MBA Admissions - 4 Business Schools Are Thinking Different

Top Business Schools with Creative MBA ApplicationWhen the MBA Application Essay Questions are filled with the “Why MBA” and “Why our Business School” questions in a written format, and Interviews restricted to the standard format, there were some Business Schools that have tried to be innovative.

1) Tippie Twitter Essay – Pulling the Plug too soon?

When Tippie School of Management retired the Twitter Essay, it was not because of poor response. In fact, when the pilot was run the responses were overwhelming and this led the AdCom to make the Twitter Essay a formal part of the application.

So what went wrong?

Innovation by definition “is the use of novel ideas or methods for better results” and Tippie AdCom was innovative in their approach.

The culprit was the instruction in the question.

Here is the excerpt of the 2011 Application page at Tippie

The Tippie Full-time MBA program will award one full-tuition award package to the applicant who most creatively answers an essay question in “Tweet” form — meaning they’re responding in 140 characters or less.

The instruction to respond to 140 characters or less is little misleading.

The motivation behind the question is brilliant. Only someone who is little creative can think about the bit.ly link and about linking to their blogs or videos.

Here is the question:

“What makes you an exceptional Tippie Full-time MBA candidate and future MBA hire? Creativity encouraged!“

Creativity encouraged was too vague. However, to the AdCom’s credit they had given a clear instruction below the question

Feeling intimidated by the 140-character limit? You can go beyond the typical Tweet by connecting your Tweet to other social media such as blogs, video, Facebook, or a web page. (Hint: You can shorten your links through http://bitly.com/ to keep your tweet to 140 characters.)

Unfortunately, applicants who were at the extreme end of the creativity spectrum thought about presenting themselves in 140 characters. It does not work. Try writing about yourself in 140 characters or under, in the most meaningful way. It should cover values, motivation and goals.

This is what  Jodi Schafer, Tippie’s director of MBA admissions and financial aid told BusinessWeek

“In the end, we had more disappointing entries than great ones,” she said. “Many of the applicants saw this as a bit of a shortcut they could take. I think they wanted to showcase their talent but were hoping not to spend more than an hour and a half doing so.”

Tippie should have persisted with the Twitter Essay by modifying the question

“What makes you an exceptional Tippie Full-time MBA candidate and future MBA hire? Link to your blogs or Videos”

There are two advantages:

a) Measure Creativity

Just the fact that the AdCom had mentioned to link to blogs or videos would force applicants to think about their creative side and presentation skills. Applicants have to think about presenting their creative, analytical or a mix of both through this essay.

b) Learn about Social Interactions

Applicants can hide lot of their thoughts when the essays are in a predictable format. They can add one more layer of sophistication when experts edit essays. However, with Twitter Interactions, and Follower & Following stats, AdCom will learn about the candidate’s personality, not evident in an essay. Even if the tweets are protected or applicant has created an account just for the application, with the right tools, AdCom can learn a lot about the applicant.

2) Rotman Video Essay

Rotman School of Management is trying out a new concept in 2012-13 Application – Video Essay. This is not your traditional Video Essay, where you get the chance to practice for hours, write a script and record and edit the whole presentation. The Video Essay is like the Skype Video Interviews with a Timer.

a) Preparation Time – 45 Seconds

Applicants will get 45 seconds to prepare the answers for the questions and 90 seconds to answer each of them. A Countdown will be visible on the screen. The live questions are presented to the applicants during the session.

b) Practice Questions

Although you can’t prepare extensively for the Essay, the AdCom recommends the applicant to try out a few practice questions just before the live questions, to check for sound quality, connectivity issues and also to ease the nerve before the live session.

The idea behind Video Essay is to test your communication skills, more importantly, to see how you can convey ideas in the most concise manner. It also tests your ability to cope with time pressure and deadlines. It is not easy to present your ideas when you see a 90-second countdown.

AdCom has given 5 advice for the Video Essay. Read it here

3) Chicago Booth PowerPoint Presentation

Chicago Booth has tried to bring a different essay format with the third essay – it can be answered as a 600-word essay or as a 4-Slide PowerPoint presentation. Here is the question

“The Chicago experience will take you deeper into issues, force you to challenge assumptions, and broaden your perspective. In a four-slide presentation or an essay of no more than 600 words, broaden our perspective about who you are. Understanding what we currently know about you from the application, what else would you like us to know?”

The open-ended question is after the Goals, Challenges and Perspective Question. Since AdCom has asked not to embed Videos, Flash Images and Music, the format that is acceptable are images and Illustrations. The Four Slide restricts the applicant to think about their personality that has not yet been presented with the three questions.

Excerpts of Booth PowerPoint Presentation Advice

“First of all don’t bother creating a flash presentation. Simplicity is the key here. Since you have only 4 slides, focus on one area of your personality that has not been covered in other essays. Use illustrations or creative charts/diagrams to convey who you are”

The PowerPoint tests your ability to focus on the bigger picture without missing out on what is relevant from an MBA Admissions point of view. It also tests your creative abilities.

4) Wharton Problem Solving Group Discussions

Although Wharton is not completely radicalizing the MBA Admission Interview Process, the team-based discussion is a welcome addition.  The Interviewee is divided into groups of 5 to 6 and the group has to come up with solution for a real world problem.

Recently, Ms. Ankur Kumar, Director MBA Admissions at Wharton had this to say about Team Based Group Discussion

“It was wonderful to observe our candidates connecting with one other – both inside and outside of the team based discussion. We saw you exchange contact information for future business endeavours, continue to discuss the question posed to your team far after the exercise came to a close, and we noticed a few groups  that headed out for celebratory dinner or drinks after the interview was complete. The most heartwarming part for us was to see how much you invested in and supported one other; waiting for everyone in your group to be done, high fiving each other, laughing together, this is the true hallmark of Wharton’s culture of collaboration and something we look forward to your bringing to the program”

The experience sounds completely different from the team-based discussions that we had expected. When Admission to Wharton is on the line, how many of the interviewee can avoid prioritizing personal contribution over collaboration?

Wharton AdCom might have thought about this issue and that might be the reason why there is a tangible output expected from these discussions, and not just opinions about an issue. Applicants don’t have to worry about the Group Discussion, as it is an addition to the traditional one on one interview, which would still take place during the session.  Nevertheless, the discussions are indeed a novel addition from Wharton.

Found any Innovative MBA Admissions Selection Process? Share in the Comments Section

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