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2012 Cornell Johnson MBA Admissions Q&A with Christine Sneva and Ann Richards

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Audio for Q&A (Click to listen now, or right click and choose “Save As” to download and listen later.)

Linda Abraham: Hello! My name is Linda Abraham. I’m the founder of Accepted.com and the moderator of today’s Q&A. First I want to welcome all applicants to the Q&A today, and I want to congratulate you for taking the time to learn more about Cornell Johnson’s MBA program. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that you know about the programs you’re applying to, both in terms of deciding whether or not to apply and in terms of presenting yourself effectively in your applications. Being here today allows you to ask the experts about this top business school.

I also want to give a special welcome to Christine Sneva, Director of Admissions & Financial Aid, and Ann Richards, Associate Director of Admissions & Director of Financial Aid at Cornell Johnson. Thanks to everyone for joining. Christine and Ann, what’s new at Cornell Johnson?

Christine Sneva: Hi everyone. Thanks so much for being on this call with us. My name is Christine Sneva; I’m Director of Admissions & Financial Aid. What’s new at Cornell Johnson is we have two new institutes that are now officially up and running for students to take advantage of. The first is called the Emerging Markets Institute, which is a leading international program. Within emerging markets research and education, it’s bringing together practitioners and academics.

We felt that there’s a strong demand for greater attention to emerging markets among our current and prospective students, as well as corporate recruiters and alumni. So, for example, students will be working with corporations such as Ford, expanding market share to Brazil, or companies looking to expand into Russia or other emerging markets throughout the world. It also includes people from family businesses that are looking to expand their companies into other emerging markets, so this institute really supports what we do here when we’re combining academics with our performance learning, which is something that Johnson is known for.

The second institute is the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute. We’ve always been a pretty strong entrepreneur school that has a strong focus; Cornell University as well. But this also helped engage our students in a suite of entrepreneurship services – which is legal, consulting, and capital – and to offer an entrepreneurship program that reflects the kind of creativity and analytical skill that entrepreneurs need to be focused on.

Also, working with our entrepreneurs and residents who are here working with our Immersion program; again, the Institute provides a physical space that will not only be working with our students at Johnson, but also the vast Cornell entrepreneurial network that is remarkably strong nationally and internationally, using the network of Cornell alumni. So, the two institutes support our other existing centers: the Parker Center for Investment Research – which has a trading floor and is also home to our $11 million hedge fund, the Cayuga fund – as well as the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise.

Linda Abraham: So, both of these institutes are new institutes set up at Cornell. The Emerging Markets one, that’s not something that you’re just participating in; these are special centers at Cornell Johnson. Is that correct?

Christine Sneva: Absolutely. Even when students come and visit, it’s up on the second floor of Sage Hall, where the business school is located. The students will be able to go in and see what is going on within both of these institutes.

Ann Richards: The only thing, really, that I wanted to add is that I wanted to encourage people not just to take our word for it, but to feel free to reach out to our current students and recent alums. They can do that via our Web site, with the "Connect with Johnson" button on the right-hand side of our Web page. They can search for students or alums that are in particular industries or fields, or that come from particular geographic regions.

Linda Abraham: Thank you very much. Okay, we have a lot of questions from applicants. Let’s turn to a few. First of all, we had asked applicants to post questions to our Facebook page. There was one in particular I wanted to ask. Okay, Sahar asks, "As a student who wants to apply right after graduation from this bachelor’s program with no full-time work experience, I want to know, what exactly is my chance of being admitted?"

Christine Sneva: Well, unfortunately I can’t give any exact chances of being admitted, but about 3% of our students currently in our first-year class have less than one year of work experience. Those candidates are coming from strong academic institutions. They have good, solid test scores, and they had good internships in between their semesters. So even though somebody isn’t coming with full-time professional work experience, they do have to understand and know exactly why they want to come right into business school, why it’s a good time for them, why it’s a good fit for them, and certainly know what focus they want to get into.

So these students that are what we call our "straight-through students" showed a significant amount of professional maturity, clarity and focus on their goals, and they were students that could still fit within our culture and our community, regardless of age and level of work experience. That’s something that we look for when we’re considering straight-through candidates. But we do admit students that do come straight from undergrad.

Linda Abraham: Great! The next question is for Ann. Brahmjot asks, "Normally, what is the mean financial aid that a student gets for the MBA program?"

Ann Richards: We have a variety of sources of financial aid for our students. Scholarship is awarded regardless of citizenship, and we use scholarship to help enroll a very robust and diverse class. So there’s not a specific profile that would mean that you get scholarships. We look at your prior work experience, your goals, your academic background, your test scores, what your recommenders have to say about you, and that sort of essence. What is it that you bring to the school that will help you contribute to your class, to the school, to the program and help you to be successful?

So it’s really beneficial to you to make sure that you include your strengths, your achievements, your accomplishments, in your applications. It should be recommended in your resume, in what your recommenders have to say about you, and what you say about your achievements and your accomplishments in your essays as well.

I want to encourage everyone to apply for scholarship from the Johnson School. If you feel that you need scholarship, you need to click that button on our application that indicates that you want to be considered for scholarship. Our scholarships are awarded regardless of citizenship.

Linda Abraham: There’s no co-signor requirement for international applicants?

Ann Richards: For student loans, we do have an international student loan program that will allow any student who is not a U.S. citizen to borrow up to the cost of tuition without a U.S. citizen co-signor. If you want to borrow to help meet your living expenses, then you would need a co-signor. If you want to borrow anything more than the cost of tuition, you would need a co-signor as well.

That process can begin after admission. Actually, after admission, you’ll be sent information on how to apply for loans, but scholarships are awarded as part of the admission and application process. Loans are after admission.

Linda Abraham: Great, thank you very much. Michael asks, "What are your suggestions on how a candidate should approach the application essays?" I’m going to give his question, but then I’m going to change it a little bit. He writes, "Considering a low undergrad GPA but demonstrated leadership and promotion in his or her career." I would say, how would you advise them to approach the application essays, and would you change that approach at all given this particular weakness, or some other weakness in the profile?

Ann Richards: I think in your application you really want to highlight your achievements and accomplishments. We’re looking for candidates who have drive, who are willing to take initiative, and who are willing to take calculated risks. Sometimes that works in their favor, and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s okay to not win in every single instance, but I really think you want to use your essays to highlight your achievements, your accomplishments, the value you brought to your organization, your employer, your extracurricular activities, your university experience.

Now, if you do have a weak undergrad GPA, or you have a low GMAT score, or you have some gaps in your employment, for us, it’s best to explain that in the optional essay section. You can explain that you’re immature, you’re not a good test-taker, or whatever the circumstances are. Take the opportunity to explain that to us in the optional essay, because we have vivid imaginations. If you don’t explain gaps in your resume, or a bad undergraduate semester, we’ll use our imagination, and it won’t be in your favor. So you want to make sure that you take the opportunity to explain that to us.

Christine Sneva: I would also add, specific to our questions this year, we ask obviously why you want to get an MBA. I think everybody has to ask that, because there’s really nowhere else in the application where you can really present yourself, your goals, and your focus, and what’s really driving you to start this application process. That’s something that we’re looking to learn from you.

Our second question is for you to write the chapter headings to your life story. We get wonderful feedback that this is an essay that most applicants are looking forward to writing. It’s also probably one of the hardest ones that people have to write. We love to hear that, because it’s one of our favorite essays to read. It’s really the opportunity for people to express themselves in a different way that isn’t a typical essay format. You can be creative. We do encourage that, and it’s just a wonderful opportunity for us to get to really know you.

I always encourage people to add things that you’re really not going to be able to add anywhere else in the application. Our third essay is a short-answer that asks, "What legacy do you want to leave at Johnson, at Cornell?" We’re a community type of school. We have a very tight-knit type of culture, so we’re looking to hear from you how you’ve really thought about tying into our community, whether that’s through student organizations, other types of clubs, other ways that you can get involved and give back.

That type of motivation for the school and for why you want to be here is very important to us as the committee, as well as the students and the faculty. That’s why we are asking that question.

Linda Abraham: Great, thank you very much. Just to go back on that about question two and the life story question, do you have a preference in terms of responding to that in terms of your life to date? Or do you want them to go forward and imagine what their life story will be?

Christine Sneva: Thank you for asking that. I do get that question a lot, and we really don’t have any preference to where you want to start. It really can be from now, up to this point in your life, and maybe you can’t write a chapter that’s beyond coming to Johnson. I don’t know, maybe part of that autobiography for you is talking about your life at Johnson and what you want to do after that. Everybody sort of has a different way of thinking about the future, and I think just from our perspective it’s such a unique way for us to interact with an applicant and see just how they line that up.

It can end and start anywhere anybody wants to, as long as it includes information that is giving us details about you that we don’t already know that help us get to know you. Besides hopefully moving on to an interview, that’s really what we’re looking for.

Linda Abraham: Great, thank you very much. Angeline asks, "What do you look for when evaluating candidates for fellowships, specifically the Park Leadership and Consortium?"

Ann Richards: For the Park Leadership Program – well, for any of our scholarship or fellowship money – we’re really looking for outstanding candidates to our MBA program, but also people who will contribute and add value to our program, who’ll be a good fit, and who bring some unique experience.

Regarding the Park Fellowship, which is limited just to U.S. citizens, we’re looking for standout leaders, those candidates who have either prior leadership experience or tremendous leadership potential, who with some cultivation will go on to be tomorrow’s business leaders.

Now, in addition to the application that you have to write for the Park consideration, we also are implementing a scholarship weekend this year where we invite a number of students to come to campus and participate in some leadership and team-building activities, to get the opportunity to meet current students, and also to meet some of the faculty and staff. At the culmination of that weekend, we’ll announce students who have been selected for a Park Fellowship, or other named scholarships or fellowships.

Regarding the Consortium Fellowship, we’re really looking for, once again, is candidates who will be leaders, who will add value to our program, and who will help us to make this school better. We really like and value those students who want to work to improve all of the activities and events that they’re participating in.

So we’re not just looking for the folks who are the 4.0 or the straight-A students; we’re really looking for students who do implement change, embrace change, and try to make everything that they are a part of better and stronger, who have a track record of success in their career and in their personal and professional life.

Linda Abraham: Great, thank you very much. We have a few questions from people, and Kelly specifically, who asked, "Do you have any classes, groups, researches, institutes focused on family enterprise? What do you offer the applicant who wants to go back to a family business?"

Christine Sneva: We do have a lot of students that are coming to enhance and grow their family businesses. Maybe they hadn’t been previously working in those, but it’s something that they’re looking to develop and do through business school. We have a course that mentions family enterprises. There’s not necessarily a concentration or something formalized, because we do have the institutes with entrepreneurship, where a lot of our students that do have their own business, whether those are family enterprises or something that they’ve developed and started prior to coming to business school, or are looking to do that while in business school, working with the institute, as well as what I was talking about with the emerging markets.

Depending on what it is your family business focuses on, where you’re looking to grow that, whether that’s within the home country, or domestically, or internationally, I think we have a real strength with that. You don’t want to necessarily narrow it down and only be in a room and a group with people who also have family enterprises, that maybe the industries don’t match, or the goals don’t match. But really broadly, we’re able to bring goals and perspectives together that are really going to build upon and really help you move forward with those businesses.

Like I said, we have entrepreneurs in residence. We have a very strong entrepreneurship network of family businesses, as well as other corporations and partnerships that our alums have been able to take on and grow. Part of coming to business school is that they grow networks, and I think that’s a huge strength of Cornell. It’s a huge strength of the entrepreneurial network, as well as the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute.

Linda Abraham: Great, thank you very much. We have several people asking about essay three. The first one is Cyril; he wrote, "I’m a re-applicant to Johnson. I wanted to hear the admissions team talk about the new question in the application, essay three. Legacy is something that should last beyond a student’s tenure and not become outdated. I was wondering if the question refers only to contributions to the Johnson community during the MBA program. Would the admissions committee also be looking to hear from applicants about how they can contribute to Johnson in the future, i.e. after their MBA?" There are several other people who posted asking about that question, so do you have any tips on that?

Ann Richards: This is really a focus on impact. I keep mentioning impact, but really, what kind of impact do you want to have as a Johnson School student, and/or as a Johnson School alum? So, we’re looking to be able to determine why you would be a good fit for this school. Why is this the right place for you? So, students have taken a variety of positions in answering this question, from, "I would like to really strengthen the Asian Students Club," or, "I really want to make sure that students benefit from the Consulting Club," or, "Engage more alums in activities within X Club." Then we’ve also had students who have said, "I choose to pursue this path, and I expect that I’ll be a great representative of Johnson and the University as I go out as an alum in this field."

So if you look at it from the perspective of, "Why is this school right for me? What can I bring that will help add value as a student and as an alum?" I think it may help you answer that question.

Linda Abraham: Great, thank you. Daniel asks, "Can you go into detail about the semester immersion? Is it a mix of classes and projects? Does it vary by immersion?"

Christine Sneva: The quick answer is that it’s all of the above. Each one of our immersions is a little different. Obviously they’re focusing on specific industries. But the point to the immersion is that it’s now taking the larger group of 275, where all of you have been within your core teams, going through most of your core courses within the first semester, and now we really differentiate that experience a little bit. We now put you in cohorts of people where you’re focusing on strategic marketing, investment banking, capital markets, emerging markets, entrepreneurship, private equity, or venture capital.

We have over eight different types of immersions, and then we have an option to customize. But within each of those immersions, the point is that you’re going to have access to industry leaders, speakers, companies that will come in and have projects specific to that industry and the work that you’re going to be doing before you move on to an internship. That type of work has greatly benefitted our students in showing great results on their internships. A high percentage of students are coming back with offers after those internships, so we really do believe in that second semester in getting you started, in getting your hands dirty and your feet wet, so to speak, within that industry and that focus that you want to be in.

So, to continue to try to answer the question, I know it seems vague, and it’s one of the real mysteries, I think, for people, especially coming in for our accepted student weekend. You know, what’s going to happen? What’s going to go on?

Ann mentioned earlier in the discussion that we have a way for students to do that. It’s the button on the front of our Web site that says, "Connect with Johnson." You have the ability to search recent alumni as well as current students by immersion. Each year, the strategic marketing companies that come in with specific projects are always different. We have a projects office that works with that immersion on specific companies, making sure we are representing across different industries. We do the same thing with sustainability.

You know, if we’re going to have 40 students in the immersion, we want at least 12 to 15 different projects, so that small groups can focus on specific projects in areas that they’re hoping to move forward on. It’s a really exciting part of the semester. It’s a huge differentiator for us, and I think the important piece is that we’re working with companies during that second semester. Many times these are alums of the school that are working for these companies and these partnerships that are important to our immersion programs.

Linda Abraham: Great, thank you very much. This is a quick follow-up on that. We do have Kushagra asking specifically about the marketing immersion. Maybe you can use that as a very brief example on how the immersions work?

Christine Sneva: Sure. That is one of the immersions that start a little earlier. One of the important aspects of that immersion is that there is a lot of company involvement. You know, I’m sort of looking around right now, trying to find the list of current projects, so maybe we can go back to that, Linda. Then I can actually give some specific companies and projects that our students are going to be working on this year, so it can be a little bit more detailed. If we could get back to that, hopefully within the next five minutes, I can probably answer that question.

Ann Richards: Let me jump in with a quick overview. What we try to do in all of the immersions – and the marketing immersion is a great example of this – is really combine the theories that you learn in class with the practical application of that theory. So, in the marketing immersion, for instance, the class may take a trip to Johnson & Johnson.

Linda Abraham: Does that have to do with the name?

Ann Richards: No, it has nothing to do with the name of the school. They may take a trip to Campbell’s Soup and work on a problem that they’re facing regarding one of their brands, like how do they make tomato soup more visible? Actually, right now, as part of an introduction to the brand immersion, our marketing students are having a Battle of the Brands.

We have four different companies that are participating in this Battle of the Brands. We have groups of students that are working on rebranding efforts for certain products. One is a hot sauce. One is a toothpaste. One is a mouthwash. One is a body soap. All of the groups are pitching their ideas to the students, staff, and faculty at the school. We’re getting advertisements in our mailboxes. We’re getting samples left out for us.

It really gives the students the opportunity to get some hands-on experience, and the company benefits because it gets some fresh ideas, some new ideas.

Christine Sneva: That’s a great point. Just to build off of that, the projects within the marketing immersion in particular determine when and why consumers use a product. They deepen the client’s understanding of a particular market segment. I think Ann tied that in very well with the Battle of the Brands. Our students are providing high value in solving a marketing issue, and that’s what an immersion does, using marketing analytics to help companies solve problems at the next level.

Many of the recommendations and the final recommendations that come at the end of the semester companies will implement and work on. That’s constant feedback that we’re getting, again, like Ann talked about. Tying in the theory part of what you’re getting in the first semester and knowing how to implement that information – and how to really have that work for a company – is really important.

So that theory in practice is something that I think we do very, very well. I did find my information on current clients, so we’re working Mars, Estee Lauder, Godiva, Unilever, SCJ, Citi, PNG, Colgate…major, major brands that always not only hire our students, but that want to work with our students on these specific projects. It’s important to their companies, as well as our student experience here.

Linda Abraham: Fantastic. Let’s switch gears here a little bit. Matthew is asking about the AMBA. "Given the shortened one-year program, please describe how recruiting works with this cohort. Are Accelerated MBA students given the exact same opportunities as the full-time?"

Ann Richards: Our AMBA program is very unique. I think it’s one of its kind here, as a top school. Our AMBA students, they start their summer core through the summer. We like to joke that they own the buildings. They get a lot of the hands-on experience with faculty, as well as our career management planner. Then they blend in with the second-year class, because they obviously will be graduating with that class. They get the same opportunities in terms of recruiting.

One difference here for accelerated students is that they do have a practicum. It’s not something they have to take, but many of our accelerated students choose to take this practicum, which is a consulting project, almost like an immersion, for the fall semester. Then you do a two- to three-week onsite over winter break. Some students look at the one-year program and are uneasy about not having an internship, but we’re still able to provide an internship experience for these students.

Something that changed last year is that our accelerated students also had the opportunity to participate in an immersion. So they get not only the practicum, but the immersion experience. They get a ton of opportunities to be working and networking with companies that, not only will they be targeting, but getting some real experience, live cases that they’ll be working on. That’s important to any of our students within our residential programs.

Linda Abraham: Great. Do you see any difference in hiring between the Accelerated MBA and the full-time MBA, the two-year MBA? In hiring numbers, or percentages?

Ann Richards: I don’t have the specific numbers about hiring, but I think that there are a large number of our accelerated students that go into technical fields, because that’s their background. They have to be scientists and engineers. Oftentimes, these kinds of firms do their hiring in the spring as opposed to the fall, so our AMBA students may find themselves in the spring doing their job search, as opposed to the fall, when many consulting firms and banks to their hiring. I think their placement is similar. Christine, you may know for sure. I think last year the AMBA numbers were stronger than the two-year numbers.

Christine Sneva: You’re right, yes.

Ann Richards: In terms of the percentage of students with job offers at graduation and three months out. I did want to add, though, that during the course of the summer, there are lots of career management activities that are incorporated into the AMBA schedule. Unlike in the two-year program, where you have to try to find time to do all of these things, in the accelerated program in the summer, we schedule everything for you. Practically every minute of the day is scheduled for you.

There is time built in for resume workshops. There is time built in for mock interviews. There is time built in to go to New York and meet with bankers. You get a lot of career prep and counseling over the course of the summer.

Linda Abraham: Great, thank you very much. Now, I want to ask the applicants a question. It’s going to be the lead-in to the next specific question that I’m going to raise. What I’d like you to do is just raise your hands if you have this concern: how many of you look at the front page of the newspaper – today it doesn’t sound so great; it didn’t sound horrible, but it didn’t sound like great economic news – and it gives you pause about leaving your job and applying to an MBA program?

Obviously, whenever you take a step, there’s a certain anxiety, and there’s nervousness. But in this case, how many of you are looking at the economic news and the employment news, and it’s raising your level of anxiety and concern about your decision to get an MBA? So, how many of you are reading the paper, hearing the news – whether it’s the physical paper or the online version – and it’s causing you to reconsider or giving you angst about your decision to pursue an MBA?

We’re at 22%. So you’re a pretty calm crowd, and that’s great. But I’d like to ask Ann and Christine, how is recruiting going, both for interns and for 2012 graduates? Then, Lou is asking specifically about recruiting in the CSR social enterprise space, and we had somebody else who asked about international recruiting. So in general and in those particular subgroups?

Christine Sneva: That’s a pretty important question. First of all, we do frequently meet with our career management center on how hiring is progressing, what we’re experiencing not only this year, but what our graduates who just graduated in May are experiencing. The good news is that our numbers are up. We’re starting to look at numbers similar to what it looked like before 2009 and 2010, which is great. We’re happy about that.

With our on-campus recruiting, certainly we’re getting new types of companies, but there are also companies each year that decide not to come to campus because they’ve decided they’re not going to be doing that anymore. That’s an easy cost to eliminate, but the good news is that we do a great job of cultivating and maintaining our strong relationships with these companies. We know them very well. They know us. They know our students. They know what they’re getting from our students, and that’s what’s really important to continue on those relationships. They do a wonderful job of doing that by job function, which is how our career management center is organized.

Overall, I think we’re doing very well. It’s certainly not what we always hope to see, which is a three-digit number, but it is going well. Also, I think that speaks to the strength of our policy, which is to surround the student with every resource and in every capacity that we can to network, to give them contacts, to help them work through those contacts and that network. The job hunt and the way to get a job is new for people. It’s not just posting a resume. It’s really putting yourself out there in ways that you haven’t thought of before, and I think our career management center does a great job of thinking creatively and knowing the best way to put yourself out there to companies, and also helping you think of a plan B.

This is the type of economy where you need to be flexible. You need to be thinking about what it is, yes, you really want to do, and that’s what you’re going to go for. But also, what does short-term look like? How do you adjust that while you’re in business school? This is the climate, this is the area and the space for you to be testing all of that out.

I firmly believe that the MBA is the universal degree. It’s a generalist degree. It’s a wonderful degree that you’re going to be able to fall back on and stay on your feet through what’s happening out there in the economy – more so than falling back on only a bachelor’s degree. You need to know what your competitors look like, what they’re saying, and believe me, you’ll get that perspective within an MBA program.

Concerning our students that go through our SG immersion in particular, I know 100% of them had internships, and they were the first ones to get internships. Again, I think that also speaks to the timing. It doesn’t necessarily mean we’re the best students or the most employable students, but it’s certainly the timing. There’s no such thing as a sustainable job; they do a great job of making sure they’re in specific job functions that are the right fit for them, the right fit for companies, and they know how to target that very, very well.

I don’t know what the employment specifically from those immersions is, and I’m not even quite sure that they report on that, so I’d have to get back to that question in our crew management center, but overall, our end-of-hiring after three months was about 90%.

Linda Abraham: That’s great. Thank you.

Ann Richards: I think that we’re seeing more and more students working outside of the U.S. There are a variety of ways that students do this. I’d have to say first of all, though, that work authorization in any country is key to being successfully hired in that country. So, you know, it’s a tough time to work in the U.S. right now if you’re not work authorized. This has nothing to do with the school, or even the employer. It has very little to do with the employer. It really has to do with the policy, and the number of visas that the government is going to improve.

Linda Abraham: Isn’t sponsorship by employers kind of a factor in the U.S.?

Ann Richards: The sponsorship for a visa, that’s correct. Yes. I think that’s true in many other regions as well, so for a U.S. student to say, "Oh, I want to work in the U.K.," they have to think about what the employment requirements are. What does it take to get a visa?

Companies are very often willing to assist with the visa, to get an employment visa, but they know how viable that is. So very often we have companies who come here who are looking to hire people that are work authorized in specific places: in Brazil, in India, in China, in Singapore. So it is not that typical – it’s not unheard of, but it doesn’t happen often – where a U.S. student, say, may desire to work in London, and a company comes here to hire a U.S. student to work in London. They’re more likely to hire an EU citizen to work in London or other places. But we are seeing more and more students work outside of the U.S. and outside of their home country as well.

Linda Abraham: Great. I’m seeing a lot of questions posted about just the actual review process, and the timing of it. This is just an example of one: Sangani asks, "I applied, and round one of my application went under review on October 26. By when can I hear on interviews?" Can you just touch on the process?

Christine Sneva: Our process is in review right now. What we’re doing is we’re trying to look at new creative ways that we can try to get through applications and processing them quickly enough to get into the admissions committee’s hands as quickly as possible. So a file that is currently under review is a file that is waiting to be read.

We do have certain readers assigned to files that we’re trying to get through the process as soon as possible, and then they will go to a committee to then decide to be interviewed. So, we have definite deadlines for each round. For round one, the decision is December 20th, so applicants can expect to hear a decision from us up until December 20th, when they’ll know.

At this point, we are getting through the applications as quickly as we can. It’s a long queue, we know, and we appreciate that people are certainly patient with us. We know that it is definitely difficult to put your application out there and sort of just sit back and wait, so we are going to work as quickly as possible, like I said, to get through each of those applications as quickly as we can to try to get those interview invites out there, and also look at applications that maybe we’ve decided not to interview, whether or not we can look at those again.

You know, we feel very strongly about making sure we give everyone the opportunity to present themselves in the best way possible. We know that applicants work very, very hard. It’s a very expensive process, we know, to get through, so certainly our message is that you have some seasoned readers and admissions committee members that are looking at these applications, that are talking and deliberating about these applications, and we’re trying to move through that as quickly as we can.

Linda Abraham: Great, thank you very much. We have a question here from Matthew, who asks, "Is there a large advantage in applying in round two compared to round three, specifically related to Park scholarship consideration?"

Ann Richards: We encourage students to apply when their application is as strong as possible. So don’t rush to get your application into round two if it’s going to be sloppy, or have errors, or if your recommender won’t have the time that they need. We consider for Park scholarships, for Consortium fellowships, for merit-based scholarships, candidates who apply in rounds one, two, or three.

The candidates who are excluded are candidates in round four, although if we have funding available, we’ll consider candidates in round four. I think it’s in your best chance of getting admitted and getting a scholarship if you submit an application that’s a strong as possible. Percentage-wise, in terms of the percentage on the admission, the statistics I think we get are the same percentage of candidates get scholarships in round two as get scholarships in round three.

Linda Abraham: Okay, great. Fazulul asks, "What percentage of students are military veterans, and how many are foreign (non-U.S.) military veterans?"

Christine Sneva: Well, I don’t know exactly the non-U.S. percentage, but I do know that our current U.S. military vets represent about 5 to 6% of our current class. I would have to do a little digging in our numbers, just because we have obviously a larger majority of our students that do have a military background from other countries, so I’m sorry I don’t know that information offhand. I don’t know if I’ve ever been asked that question. But a large majority of our military vets are coming from Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, and Israel.

Linda Abraham: Oh, really? You really do have a lot of vets from outside of the U.S. then.

Christine Sneva: Yes.

Linda Abraham: Okay. Hsieh asks, "Besides the requirement of a score of 100 on the TOEFL, is there minimum scores on each module? If my speaking and writing are under 25, can I get accepted?"

Christine Sneva: Yes, that’s a really good question. You know, we’ve certainly been flexible on what we see on the TOEFL. Typically we see a strong reading and listening score, but weaker on the speaking, which can mean a red flag for candidates. But it’s not the only reason why we wouldn’t necessarily move to interview.

Other reasons to move to interview are a lot like what Ann was talking about. We’re looking for candidates that are going to bring value, a strong work history, evidence of what you’re going to be able to bring to the classroom experience, the plausibility of your career goals is something that’s also very important, so just because somebody has lower than a 25 in a specific area on the TOEFL doesn’t mean that they’re not going to get an interview.

In an interview, we’re going to be able to evaluate the strength of their language skills immediately, and better than what I think a TOEFL is going to be able to provide us anyway. We do want to make sure though that a student is able to participate in class, so those communication skills are very important for us to evaluate. But again, the interview sort of serves as a screen for us, in terms of when we look at what the TOEFL’s giving us, but also looking at what the communication and language evaluation came out of an interview as well.

Linda Abraham: Great. Okay, Nishiketh asks, "Could you please give me a few more details about the Cayuga fund in the Parker Research Center? How big a role do the students play in running the fund? What kind of financial research is undertaken at the Parker Research Center?"

Christine Sneva: That’s probably one of my favorite topics. I think it’s really one of the most exciting things we do at Johnson, to have a hedge fund. Again, I did mention that was worth over $11 million, and it’s real investor money. It’s obviously at a market-neutral fund. It’s something that I think is a real advantage for students that are looking to go into asset management. Obviously, having the benefit of the trading floor, we have over $1.8 million worth in our software for the trading floor that is also used by the Cayuga fund.

So the Parker Center for Research is pretty robust. There’s access to electronic data feeds and analytical software. What I was talking about, the annual licensing fees, that’s something that a lot of small investment banks and firms don’t have access to that our students have the advantage of doing while they’re here.

Again, that all goes back to the way that we structure a performance learning environment, and they’re able to apply the theory of what they’re doing in a classroom, in a finance class in your core curriculum. How is that all going to work out into the market, and what are these firms doing? I think it’s a wonderful advantage that our students have.

The Cayuga fund used to be a 22-seated class. Now it’s broken out to about 15 or 16. About two years ago, our students really saw a disadvantage to waiting to get on the Cayuga fund until their second year, so one of the great things about Johnson is that we respond very quickly to that kind of student feedback, and now our first-year students also sit on the fund, supporting the portfolio managers in their second year.

They typically take on a specific sector and do the due diligence, again, supporting the PMs on the fund and then that’s also a good way for you to discover whether or not that’s going to be a good career choice, whether this is something you really want to pursue in covering key sectors that are within the S&P 500. The type of research and the way that you can prepare and present investment ideas to the class as a whole is experience that students were needing to get before they moved on to their internship.

Like I said before, it’s something that students now can take advantage of within their first year, which I think is exciting to them. It gets them closely connected to the reasons why they came to Johnson in the first place. Things like the Cayuga fund and the Center for Sustainability, and certainly I think we’re going to see that with the Emerging Markets Institute, are reasons why our students are here, and we want to get them involved as soon as possible.

Linda Abraham: Great, thank you. Amid asks, "How does Ithaca as a place, as a location, help students network with industry experts?" To the extent that it doesn’t, perhaps it’s remote or isolating, how does Cornell overcome that?

Ann Richards: I think that our location actually adds to that sense of community. Ithaca is a small city, but it is very maneuverable. For instance, everybody lives, I would say, within a two-mile radius of campus. So it’s easy to get back and forth to campus, instead of faculty looking at their watches and saying, "Oh, I’ve got to catch the last train or I won’t get home tonight."

They say, "Oh, you know what? I’m going to go have dinner with my kids, and I’ll meet you at my office at 8:30." Ithaca is the type of community where you will run into your classmates at the shopping mall, or at the grocery store. Not only your classmate, but also faculty members, staff, other members of the school. That helps to facilitate that sense of community, that closeness.

One of our faculty members actually, Bob Frank, his son is a musician, and whenever he’s playing in town, he sends out an e-mail blast to the school, saying, "Oh, my son is playing this weekend. Come on down and have a drink with me."

It’s that kind of sense of community, I think, that helps to foster this culture at the school. It’s fun to be a part of that. It’s nice to know that you have people who will help you out before classes and outside of classes, you know? If you get a flat tire, there’s somebody who’s going to help you and bring you to class, or bring you home from class. Ithaca is an easy community to maneuver. We have a fantastic public transportation service, and in fact, in your first year of school, you’re given a free bus pass. The university purchases your bus pass, so you get free transportation to and from the community.

We also offer bus service to New York City via the campus-to-campus bus, which is a great luxury bus that provides free Wi-Fi, there are snacks, and there’s a bathroom, so you can actually get stuff done while you’re on your way to New York.

Finally, they have a fantastic airport in Ithaca that’s serviced by three major airlines: United/Continental, Delta, and US Airways. So you can get literally anywhere in the world right from Ithaca, and the fares are very affordable. It’s nice to be five minutes from the airport. It’s nice to be in a small enough airport that you can essentially park at the front door, get your ticket, check your bags, and go through security in 15 minutes.

That’s one of the things that I absolutely love about our airport, that there are no lines. You know, you go through all the hard stuff, the unpleasant stuff. At the Ithaca airport, you go through security at the Ithaca airport, so when you change planes in LaGuardia, or at Newark, or in Detroit, you know, you don’t have to worry about those long lines. You don’t have to worry that, "Oh yes, am I going to make it to my flight? Are they going to close my flight because the security line is longer than I thought it would be?"

Christine Sneva: As you can probably guess, this is also a favorite topic of mine. I certainly enjoy living here. To get access to companies, you don’t have to be in their backyard. You know, otherwise you’re just cold calling, and you’re not going to business school to knock on doors and throw resumes under doors. What you’re doing is you’re networking, and you’re finding connections that are going to work for you, that are going to work for your career, that are going to be natural, and that are going to be something that’s going to help you further yourself.

I think that’s really important, looking at a location. A location isn’t necessarily where it’s physically located, but where the alumni are, how they’re represented, and in which areas that you’re looking to possibly either relocate to or return to. Looking at the alumni strength in those areas is something I think that should be on everyone’s list when they’re looking at schools, and looking at measurements and metrics as to which school that they’re looking to narrow their choice down to.

We could be right next door to every major company, but if we don’t have enough connections, or if they are only going to take a little bit from the student populations from each of the top schools – which a majority of the employers do – then statistically you have a better chance of getting into those companies here than you do at a really large school.

Staying small by choice is something that we are going to continue to do, and maintaining those relationships with those companies, I think those are the key questions in this type of economy. If you’re part of the 22% who are a little bit nervous about quitting your job and going to business school, I think those are the important questions for you to ask.

Linda Abraham: Thank you very much. Thank you both. I think we’ve come to the end of our time today. I haven’t been letting you know, but we’ve been getting lots and lots of thank-yous from the audience. I wanted to share that with you.

Thank you again to the applicants for participating today. A special thanks to Christine and Ann for joining us today. If you have additional questions for Christine and Ann, please e-mail them to mba@johnsoncornell.edu. Or, as Christine and Ann both pointed out before, just click on "Connect with Johnson" at the Cornell Johnson Web site.

We look forward to seeing you at future Q&A and Events. Coming up next:

Visit our event schedule page for our full list of upcoming events and details, or to register. You can also subscribe to our events list by clicking reminders on our event schedule page.

With that, I want to thank you very, very much for coming, for participating, and for your great questions, and of course Christine and Ann for your wonderful responses. Good luck with your applications. Again, Ann and Christine, you should know that the thank-yous are just pouring in.

Christine Sneva: Wonderful. I wish we could see all of them, but thank you everyone. It has been an absolute pleasure. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions. We’re here to help guide anyone through this application process.

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