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A Spicy Q&A with Emory Goizueta MBA Admissions

Updated: Feb 1

We asked our readers and followers to submit your toughest questions to ask an MBA admissions officer at a top US business school. You didn’t disappoint!


In this interview, Sam asks some of the spiciest to current Emory Goizueta Associate Dean of Admissions, Melissa Rapp, and current Goizueta MBA student Aakash Patel. Enjoy!



Careers at Emory Goizueta


Sam: According to the Financial Times, Goizueta ranks top-10 for employment. An incredible record. What is the school doing differently from other business schools?


Melissa: We're really proud of our success with our career services. It comes back to the school's values across all of our programs. We’re committed to an intimate learning environment - Goizueta has one of the smallest cohorts among the top business schools. That gives us the opportunity to provide more one-on-one coaching and individualized career planning. And we don't feel any need to push someone into a traditional path.


Our career coaches spend a lot of time understanding each individual's goals and aspirations and working with them to craft a plan to allow them to achieve their goals. We also attract high-performing, great individuals who fit into this intimate learning environment.


On top of this personalized career coaching, add in the fact that 75% of Fortune 1000 companies have a presence here in Atlanta. This gives us the opportunity to build deep, rich relationships with global corporations that provide access to our students.


Sam: Aakash, you are a GSAPer at Deloitte. Can you explain what that means and how an MBA is helping you with your career?


Akash: I spent four years at Deloitte as a campus hire, straight out of undergrad. “GSAP” stands for Graduate School Assistant Program – it's Deloitte lingo for saying you’re one of 150 people sponsored to go to business school every year at a 1-year or 2-year program. I'm in a 1-year program here at Emory.


I go back to Deloitte and commit to two years. But I don't have to go back to what I was doing. So prior to business school I was doing tech implementation, and when I return to Deloitte I get to hit the “reset” button.


And so even though I'm not formally “recruiting” through career services, the resources here have helped me identify the type of work I want to do when I go back to Deloitte. Talking to faculty, alums, and career services has helped me articulate my goals, and it's been a rollercoaster of a journey.


Melissa: The real success for us is when applicants change their plan for their post-MBA journey.


To me, that's a real sign of transformation. You can't know what you don't know. And part of our job is to expose you to different aspects of business, different aspects of yourself, to help you discover what it is that will make you successful and happy after business school.


Life at Goizueta


Sam: Aakash, you know lots of MBA students at other business schools. How do you think your experience at Goizueta compares to theirs?


Akash: I'm going to take a nudge at the admissions team and say we need more school swag! I like the GSB Patagonia gilets that I’ve seen people wearing.


Jokes aside, I commonly hear that geography is important. A lot of people find themselves having to pick between a college town with a community, or being farther away from a city in the suburbs, or being in a city which doesn't feel as tight as a community. Here at Goizueta, it's the best of both. Because Goizueta is such a small program, it already is a tight community, and you live in a city. I live in Midtown, 20 minutes away.


So I think that's the biggest differentiator, life outside the classroom. If Goizueta was double or triple the size, I don't think it would work so well.





Sam: You moved to Emory with your partner. How has that experience been?


Akash: There’s a story behind this! I got into Emory in Round 1. At the time, my partner was applying to nursing programs and I told her “You should apply to Emory”.


Even though there's no formal relationship between the business and the nursing school, I connected with someone from admissions at Goizueta, who reached out to Nursing and indicated that “someone from the business school is applying with a partner.” The Nursing school actually notified my partner a month before the round deadline!


Then I proposed to her in March, when we both knew we were coming to Emory, and we made the transition together. And because we were both on the same campus most days during the summer, we were able to carpool every day.


GMAT


Sam: Some studies claim the GMAT favors candidates from high income households. Do you think standardized tests are still the best way to compare applicants?


Melissa: I think standardized tests are a meaningful way to understand someone's academic abilities.


We're aware that standardized testing doesn't always represent someone to the best of their abilities. And it's not the only way we've ever judged any candidate. But this is an academic program, and we do need to have assurances that a candidate can handle the rigor of the classroom. They can demonstrate that through those test scores, their transcripts, other academic programs or undergraduate experiences. So, there are many ways to show that you have the academic abilities to perform in an MBA classroom, other than the GMAT.


We also care about what you have done in your career so far, and whether your story makes sense in terms of “I'm here and I want to get there?” Does that transition make sense and is an MBA an appropriate degree to make that change? Also, do you understand the commitments of being an MBA student? It's a classroom experience but also a co-curricular experience, so you’ll have a lot of interactions with your classmates outside of class.


Goizueta’s intimate environment means we can't have anyone who just wants to fade into the background. All of our students need to show up, and be prepared to impact the community. So we're looking at many different aspects of a student's portfolio as they present it in the application, not only the GMAT.


Sam: There's a perception that some groups of candidates typically have higher GMAT scores than the class average. For example, Indians, which is a competitive pool. Is that the case in your experience and at Goizueta, and if so, why?


Melissa: That is a true statement. Some segments perform better and perform worse, and there are lots of studies that you can get into why that is the case… whether it's the academic preparation the students receive or even starting in primary grades. Is it a socioeconomic factor that keeps some people from performing as well?


So standardized tests definitely have their detractors, and we do find that the Indian average GMAT is slightly higher than our typical.


That was true also at other institutions I've worked at, so I don't think it's uncommon. I also don't think it's an indicator of anything significant in terms of how we put the class together when we're building a class. Again, the GMAT score is just one of the factors that we're looking at, and it is an indicator that we don't anticipate any trouble with quantitative classes, which is usually our biggest concern.


Akash: My perspective is that maybe there’s pressure for rankings. Schools want to maintain their status, because that's how you attract employers as a school. I think, fundamentally, maybe something needs to change with how much weight is put on standardized testing for the rankings.



Admissions & consultants:


Sam: Some people say Admissions Consultants provide an unfair advantage, others say they “level the playing field” for first-generation applicants. What’s your view?


Melissa: We don't have any disparaging feelings about consultants. It's really an individual choice on what kind of support you feel you need.


It does feel like there's a lot at stake, since people want to get into a top program. They want to find a good fit. They're also managing a busy career, and maybe they have a lot of hours they need to devote to that career while they're going through this process. There are essays, recommenders to consider and interviews to prep for.


So I certainly don't fault anyone for trying to find a coach, which is kind of what a consultant is, to help through that process. For example, I have a coach at the gym and I've had a nutrition coach. If you're trying to do something you don't know much about, you find someone to help you. So for folks to find people who have the expertise and leverage them during the process, I think it is really appropriate.


There are also loads of free materials and free advice available on different websites. I know you have some material posted online that anyone can access. We provide a lot of support through our admissions team as well.


Other students find value in groups like Forte or the Consortium. Again, they don't have any kind of advantage in the admission process, we look at their application the same way we would look at someone who's worked with a consultant or someone who hasn't had any of that.


Sam: I worked with a client that had a “drunk & disorderly” record from a party during undergrad. Are there any red flags that will absolutely get an applicant dinged?


Melissa: I think there are some red flags that would get someone disqualified from being offered admission. There are some felony convictions and things that we just can't overlook. I was taught a long time ago that my job as the director dean of admissions is to be fairly risk-averse. I have a responsibility to the school, the students who are currently here, and the community to not add anyone to the community who I think could be a threat in some way. So yes, there are some behaviors or things in the applicant’s history that will make it difficult for us to offer admission.


In the case that you brought up, I've read applications where somebody in college has a DUI or had a drunken disorderly, or got busted at a party before they were of age. That happens. And I think how a candidate addresses that in their application is really important.


We want to see that that was a learning experience and that you have changed since then. And I've seen candidates who manage that well. They address it, they are truthful about it, and they've been admitted to the school. If you are honest about those things, that's your best shot at overcoming them and being offered admission.


Interviews


Sam: Could you tell us more about Goizueta’s view on candidates who opt for in-person interviews?


Melissa: In-person interviews were a great opportunity for people to come to campus and see the community prior to COVID. But during COVID we switched to 100% virtual interviews. We learned that a virtual interview was convenient for our candidates, and still enabled us to do the evaluation we needed to do. So this year, we (and many other schools) are offering candidates a choice between a virtual or in-person interview.


I can see that that could create even more anxiety. “How is my interview choice going to impact my experience or my application?”, they ask.


So I want to assure folks that the virtual choice is very legitimate. It's not going to impact how your application is evaluated. It is a convenient option for people who can't travel to Atlanta, but we are offering the opportunity to those who can to come to campus to do your interview and sit in on a class or take a tour.


So please don't worry about the choice between virtual or in-person interviews. Make the choice that makes sense for you and your schedule, and that will be fine.


Also, some people believe that their admission hangs on their interview, but it definitely doesn't. It's a parallel process and several people are looking at your application besides the interviewer, and your interview is considered with all the rest of the materials.


Sam: Sometimes I hear from an applicant that they felt like an interview was “unfair” — difficult questions, negative interviewer etc. How do you mitigate for this?


Melissa: At Goizueta, we use admissions staff to do our interviews, so we've removed that alum factor from our interview process. We do a lot of training with the folks who do the interviews about the questions to ask. We see it as an opportunity not only to learn about the candidate but also to help the candidate learn about Goizueta.


We go into those interviews wanting to have a conversation, wanting to make it a relaxed experience, and just offer the opportunity for the candidate to tell their story. We try to focus the candidate on things like their career progression, why Goizueta?, etc. We are trying to ensure that we get that good fit for this intimate learning environment for this community and their career goals.


 

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Hi, I'm Sam.  I'm the founder of Sam Weeks Consulting. Our clients get admitted to top MBA and EMBA programs.

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