The University of Washington's Foster School of Business jumped into BusinessWeek's top 30 rankings of U.S. full-time programs in 2008, helped by plaudits for the school's career center. Of 651 total applicants to the Class of 2010, 31% were accepted.
Erin Dennet, the school's MBA admissions director, says that while some people equate Seattle and the Northwest with "laid-back casual," the school's students are as driven to succeed as many Top 30 counterparts. Still, students show real concern for each other, and they benefit from having Seattle and its resources at their fingertips. The curriculum is collaborative by nature, fostering teamwork and not competitiveness among the class.
Dennett, who joined the school as an admissions assistant in 2001 and became admissions director in October, recently spoke with BusinessWeek's Alysa Teichman about the application process , how it has changed, and what it's like to be a student at the Foster School of Business. She advised candidates to emphasize where they plan to take their MBA in great detail, rather than why they deserve to get in. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Are there any changes in the application process this year?
No, we haven't had any. The biggest changes we had made were two or three years ago when we started inviting candidates to interview and requiring that as part of the process. That's been in place for a couple years. Our biggest focus in terms of admissions is attempting to interview as many candidates as possible in person.
Are you seeing more applications now than in the recent past?
At this point it's difficult to say. We've had one deadline pass and a second just a couple days ago. Our prospective student events were very well-attended, and a lot of people are very interested. Whether that shows in application volume is difficult to tell. Some people get very interested in the MBA and then take the GMAT to apply for the following year. If the attendance is any indication, there's a lot of interest out there. We have yet to see if that will translate into any more applications.
What's the most or unusual or difficult essay question on your application? What's your advice to students on how to answer it?
For our program, we have a goals essay like many programs have, although ours is very specific. We have a program where we are looking for candidates who want to come to customize their studies to make them work for their goals. Candidates tend to be general as to what they want to do. We're looking for students to give us a very detailed road map of where they're trying to get to and what their goals are, rather than an essay they could use for any school. That's difficult to do in two-and-a-half-to-three pages.
What do students tell you is the hardest part of the admissions process at Foster, and how do you help them deal with it?
You know, it depends for students. I think the GMAT can be a big speed bump for some people; it's very intimidating. Our advice is to recognize that applying to MBA programs takes a lot of time. Every part takes time, and so does the GMAT. Be O.K. with taking the test over; we take the highest score. We encourage students to apply when their application is at its best, and not necessarily at the earliest deadline.
How important is an applicant's quantitative GMAT score?
The GMAT is something that we use to asses a candidate's potential to be successful in the core curriculum of the program, but on its own it's not going to be enough. My best advice with the GMAT is to submit whatever is your strongest score, to put forth the effort to achieve whatever is your strongest score. We don't have a minimum requirement, but we have to look at this applicant pool, and at some point a GMAT below a certain score might indicate a student can't handle the academics. However, it's a factor but there's no equation to it, it's just one of the pieces we look at when we consider the application.