Interesting Questions for MBA Applicants

Source: WSJ, Sep 2011

Columbia Business School this year is asking applicants to respond in no more than 200 characters to the following question: “What is your post-M.B.A. professional goal?” (The answer would be shorter than the length of this paragraph.)

The hope is that these new components to the application process will help steer prospective students away from trying to anticipate what they think business schools want to hear, and will force those students out of their comfort zone.

Admissions officers say they are looking for more authenticity and honesty, since essays can be carefully crafted, often with help from a professional M.B.A. admissions consultant.

For the class entering in the fall of 2012, the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business began asking prospective students what gives them the greatest joy, a change from its prior “What are you most passionate about?” query. The school is hoping to tap into issues that excite applicants—the pleasure of a certain hobby, for example—rather than a self-impressed treatise on solving world hunger.

The University of Chicago Booth School of Business was among the first business schools to branch out beyond the traditional essay. Since 2007, the school has asked M.B.A. applicants, “What else should we know about you?” It requires an answer in no more than four slides of text or pictures.

The so-called PowerPoint question—which is posed alongside a few essay questions—is intended to gauge applicants’ creativity and comfort with the unknown, said Kurt Ahlm, associate dean of student recruitment and admissions for the school’s full-time M.B.A. program.

Harvard Business School this year began directing current applicants to “Answer a question you wish we’d asked,” an open-ended prompt that could be intimidating.

The Stanford Graduate School of Business still asks, “What matters to you most, and why?“—a question it has used as part of its essay section since the late 1990s.


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