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5 Secrets from Business School Admissions

woman-on-macFor many candidates, the business school admissions process can seem a lot like Oz – you are wondering what really goes on behind the green curtain.  I can assure you that the Wizards (aka Admissions Directors) are not impersonators or con-men hiding behind our computer screens.  We are a group of professionals who are passionate about education, about students, and about our schools.

We don’t want the admissions process to be overwhelming or scary. It is really a way for us to get to know you and for you to get to know us so we can ensure that we are selecting the best candidates to represent our business schools as the future leaders of tomorrow.  Not every applicant is going to be the right fit for every school, but there is a school for everyone.

I have gained some wisdom as the Admissions Wizard of Fisher for the past 10.5 years.  Here are five insights that you might find helpful:

We want to hear from you.

Sometimes prospective students are reluctant to contact the Admissions Office. Truthfully, some schools would prefer that you find answers to your questions on their websites or on discussion boards because the volume of inquiries is just too much for them to handle on a more personal basis. Other schools are happy to hear from you, as we want to help you figure out if our school is a good fit for your needs.

We have a small MBA program at Fisher and we want to get to know our applicants.  Schedule a visit.  Meet with a student ambassador.  Sign up for a chat.  Get to know the school beyond what you can find on the website – this will show the school that you are really interested and committed to doing what you can to earn a spot in their class.

That being said, we don’t want to answer questions that you can easily find on your own.  Do your research first before reaching out.  We will really appreciate that you took the time to do so.

We do limit some access until you are further along in the pipeline.

We can’t accommodate requests for every person that wants to be connected with a professor or with an alumnus.  We need to be respectful of their time.  We typically will facilitate connections between prospective students and key stakeholders once we have received an application and have pre-qualified you as a potential student in our program.

Rounds vs. Rolling Admissions – know the difference.

Some schools operate by rounds and some schools operate by rolling admissions.  Pay attention to the deadlines for each school.  If a school operates by rounds, the applications for the round will all be reviewed within a specific time frame.  The deadlines for rounds are extremely important, as you might be bumped to the review process in the next round if you miss the application deadline.

At Fisher, we operate by rolling admissions.  What this means is that we review applications on an ongoing basis as they become complete.  The sooner you apply, the sooner you receive feedback from us about next steps/your status.  The earlier you apply, the more seats are still open and the more financial aid is still available, so it behooves you to apply at the beginning of the application cycle.

Financial Aid – it’s not always apples to apples.

Most MBA programs offer at least some amount of financial aid to incoming students, primarily based on merit.  Some schools provide the financial aid award information at the same time as the admissions offer, while others provide it shortly after you have been notified of admission.

Keep in mind that terminology is not always the same across schools – the definition of a Graduate Assistant (GA), for example, may not be the same from school to school. Some schools may offer tuition awards called scholarships, while others offer fellowships.  Make sure you have a good understanding of the award you are being offered if you are trying to compare across schools.

Other factors to consider – is the award renewable or guaranteed for the second year? Do you have the chance to qualify for in-state tuition in your second year if you are attending a public university?  Are there opportunities to secure second-year funding if you did not qualify for any support in the first year?  What is the cost of living of the city where you will be living?  How long will it take to recoup your investment in the program?

It may be a surprise to you that we actually get to know more about you than you think.

I always chuckle a bit when an applicant or admitted student calls and says “My name is such-and-such and I am an applicant to the MBA program beginning this fall” by way of introduction. This may not be the case for the largest MBA programs, but I can tell you that we really get to know you over the course of an admissions season.

The admissions staff has often been communicating with you for many weeks and months, we have possibly seen you on the road and/or on our campuses.  We have reviewed your applications and interviewed you. We have collected quite a bit of information about you so you are definitely not strangers to us when you arrive on campus to start the programs in the fall.  We may even know your favorite sports team, your favorite food, the fact that you recently ran a marathon and the name of your pet. You shared all that with us!

You have taken an excellent first step by joining up with Forté to prepare you for your business school journey.  Now follow the yellow brick road to the school that is right for you.  Good luck!

Alison Merzel is the Director of MBA Recruiting and Admissions at the Fisher College of Business at the Ohio State University.