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2012 Michigan Ross School of Business MBA Admissions Q&A with Soojin Kwon Koh and Jon Fuller

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Linda Abraham: Hello. My name is Linda Abraham. I am 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 Michigan Ross’s MBA program. It is critical to your decision making process and your admission chances that you know as much as you can about the schools you are applying to. Being here today allows you to ask experts about this top business school.

I also want to give a special welcome to Soojin Kwon Koh, Director of Admissions, and Jon Fuller, Senior Associate Director of Admissions.

Also joining us today is a current Ross student, Boris Yovchev, MBA 2012. Boris is an international student from Bulgaria at Ross, but has lived in the US for nine years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Business IT from Marian University, Wisconsin, and a master’s degree in Information Systems from DePaul University in Chicago. Prior to business school, Boris worked for Abbott Laboratories as Project Manager and Network Security Engineer. Additionally, he has authored the column on Bulgaria for Encyclopedia Britannica for the past seven years. His focus of study at Ross has been General Management and Strategy, and he is spending his summer as an internal growth strategy consultant for the University of Michigan’s Health System.

Thanks to everyone for joining. I am going to take advantage of my position as moderator and ask the first question. What’s new at Michigan Ross?

Soojin Kwon Koh: Welcome everyone, and I’m very happy to join you. Thanks for taking time out of your day to learn more about the Ross MBA program. One of the things that we are really excited about is having a new dean join us this past July. She has really taken a lot of time to get to know our staff, faculty, and students, to understand what direction we should be taking the school in. So she has preliminarily identified some big picture strategy items. One is to do the next generation of action-based learning. If you’ve done any research on Ross, you know that we kind of pioneered the concept of action-based learning and experiential learning. So we are looking into how we could grow this to our BBA program, as well as expand it into other parts of the MBA curriculum.

The second thing is to expand our global footprint, and she is being very thoughtful about how we are doing that. Many schools have taken different approaches to what “global” means for them. Some of them are opening up campuses abroad; some of them are just having partnerships or exchanges with that exchange program. But we are looking at what our global footprint should look like going forward and what is the most productive way for us to have a presence outside of the US.

Finally, she is also looking at entrepreneurship. We’ve got a new Master’s in Entrepreneurship program that we will be starting next year, so she’s looking into how that can be incorporated more into the rest of our curriculum as well. We are very excited about the things that she is going to be focusing on, and about working very closely with her to help set the school in a forward direction.

Linda Abraham: Based on your direction, is there any sense of what the next generation of action-based learning will look like, or is that still really in the exploration stage? Two, is there any thought given to requiring an international component in the Ross program much as UCLA or Yale or Stanford have done? And is there any talk about a joint MS in Entrepreneurship MBA program, or something along those lines, bringing entrepreneurship more into the program?

Soojin Kwon Koh: The answer to the first question about what the action-based learning generation two will look like, it is really in the explorations phases. Currently we’ve got centers and institutes that have action-based learning opportunities. In addition to MAP which is the foundation of our action-based learning, in year two of the MBA program we’ve got a course called Global Projects, which is essentially a MAP too, so you get to extend your experiential learning in the second year. But it really is a school-wide effort to look at what that means; how we incorporate that across more of our classes. So I think it is going to be a pretty comprehensive review, and it’s not just adding another MAP opportunity. It’s what does action-based learning mean across the program and all of our programs?

Your second question was about perhaps requiring an international component or adding a global component required to the program. I have not heard anything about it being a requirement. The nice thing about the Ross curriculum is that there are many opportunities if students want to take a global experience, whether it is through a MAP or through Global Projects or it’s through another Operations course. Or students can do exchanges with one of twenty other schools we have exchanges with. We’ve got a Germany program in May that many MBA 1s do after they finish their first year. There are many opportunities for people who want to have that international experience, but right now I have not heard anything about it being a requirement.

Linda Abraham: The last question was about doing a combined MS, MBA in Entrepreneurship, or somehow bringing the entrepreneurship program more closely into the MBA program.

Soojin Kwon Koh: The new Master’s in Entrepreneurship degree that we are going to be offering in 2012 is a joint program with the College of Engineering and the Business School. It is largely geared towards applicants who have a technical background, whether it’s in engineering or computer science or the medical field -- people who have ideas in an area outside of business. The thought is to give them more exposure on how to do a start-up and how to run a business. So it is giving these technical folks more business skills.

Linda Abraham: I don’t think I’ve heard about a program like this. I’m sure there are others, but it doesn’t seem like there are too many. It sounds like a great program.

Soojin Kwon Koh: Yes, I think there will be a lot of interest.

Linda Abraham: Faizan asks, “Is there any minimum requirement for the number of years of experience for the MBA program?”

Jon Fuller: In terms of a minimum requirement, no. There is definitely no minimum requirement that we’ve prescribed for candidates to apply. That said, we definitely do put a premium on what kind of professional experiences you’ve had prior to applying to business school. That is mostly because we want to make sure that members of our student body not only have the ability to engage with a pretty rigorous MBA curriculum that we have here at Ross, but that they also have something to contribute to the classroom environment. And historically we’ve found that people who might be on the lower end of the work experience scale may have a little bit less to contribute. They might be very good learners, but they might not be the best teachers out of the bunch. That said, there are certainly people who might have a quantity of work experience that might amount to a certain lower number, but they’ve certainly had a quality of experience that is quite significant and that we feel will be a real value-add to our program.

The other thing is that we do attend to what our corporate partners and what our employers look for as well. And oftentimes, they are looking for people that have had some significant pre-MBA work experience as well. So we are trying to be sensitive to both. Firstly, what the student and what the fellow students are going to get out of this collective experience as they go through the program. And then also, what kind of success are they likely to have for both internship and then full-time recruiting as well? So that has been part of our philosophy to that. If you are wondering about how you stack up to other individuals that might be applying to the program, just like every other program, we do publish what our average amount of pre-MBA work experience is. It’s been very consistent for us at about five years worth of work experience. But that ranges anywhere from 1 or 2 years all the way up to 7-8-9-10 + years, but the average is five.

I’ll mention one other thing that preempts another question. There is no one aspect of the application usually that will really be like the death nail for an applicant. We really do look at all aspects of the application to try to make that assessment as to whether we feel that this person is a good fit for the classroom community, for the broader community, and for the experience that they are going to have here at Ross. And work experience is really just one of those elements that we are looking at.

Linda Abraham: Boris, I’m wondering if you can tell us a little about the class or the experience or the aspect of Ross today that you have found most beneficial.

Boris Yovchev: The one thing that I definitely have enjoyed a lot during my first year of study at Ross has been interacting with my fellow classmates. I will key off on some of the things that Jon mentioned about the experience. I have really found it very beneficial to interact with people who have had different experiences in the past. And I feel like the learning aspect of the MBA program comes just as much from interacting with those people who have had those very interesting experiences in the past as it does from interacting with my professors and engaging in projects and doing the MAP project.

So it’s a three-prong aspect of learning. One is the experiential part of it which is Ross is extremely well-rounded in. The other piece is having really amazing professors who are very accessible, very easy to work with, and they have incredible knowledge across their areas of specialty and business in general. And the third prong is communicating with my fellow classmates who have been really amazing. People come into business school and we all like to think we are great achievers, until you walk into the classroom and look around and there are eighty or ninety people around you who can blow you away with the types of experiences they have had. And this has been as beneficial as anything else.

Linda Abraham: Ajay asks, “How does Ross support candidates seeking a career in automotives? Any tie ups with OEMs in Detroit?”

Jon Fuller: A lot of people are interested in our Tauber Institute. The Tauber Institute for Operations Management is a center that we have here that has a number of linkages with the automotive industry, but then any number of different areas as well or different companies that are involved in the manufacturing industry. It’s not a dual degree program; it’s really described more as an overlay to your MBA experience. So they do prescribe some courses as part of the Tauber experience that fall within that operations and supply chain management area. You have this opportunity to really specialize in that particular aspect of your curriculum, but then you are also provided with an internship opportunity between your first and second year. It can really be a great opportunity to get exposure within that industry and to make some great connections through the Tauber Institute. There is an application process for that as part of the regular MBA process. So you'll want to attend to that as well. There are some institutes and centers that require a separate application. There are other things that are more of an opt in/opt out thing that you can experience while you are a student, but Tauber is one that does have an application component to it as well.

Linda Abraham: Cyril asks, “What advice would you offer to re-applicants? Does it make sense to apply early? What difference does the admissions team expect to see in this year’s application as opposed to the one they’ve rejected last year?

Soojin Kwon Koh: We get that question on the road quite a bit. We are always welcoming re-applicants. We really appreciate that people continue to be focused on and interested in Ross. It shows that they’ve really thought about the school. What we encourage re-applicants to do is to look at your own application from the eyes of the admissions committee, keeping in mind that we are looking at over 3,000 applications. We are evaluating people relative to the pool. So you may have been great on paper, and if you were interviewed you may have been great in the interview, but it could mean that there were 500 applicants who had a stronger application or a stronger interview, whatever it might be. So it doesn’t mean that you were necessarily weak in one place, but it’s relative to the rest of the pool. So keeping that in mind, what I encourage applicants to do is to look at your application and think about at least the statistics for the class. You know what the average work experience profile is and all those kinds of things. If you are squarely solid in that area, it’s probably not an issue. Then look at the quality of the work experience. Maybe some of the things that you have accomplished didn’t come through as strongly as another applicant’s. So we are looking at the resume, your essays, and your recommendation letters for evidence of that.

As far as the requirements go, you just need to turn in a cover letter that basically summarizes what is new and what is different since you’ve submitted your last application. And we are not looking for applicants to rewrite every single essay. That is an option, but it’s not a requirement. What we are really looking for is somebody to be thoughtful about why they think they are a stronger applicant now. What have I accomplished? Have I retested? Have I done some new and great things that have made an impact somewhere, whether it’s through work or through my extracurriculars or both, that make me a stronger candidate now than the first time that I applied? If over the past year, between applications, you really haven’t done that much, then I would advise maybe waiting until round 2 instead of applying in round 1, to make sure you’ve got the enhancements strongly in place, whether it is a new test score and/or accomplishments at work, or rewriting an essay or two if you think that was the area where you may not have been as competitive.

So it’s really taking a strong, hard look at your application. Not just thinking about yourself where you are now, but relative to what you’ve submitted before. Think about how far you’ve come. And that is what we are going to look for – where you are now. We will have your previous application on file, as kind of a reference point. We don’t discourage candidates from reapplying at all. We actually do admit quite a few re-applicants, though the ones that are most successful are the ones who have some significant improvements and enhancements to their candidacy over the past year.

Linda Abraham: Are you looking at the previous year’s application, or are you looking at reviewer’s notes?

Soojin Kwon Koh: Both.

Linda Abraham: To add my two cents -- looking at applicants who have been rejected, I personally basically boil the reasons down to: a lack of competitiveness on some admissions criteria, or a failure to present your qualifications effectively through the application. Those are the two primary causes of rejection. And obviously if you address those elements, then you are significantly increasing the chances of a different outcome the next time around.

Soojin Kwon Koh: Absolutely.

Linda Abraham: That is very general, much more superficial than what Soojin was saying, but I think that those two areas are separate and they both have to be addressed.

Alisha writes, “As far as India is concerned, it is largely the guys from IITs in India that have made it to top schools such as Ross. I’m not sure how many with an education from other schools apply, but what is your take on the top sciences, liberal arts colleges in India?

Jon Fuller: We do get similar questions from candidates. To take it more broadly than just end it there, they’ll say – Well, I’m concerned that I didn’t necessarily go to a blue chip undergraduate institution, or I’m concerned that I don’t quite have the company pedigree or the academic pedigree that you guys are actually looking for… I think our stance on that is that people can do really exemplary things at companies that might not be so great, or may not be so well known to people. That said, we have a team of professionals here, and it’s their job to know the ins and outs of academic institutions both around the United States and throughout the world as well. Our associate directors are divided up regionally, so one of my associate directors is dedicated to the India region. They know the candidate pool from India quite well in terms of academic backgrounds, what is significant, what is less significant from employers and the like with that. And that holds true globally as well with the expertise that our staff has.

So from a candidate’s standpoint in terms of being a little bit worried or insecure about whether you’ve had work experience or academic experience that might be up to snuff, like I said, people can do really great work with the cards that are dealt to them, and it’s up to you to convey the significance of that work, and the progression and development that you’ve made for yourself. And then also how you are able to convey to us the potential that you have, and what our MBA program can do to help advance your career too. That is kind of our take on it. We are not dismissive and don’t feel that if you didn’t go to an IIT, therefore you are not a competitive applicant. That really couldn’t be further from the truth.

Linda Abraham: You are not accepting or rejecting the undergraduate institution; you are looking at an individual.

Jon Fuller: Absolutely.

Soojin Kwon Koh: Let me add to that because I think in India and in Asia, there is a perception that unless you went to the top two or three universities, it will be very hard for you to get into one of the top business schools in the US. At least for us, that isn’t true. We are looking for diversity of backgrounds, including in your undergraduate institution as well as your undergraduate major. And what differentiates people can often be where they went to school, particularly in a country like India or Asia. We don’t want everybody to come from IIT and have the exact same background, and everybody works for Tata… we are looking for diversity in the class.

Linda Abraham: I think you are also looking for excellence in performance.

Soojin Kwon Koh: Absolutely. So if you were bottom of the class at IIT but you were top of the class at another university, it could result in greater success for you with us, depending on the other things that you did. But don’t rule yourself out of consideration just because you didn’t go to one of the top schools in any given country.

Linda Abraham: Salil asks, “For someone interested in working post-MBA in emerging markets like in African nations, in South American nations, how can the MAP and the proposed Global Project help?”

Soojin Kwon Koh: One of the ways that MAP and Global Projects can help is by giving you an opportunity to do a project in the country or the region of your desired post-graduation location. We also have the William Davidson Institute for Emerging Markets that focuses on emerging markets. You can do independent projects through WDI, you can do a MAP sponsored project, or you can get a sponsored internship through WDI in an emerging market. So there are study and work opportunities there.

What our students do a lot to is they network with our alumni in those regions. And one of the great things about our alumni is that they are so passionate about staying connected and being helpful and being a resource. So wherever you reach out, we have alums who will be helpful, whether it’s in Africa, whether it’s in South America, and you can get connected and build up your opportunity base through the alumni network.

Boris Yovchev: I agree with everything Soojin just mentioned. One thing to add is that there are quite a few Ross students from my class who attended the Negotiation class in Bulgaria, of all places, this summer. And I also know a couple of MBAs from the class ahead of us who just graduated this past April, who either completed an internship with WDI or found independent opportunities in that area. And they have all had incredible experiences. And as Soojin mentioned, the network of Ross is so widespread and so accessible that such opportunities are really not difficult to find if the person is very focused on finding one.

Linda Abraham: Faizan asks, “What is the general diversification of class regarding their previous experience, like people coming from finance, engineering, and different backgrounds?

Boris Yovchev: I think the admissions team does an incredible job of really handpicking people with varying experiences. What Ross also does a great job of is once the class is finalized of 500 people or so, then they break those individuals into sections that mirror the diversity of the whole class. And so you are very likely to walk into a section where almost no one will have the exact same experience that you have had. And that also goes back to what I was mentioning earlier – it’s a part of the experience. And we learn as much from each other as we learn from our professors. And I think Ross does an incredible job of picking very diverse classes and building very diverse sections so that we can interact and learn from each other that way.

Linda Abraham: “Can I use the Consortium fellowship to cover the portion of the JD MBA program?” He doesn’t say what portion, but I assume he is talking about the JD portion.

Jon Fuller: The short answer is yes. For people who aren’t familiar with the Consortium, it’s the Consortium for Graduate Study and Management. It’s an organization that is geared towards facilitating MBA experiences for people who have a passion for improving representation of under-represented minorities in the ranks of business school and also management. There are seventeen programs, of which Ross is one of them. We’ve been aligned with the Consortium since 1983. And one of the biggest things for applicants is that they provide a common application where you can apply to up to six of these seventeen different programs.

In addition to having that benefit of applying though the Consortium, part of the process is that you are also being evaluated for membership to the Consortium organization. And then if you are approved for membership, you get access to a very large career oriented event that occurs in the summer before you matriculate at your MBA program. It also gives you access to the network and that sort of thing too. There is also a fellowship component to it. If you are approved for a Consortium fellowship, it covers the full tuition and fees for you for both years of your MBA education. So it varies a little bit from school to school as to how they would treat someone who is a recipient of a Consortium fellowship.

At Ross, the financial aid department does everything they can to maximize the value of your award. So if you were doing a dual JD/MBA program, that is probably four years in its entirety. So it’s a little bit more efficient because you have three years of your JD program, two years of your MBA program, and you can find some efficiency so that you can have that done in four. Of those four years, two would be covered by your fellowship, and then you would have to identify other funding resources to cover the balance of the two years. But it’s a similar format if you were doing a dual degree too. One other thing to note is that the Consortium opportunity is open to US citizens and permanent residents only. So if you are an international student, unfortunately that is not an option for you. They certainly encourage allies to the mission statement or people who are aligned to that, but in order to apply and fully participate, you have to be a US citizen or permanent resident.

Linda Abraham: Ashutosh asks, “How does Ross support students for management consulting? Do they have any direct recruitment linkages with firms like McKinsey, BCG, Bain, etc.?”

Soojin Kwon Koh: All of those firms are among our top recruiters for consulting. Many of our incoming students are interested in consulting, and so in terms of curriculum, being a general management curriculum, we really prepare students well from strategy and operations to marketing, finance – all of the things will help you be a successful candidate for a consulting position. And over a third of our graduating students go into consulting. And all of the firms that you mentioned are among our top consulting recruiters. In addition to those three, we’ve got Deloitte, Booz and Co.; all of the top consulting firms come to campus to recruit our students. And each year, we’ve been more successful than the previous year in placing our students in those firms.

Linda Abraham: Ashutosh asks, “I’m interested in technology and social entrepreneurship post-MBA. What opportunities are available to students at Ross in these areas?”

Jon Fuller: Technology and social entrepreneurship -- that is a good question. A lot of people are interested in the technology space. I’m looking at some of our statistics, and about 10% of our graduates will go into technology, the hi-tech industry or some variation of that. But if their primary qualifier is from hi-tech, from the social entrepreneurship standpoint, you’ll find that a lot of people will also have an interest in sustainability or any number of other different areas. We have a very large Net Impact chapter here on campus, and a lot of individuals are involved with that. Student clubs are also very interested in social entrepreneurship. One of the things I’d encourage that person to look at more closely is the Net Impact chapter.

Then we also have through our Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurship a relatively new opportunity called the Social Venture Fund. We’ve had the Wolverine Venture fund that has been around for a number of years, but the Social Venture fund stemmed eventually from student passion for the area, saying that they we wanted to find ways that they can actually invest in businesses and organizations that have a social focus or a social bend to them. Both the Wolverine Venture Fund and the Social Venture Fund are student led funds. The Wolverine Venture Fund, for example, is a five and half million dollar fund where the students are responsible for doing the due diligence for identifying the companies to possibly invest in, and making the case for doing that. I think there were eighteen students who were involved with the Wolverine Venture Fund each year, and it’s very similar for the Social Venture Fund.

So again, as in anything with action-based learning, we are trying to give students an opportunity to take their classroom learning, their classroom experience, the theory that is involved with that, and find a real world context to apply that information. And so those again are some opportunities that actually may give the student an opportunity to try their hand at something they may be interested in doing; not just in a simulator, but something where the stakes are real. This is real money, these are real companies, and students are making real decisions as to how to do that.

Of course they don’t do it in a vacuum. In any of these kinds of experiences, you are doing it with some guidance from faculty members. We don’t want people to fail. Oftentimes, your biggest leanings can occur in experiences where you do actually fail. But we want you to be guided and increase your opportunity for success, but at the same time, to make it your own experience and to make sure you are getting the most out of it. You are going to do the best by it being a student led initiative or student led aspect.

Soojin Kwon Koh: I want to add something about the technology interest and opportunities. Among the top recruiters, hi-tech is actually our most highly represented industry. And among the recruiters are Amazon, Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, and Google. So many of our students, probably a quarter of our students, go out to the West Coast and it’s highly concentrated in hi-tech jobs.

Linda Abraham: I would guess that your MS in Entrepreneurship is both reflecting your strengths with recruitment in that area as well as a need for people coming from a technical background to gain the business skills to bring something to market.

Soojin Kwon Koh: And we have such a strong engineering program and such a strong engineering reputation as a university that I think it will be able to attract people with that kind of a background.

Linda Abraham: Alisha asks, “I’m an international applicant. How does the current political and financial uncertainly in the US affect job opportunities for internationals in the US, especially in the next three-four years? How does Ross plan to deal with these developments?”

I’d like to add a couple of follow up questions. One is – are you seeing any decline in recruitment? Are recruiters cancelling interviews or anything like that for the upcoming year? And the second thing is more like a comment, but it doesn’t seem like the financial uncertainty is limited to the US; it seems like it certainly is in Europe, and possibly wider than that. But let’s get back to Alisha’s question.

Soojin Kwon Koh: We have not backed away from our recruitment on the incoming side of international students this year; we will be about a third international again. And in terms of recruiters coming to campus, we have not seen a drop off of recruiters’ schedules. So we are still anticipating a fairly good year. I just heard on the radio this morning that the number of visas for international workers is going to be increased in the coming year, signed by the President. So hopefully that will be a good sign for companies to be more willing to hire international students.

That said, we always tell international students that they will have to work much harder than domestic students to get a job in the US, if that is what they want. Even going back home to your country, you will have to heavily leverage the alumni network and every opportunity you can to create job opportunities wherever you go. It’s just that much harder for international students, so we don’t want to mislead anybody that it’s going to be a piece of cake. If any school does that, they are kidding you because it really is harder for international students to get jobs, particularly in the US. But if you go into it knowing that it will be a lot of work, you will be just as successful as the US citizens, and in fact our placement results are equivalent. Whether you are international or domestic, they were both successful in getting jobs at the same rate.

Boris Yovchev: Being an international student, I kind of have an inside look at what companies look for. And oftentimes a company will come on campus, especially during recruiting season when they do corporate presentations at Ross, and they will clearly state that they are currently not looking to hire any international students for domestic positions, meaning within the US. Oftentimes companies like that make exceptions, especially if they see an international candidate who is very qualified and is genuinely interested in a position with the company, and is willing to network well with the recruiters. So oftentimes, there will be exemptions made to that rule. So when international students come to campus, they should not rule out most companies. Maybe that is not the case for certain organizations from the consumer packaged goods sector, but for most other organizations, my feeling is that companies are going to make exceptions, especially if they find the right person. They are more willing to work with people who they really like and feel would be great, than looking at the purely administrative side aspect of applying for a work visa for someone or not. So I really encourage international applicants, and especially those who come to the program, not to rule out any opportunities right off the bat.

Linda Abraham: Connie asks, “Can you describe the MAP experience and some of the projects completed that involve sustainable business or environmental organizations?’’ Boris, can you describe your MAP experience?

Boris Yovchev: I was one of six very lucky people selected to be on a project for a company owned by Stephen M. Ross, the patron of the Business School. What we did for the company was a growth strategy and a marketing plan for growth within preselected geographical areas of interest for the company. And our final presentation was to Stephen M. Ross himself along with his executive staff of the company. It was an incredible experience because we were close to senior level management, and that also seems to be the general feeling of most of my classmates. Their exposure to senior management across organizations was across the board for all MAP teams for the most part. And it is rare to have that opportunity as a business person, let alone while you are completing an academic program.

So the MAP opportunity is really unique in that it will teach you not only how to work within organizations and how to address certain functional areas and certain functional problems, but also how to stand in front of senior executives and present, and be ready to be on your feet. So my MAP experience was phenomenal; I wouldn’t exchange it for anything. It really completed very nicely the first year. After completing the first three quarters, MAP was a great addition in conclusion to the first year.

Linda Abraham: Jon, do you want to talk specifically about MAP in terms of sustainable businesses or environmental organizations?

Jon Fuller: Sure. You can take a look at all the different options that students did this past year. Each year we end up identifying maybe 120-130 projects for students to choose from. They run anywhere from big types of projects, they might be with more of a traditional corporation, they might be with a non-profit organization or they might be with an entrepreneurial start-up kind of organization, or it might be a mix of the two. And the key to Map is that it is a multi-disciplinary action project. Multi-disciplinary, meaning that it might have a finance focus or a strategy focus to it. The idea is that we want the students to have to leverage all of their first-year foundation core curriculum experiences that they had. So while the key element to it might be a marketing aspect, the idea is that you’ll still have to be leveraging the content that you were required in your finance class or in your strategy class, and so on and so forth.

In particular to what the questioner was asking, I see that there were some projects in Bangladesh. There was one with the healthcare systems, looking at rural health entrepreneurship models. There was another one with CARE Bangladesh, developing skills and a whole strategy to a workforce empowerment program. You can go ahead and take a look at the individual examples that are shown.

While you wouldn’t necessarily be able to draw a line between the student and what particular MAP project they pursued, we have what we call Student Ambassadors, and we have approximately 150 current students who volunteer to connect with prospective students who are interested in learning more about the program. Of those 150, you can then filter that list down based on where they are from originally, what their background is, what their post-MBA plans are, and then you can go ahead and contact them. So you can send them an email and say – “Hey, I’m interested to learn more about your MAP project”, or “I’m looking for someone who had a MAP project or an interest in x. Can you answer some questions, or could you point me to someone else who might have some insight or something to say about their experience and what Ross has done for them?” Between these resources, you can definitely do some self-serving and find some more details to whatever extent they are looking for.

Linda Abraham: We have several questions here that pertain either to less than stellar grades or GMAT scores that didn’t quite work out. So I’m going to take several and try to summarize them. One candidate asks about how you translate foreign GPAs or the English First-Class, Second-Class degrees into the US GPA system, and do you translate them? And how do you account for differences in the rigor of different programs? Maybe you can go into how you interpret foreign grading systems. And probably it’s more a matter of interpreting as opposed to translating.

Soojin Kwon Koh: We have associate directors who are focused on various regions throughout the world, and they have the familiarity and experience with the educational systems in each of the countries that they are responsible for recruiting from and managing. So when we do our application reviews, they already have that familiarity, as do all of our evaluators. They are trained on the schools, the grading systems, what First-Class, what First-Class with Distinction – what all of those things might mean for a particular country. So we go into it in the evaluation stage with a familiarity. Then after someone is admitted, we actually have a verification system through the World Educational System service. And they will also verify all of the grades and the grading system, and interpret it for us in an official way before we actually allow students to matriculate. So there is a two-pronged process. We have internal staff that is aware, and then we outsource the verification of the credentials to the World Educational Service for foreign undergraduate records.

Linda Abraham: I guess that would also account for perhaps differences in rigor at different programs.

Soojin Kwon Koh: Absolutely. Within the US and outside of the US, we know that there are some institutions that are more rigorous and some majors that are more rigorous. And we are not just looking for performance; we are also looking at the kinds of classes that someone took. Someone can get top grades in non-rigorous courses, meaning top grades in classes that have nothing to do with quant, and that will make me a little bit concerned about their ability to do well in an MBA program. So it’s not just the GPA that we are looking at; we are looking at the entire transcript – the kinds of classes, the institution, the major.

Linda Abraham: Stuart asks, “If I have poor math grades in my undergraduate degree, will the admissions committee consider extension courses that I am taking as proof of my quantitative ability?”

Soojin Kwon Koh: Sure, that can absolutely help. And we are also going to be looking at the GMAT score as well, the quantitative section in particular. For people who are currently working in a quantitative field, for example if they are an investment banker, we are going to be a little bit less worried if their undergraduate math grades were lower. So we take it all into context what the whole picture looks like and not just one grade in undergrad. Maybe you failed calculus. That might be one data point that is not in your favor, but you can have many other things that are.

Linda Abraham: What about a GMAT? One applicant here is asking, “Indian applicants certainly have a higher GMAT score. Does it help for Indian candidates to have a GMAT that is above the class average?” Somebody else asks, “How does Michigan Ross consider multiple attempts on the GMAT, four for example. If it appears bad, then how could it be mitigated?”

Soojin Kwon Koh: That is a great question. It’s no secret that there are some countries in the world that have higher average GMAT scores than others. It is just a fact of life, so I’m not going to pretend that it doesn’t exist. It’s not that we expect or put a higher threshold on certain countries’ GMAT scores, but given a pool of candidates with similar background experiences and goals, how can we compare them? If ten things are similar, what is the eleventh thing that might be different? That eleventh thing could be a GMAT score. So that is one way we look at things.

For people who have taken it multiple times, there are some schools that will say -- by your fifth time, forget it. We do encourage people who have taken it only one time and the score is on the lower side to retake it. If you are going to take it three-four times, you are basically trying to excel at a test, and it is not necessarily showing us what your true skills are. So we know that there are a lot of test prep companies that can help you ace the GMAT or the GRE. And the point of business school is not to be able to ace a particular test. We want to know if you have the aptitude to grasp the quantitative and analytical material that you are going to be encountering in your first year, when you are going to have maybe three or four quant classes in your first semester. So the GMAT is just one indicator. But we are also going to look at the undergrad and professional experience to assess what someone’s analytical aptitude is. After four times, I’m not sure that scoring ten points better really buys you that much.

Linda Abraham: It’s that good old cost-benefit analysis. There is also an opportunity cost in terms of time that you are going to take away from, let’s say, the essays or other elements of the application against the GMAT score.

Jon Fuller: Right. And another thing is that you have to be honest with yourself when you are sitting for the GMAT. And if you took it one or two times and you weren’t satisfied with your score, you do need to be honest with yourself and ask yourself whether you did all the preparation that is humanly possible for you to do. And if your answer to that is “no”, and you feel you kind of winged it or you didn’t really do the preparation or get yourself centered the way that you needed to in order to optimize your chances of the test, then go ahead and take it again. But the people who have designed the GMAT will tell you time and again that the test is intended to be a consistent measure of somebody’s quantitative, verbal, and analytical skills -- the aptitude in those areas. So if you walked in the door and have taken the test and have gotten a certain score time and time again, don’t think that the fourth time you’ll surely get a 750. Well, that just might the measure of your aptitude, the lower score, and that is okay. Because as I mentioned earlier on, we are looking at all aspects of the application. I remember at one of these chats last year, I semi-joked about how in some ways we like rejecting the person with the 780 who obviously thinks -- I’ve got this great score, I’m in; I don’t need to worry about anything else -- and that really couldn’t be further from the truth. You really do need to cover all of the different bases within your application. And while the GMAT definitely is one of those, and it is not an insignificant one, it is by no means the only one.

So Linda, as you said, we have to look at the diminishing returns of taking the GMAT however many times, and also at what cost it is impacting your work performance. Is it impacting the time that it takes to follow up with your recommenders or that it takes to work on your essays, and so on and so forth? So keep your eye on the overall goal and not just that GMAT score.

Linda Abraham: I just want to do a quick poll. How many of you are concerned about the GMAT score? 57% said they are concerned, and 43% said they are not concerned. Congratulations to those of you. The 57% who are concerned, I hope that you’ll consider what Jon and Soojin have said about the role of the GMAT, without minimizing its importance. There is a point at which you just have to move on.

Hemant asks, “How much emphasis does Ross pay on visiting the school? Can I schedule a campus interview and visit the school at the same time if invited?”

Soojin Kwon Koh: All schools, including us, will encourage you highly to visit the programs. Some schools require you to come to campus for an interview. We do not require that. You can interview via Skype or with a local alum. We do not interview people who visit just because they happen to be in town. It is by invitation only, and it is after we’ve reviewed your application. So if you want to visit, there are many times that are a good time to come visit. It could be before you submit your application so that you can incorporate some of the learning and some of the experiences into your application. It could be at the time of the interview so that you can take a tour of the school, visit a class, and meet with students. You can do it at any time, not just for your interview. You can do the interview on campus at that time. Or maybe you can’t come until you are admitted and you come for the Admitted Student Weekend, which is another great time to come.

So if the concern is about whether it will hurt you if you come at one point or another, the answer is no. It’s not like we are giving people an extra point just because they came before they submitted their application. It is really a benefit to the applicants to really understand what each school is about, what the culture is like. All of us say very many of the same things about the program, about the culture, about the collaborativeness. So you really need to visit a school and kick the tires and see what they really mean by “collaborative”, what they really mean by “action-based learning”, and talk to the students.

If you can’t come to campus, we have a very strong Ambassador Program. And you can go on our website and find someone who may either have a similar background to yours or similar goals to yours, and you can connect with them and just ask questions about life at Ross from the perspective of a student. That can be as helpful in some ways as a visit can. But more than anything, a visit is going to give you the hands on view of what it might feel like for you. So I always encourage candidates at some point in the process to come visit campus.

Linda Abraham: A visit is basically an extension of the research that you’ve begun or continued in the Q&A. And it’s a fantastic way to learn more about the school so that you can better demonstrate through your applications, both in the essays and the interviews that you know what you want, that you know Ross provides that, and you can demonstrate fit for Ross.

Thank you again all for participating today. Special thanks to Soojin, Jon, and Boris for joining us today. If you have additional questions for Soojin or Jon, please email them to rossmba@umich.edu.

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.

Once more, thank you Soojin, Jon, and Boris for joining us today. It’s been an excellent session. Best of luck to all with your applications!

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