of an individual — what they value, what’s important to them, and what they’re about.”
FIRST YEAR OF EQ ENDORSEMENTS AND PICK SIX A WIN-WIN
In addition to the Pick Six, last year was the first year in which the school asked for emotional intelligence — EQ — endorsements from a personal contact, which Gallogly also says was a hit among applicants and the admissions staff.
“We got some very interesting and useful information about people — things that people don’t necessarily talk about themselves,” Gallogly says. “Some people don’t like to brag. Some people feel like it’s very disingenuous to self-promote in that way. And there is something about someone else giving the example that gives more resonance to it. It definitely gave us some insight on people in ways that we hadn’t gotten before and I don’t think would have gotten in any other way, other than bringing the person in for an interview.
“It really does impact how you view the candidate. It provides another dimension and lens for the candidate — especially in borderline cases.”
APPLICATION DEADLINES AND ESSAYS ANNOUNCED
Stern announced today (June 11) its application deadlines and essay questions for this coming year’s application cycle. The first deadline will be October 15, the second will be November 15, the third is January 15, and the final deadline will be March 15. One 500-word “Professional Aspiration” essay is included, with two prompts of “What are your short and long-term career goals?” and “How will the MBA help you achieve them?”
In a wide-ranging interview below, Gallogly explains what they saw in this year’s EQ endorsements and Pick Six Picture portion — both good and bad. He also explains what applicants are doing now that annoys him the most and the best tactics to navigating Stern’s new and unique application.
The below interview has been edited for readability.
Poets&Quants: There are two recent changes to the NYU Stern application. First are the deadline changes and second are the EQ additions. Let’s start with the deadline changes. Can you share what was behind bringing back the November deadline and adding the February Focused MBA deadline?
Gallogly: Yeah, we’ve had a November deadline for the two-year MBA program in the past. And essentially, we figured try without it last year, but we got some feedback that people like having the November deadline in there. A lot of schools don’t have that and it’s a nice way for people who need a little more time than September or October but don’t want to wait till January or for some people who would like to beat January to the punch. For us, it’s not that hard to add it back, so we felt like, if people want it and we can manage it, that would be fine.
For the Focused MBA programs, people are used to having a little bit longer to apply. A lot of people have deadlines that extend into the late spring, so to have January as a cut off for people is a bit tough. So we decided we could add a February one in there for U.S. citizens and permanent residents. It’s a little bit late for internationals at that point with the start time of what it is. But we felt like we could do it otherwise.
P&Q: What is your advice for applicants trying to decide which deadline to hit?
Gallogly: I think the basic story on this — and you probably hear it from almost all admissions officers — is apply as early as you are most competitive. There’s no sense in rushing your application if it’s not as competitive because you’re only hurrying to get a bad result. You don’t want to hurry up for bad news. If you feel like, for example, your essay could use some more work or you’d really rather retake the GRE, give yourself the time to do that because it gives you your best chance. For us, we issue decisions on an ongoing basis, so sure, there are less places in the class as time goes on. But at the same point, you want to put your best foot forward, even if that means there are less spots at the time that you do. So, I always say, as soon as it’s ready, do it.
The other thing that I would say is, for us — you know, some schools have a deadline and that’s the window and that’s that — for us, the deadlines and the notifications, all those dates are more for the convenience and management of applicants. We take applications on an ongoing basis — we don’t just sit on them. If somebody isn’t ready for the November deadline, but is ready in December, apply in December. You don’t have to wait till January. So, for us, literally when I say apply when it’s ready, it could be to the day. Now, we will probably consider within the January timing, but that said, you certainly got in your application way ahead of the January crowd and that could mean your application gets reviewed and notifications go out before that. It’s not a guarantee, but it certainly creates that possibility. So, for us, yeah, apply as soon as you feel most competitive — even if that date is between deadlines.
P&Q: Let’s switch to the EQ recommendations. When you all made the announcement last year, we thought it was fascinating. How did the first application round of using the professional and personal EQ recommendations go? What are some things you learned?
Gallogly: I mean, IQ plus EQ is at our core. We’ve always felt like the opportunity to gain more insight on that throughout the application is essential. And, yeah, we hit the idea a while back — almost this notion of an old school character reference — but really focusing on EQ and really getting at that question by asking it directly. Beyond that, expanding the range that could provide such insight. Because sometimes the person that can provide that insight is not necessarily your direct supervisor. They might have only been your supervisor for a few months and only see you in one context. Whereas there are other people who have known you for a lifetime and have a variety of examples to draw from.
We got some very interesting and useful information about people — things that people don’t necessarily talk about themselves. Some people don’t like to brag. Some people feel like it’s very disingenuous to self-promote in that way. And there is something about someone else giving the example that gives more resonance to it. It definitely gave us some insight on people in ways that we hadn’t gotten before and I don’t think would have gotten in any other way, other than bringing the person in for an interview. It really does impact how you view the candidate. It provides another dimension and lens for the candidate — especially in borderline cases.
So what we decided to do this year was — you know, a number of people wanted to do EQ endorsements from people they had known in the professional arena like their supervisors — so we decided to make all these things EQ endorsements and basically combine them. So that way, people could be essentially filling out some of the professional and historical recommendations but also comment on the EQ, because we care about that. So basically, we just kind of morphed it and enhanced it this year. And so now it’s kind of infused throughout and consolidated. I think we’re going to get even more insight and it’s a little more straight-forward for the applicants because they can basically submit two forms and they cover the professional pieces, the EQ pieces, and they give flexibility in terms of who one of them is from. It really is a natural evolution that makes it better.
But the long story, short, it really was a big win for us. The applicants really enjoyed it. We do surveys and we’ve already gotten some surveys back from people who applied and were admitted and a number of them commented how it was nice to see a school that really valued that. And it was nice to have a school that gave applicants the opportunity to provide information about it. It was definitely something they found differentiating about our process and school and that they really felt gave them a chance to add value. So, whether it was from the applicant side or us on the evaluation side, it was a big, big win and we’re excited to continue it.