2011 Notre Dame Mendoza MBA Admissions Q&A with Brian Lohr and Andrew Sama

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2011 Notre Dame Mendoza MBA Admissions Q&A with Brian Lohr and Andrew Sama

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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 chat. 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 Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business. 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 Brian Lohr, Notre Dame Mendoza's Director of Admissions, Andrew Sama, Associate Director of Admissions, Kathryn Eisele- MBA Class of 2011, and Jeff Harer, also a second year student member of the Notre Dame class of 2011. Kathryn has a marketing concentration and serves as vice president of Events for the Women in Business club, chair of the Values Committee, and vice president of Public Relations for the Public Speaking club. This past summer, Kathryn was the senior leadership program summer intern at Sear's Holding Corporation. After graduation, Kathryn plans to continue her career in retail marketing. I just met Jeff a moment ago, so I don't have an intro for him, but Jeff, I'm wondering if you can tell us a little bit about yourself.

Jeff Harer: Sure. I'm originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I have a corporate finance concentration and I'm also president of the MBA Student Association. I was an engineer prior to returning, and I'm looking to go into corporate finance in a few PG Industries, following graduation.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you very much. What was your internship?

Jeff Harer: My internship was with Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati.

Linda Abraham: Wonderful. I am going to take advantage of my position as moderator and ask the first couple of questions. To our panelists-- what's new at Mendoza?

Brian Lohr: I'd say the biggest new thing is our 134 brand new, two year MBA candidates, and we are excited about having them here. It's the best class in the history of our school. We brought in a group that has the highest GMAT in our history, and one of the highest GPAs. We also have a group that is well seasoned; they average almost six years of work experience. They joined our one year group that started in late May, and they have merged together nicely this fall. But the group that we brought in, has about a 20% international component. Almost 10% of the group are former military and about 27% of the group are domestic minorities. We feel very good about this group and we are excited about them being here.

Linda Abraham: Great. Andrew, do you have anything to add to that?

Andrew Sama: Knowing that the folks on the call are mostly applicants, I'm sure that they are going to be interested in all the new features in the application too. There have been some changes. We have a new group of essays. We are using a new style of recommendation this year. We've gotten away from the traditional letters of recommendation and we've used something called "The Personal Potential Index". It is something that we got from ET'S, so we're using a third party to administer it. Essentially, what it does is it standardizes what we get from recommenders. It still allows them to give their personal perspective and share some stories about the applicant, but it ensures that we hit some areas that we're really interested in. Those areas would be: knowledge and creativity, communication skills, teamwork, resilience, planning and organization, and of course, ethics and integrity. And it sort of standardizes and ensures that we get information on all of those topics, from every recommender. Letters of recommendation in the past, may have been a little bit less uniform, and therefore harder to judge. So we are excited about that change. We've also added an assessment which is very close in acronym--not the PPI, but the PCI. This is the Personal Characteristics Inventory, which essentially is our attempt to try to learn more about applicants. We know that the folks that apply here are more than just a GMAT number and more than a GPA. Yes, there are certain quantifiable elements that are important, but we know that applicants have a lot more to offer than that. And this is our attempt to identify some of their other strengths. So it's an online survey that takes somewhere between forty minutes to maybe fifty or an hour, depending on how long you want to spend on it. But the idea is that it gives us some insight into their other personality traits and strengths, beyond some of the more quantifiable things that are traditional in MBA applications. So those are some of the new things that are going on with our application that I think this audience would be very interested in.

Linda Abraham: Great, thank you very much.

Jeff Harer: I'll say that from the student perspective, one of the most exciting things going on this year is not just an MBA event but a campus wide event, called the MB Forum. The MB Forum is actually sponsored by the President of the university. And the theme this year is "The Global Marketplace and the Common Good". And when I was choosing a school and choosing a place to come back to, to learn more and to expand my abilities as a business student, one of the things that drew me to Notre Dame was the idea that I was going to be a part of those kinds of conversations. Notre Dame has one of only nine, A+ rated faculty members in the country. Getting to interact with those people in a real way, along with the entire Notre Dame community, and to talk about real, relevant topics, such as "What is business's place in creating good and ethical decisions and leaders?", that has really been inspiring to me and it's been a great thing to participate in. And I think that a lot of our students are very excited about it. Notre Dame is the kind of place that creates those types of events. So that's just one thing in many, but it's definitely a newer thing in the last year or so.

Kathryn Eisele: I know that Brian touched on the credentials of the class that came in, but after meeting this new class, I can attest to how well-rounded, and how great these folks are, both in school and outside of school. So it's been a pleasure really getting to know the different backgrounds and the different experiences that this new class has had. Obviously, that is in addition to their intelligence and their work experience. They are just really well-rounded, wonderful folks that have just been a pleasure to get to know. So that's the new part for me this year.

Linda Abraham: Great, thank you all very much. Now it's the applicants chance to ask questions. Tonran asks, "By stating-- 'But we also foster and celebrate a distinctive mission to be a Catholic university, inspired and guided by a great spiritual tradition,' -- what is that spiritual tradition? Can I infer that the spirit lies in efforts to make an environment of concern and more attention to the study of social responsibility?" Can you comment on the spiritual tradition and its impact on business education?

Brian Lohr: Sure. The university was founded in 1842, by the Holy Cross order of Catholic priests. One thing that I often tell candidates is that the term 'Catholic' means universal church. We welcome and recognize a variety of religions to Notre Dame. The incoming class that is here, as well as the returning classes, have a variety of different religions represented. So we are welcoming of all faiths, and I think that is an important distinction. But we are the premier Catholic institution in the world, and we don't shy away from that responsibility. And that means that we conduct ourselves and our students conduct themselves in proper manner. It goes well beyond the classroom, but within the classroom environment, we have over ninety elective courses in which one class session is dedicated to the study of ethics. So you might be in a marketing class and studying about what it means to market to children and what the ethical implications of marketing to children are. So it's all encompassing. Our dean, Associate Dean Ed Conlon, once remarked that ethics at Notre Dame is like a chocolate in fudge ripple ice cream; it is found throughout the entire program. So we have elective courses that students are obviously required to take, but it goes so far beyond that. It's in our everyday life, in our everyday world.

Linda Abraham: I love the metaphor, though not quite as much as I love ice cream. Mendoza is famous for its focus on ethics and integrity in business. And I know Kathryn, you are head of the Values Committee. What is distinctive about Mendoza's approach to incorporating values into the MBA curriculum that has garnered it this kind of recognition and fame? So from an administrative perspective and from a student perspective, could you respond to that?

Kathryn Eisele: Absolutely. I am chair of the Values Committee. The MBA program has a value statement that includes five different values. They are: community and responsibility, excellence, integrity, leadership, and spirituality. And just as Brian was saying about fudge ripple ice cream, it definitely is something that is within curriculum, but it is also an attitude that the students present when they come in. It's definitely a responsibility but it's an opportunity because it is something that sets the university apart. And it's generally a feeling of-- goodness. These are good students and they place a high emphasis both in the curriculum and outside on just doing the right thing, and making sure that they are promoting ethics in their personal life and in their professional life. It's something that we see here not only as a responsibility, but also as an opportunity moving forward. So on the Values Committee, we look for ways to make the values more tangible to students and faculty.-- What do values mean to a consultant? What do values mean to accountants? What do values mean if you are a marketer? -- So it's definitely looking for ways that make these tangible and real to people. And it is something that, I believe, sets the university apart in a very distinctive manner.

Brian Lohr: One thing that I would like to add on to Kathryn's remarks would be the practical aspect of ethics. We have an intensive program that is very unique. Essentially big corporations come into Notre Dame, and I'm talking GE, McDonald's, and IBM, and often they will talk about their methodology in corporate citizenship. And at the end of that, they will present our students with a live issue that is currently being evaluated within their organization. And this allows our students to take the practical skill set that they have learned early on and apply it, and attempt to come up with solutions for these different issues. And students present those solutions back to the corporate executives, and it's a great opportunity to really flux those new skills that they've learned.

Andrew Sama: I would just add one more thing to that. It cannot be lost that at the end of all this, what we are doing is-- we are shaping the problem-solving and decision making skills of our future business leaders. We don't just do this because it is the right thing to do. It is the right thing to do and it's right to talk about these issues, but our hope is that we shape the way a Notre Dame MBA approaches the problem when they get out there in the business world. You obviously have to have the MBA tools set to drive performance and organization, to manage people, and to manage money. We are going to give you all that and I think that is par for the course for any of your top MBA programs. But what we try to do then, through our focus on ethics, sustainability, and CSR, we try to layer some other considerations in there for you so that when you make a business decision, you are not just thinking about what the best financial decision is for your shareholders, but you are also thinking about what the impact is on the people you manage when you make this decision. What is the impact on the community that my business is operating in when I make this decision? What is the impact on the environment when I make this decision? And a whole host of other considerations. And what we end up doing through the course of all the electives that Brian talked about, and the Values Committee that Kathryn is on, and some of the things that Jeff can tell you about that we do throughout the school; the net effect of that is that you come out and you make decisions differently than if you might have gone through another MBA program. And I would argue that I think you are going to make decisions in a manner that is going to be crucial to success in the twenty-first century. Because these are things are no longer something you do because you want to feel good about your company; I think that thinking in a sustainable way is what you are going to have to do, to survive in a globalized economy. So I think that we are building leaders who are not just going to be good people being a force for good in the world, which is a mission of our Catholic university, but people who are actually going to be very effective at what they do.

Linda Abraham: I think it is that combination of integrity and effectiveness that is going to be critical, going forward. We may circle back to this topic later, but let's turn to some more of the applicant questions that we have here. Ofir asks, "I'm an IP professional looking for a switch into corporate finance in the IP sector. I have a couple of certifications like CFA level 1, FRM part 1 and 2. The majority of my work experience is involved in working on financial applications, but obviously in an IP context. Is this the kind of switch encouraged at Notre Dame, and how would I be prepared for such a switch at Notre Dame? I also did some courses on financial modeling. I am really passionate about finance and I've been doing all sorts of number crunching in my previous job." So I'd like to take this question and ask two questions of the panelists. One, what are the opportunities that Notre Dame presents for people interested in finance? And two, what kind of preparation do you recommend for career changers, using the MBA as a vehicle for career change?

Jeff Harer: I would start by answering from a student perspective, as someone with a technical background that has moved successfully to corporate finance through the MBA at Notre Dame. I would say that the coursework is laid out such that you will be given the skills needed to succeed. I was given an incredibly challenging project this past summer, which was very much a finance project at Procter & Gamble. And that was coming out of an electrical engineering undergrad and working as a project engineer for Emerson Electric, so I had no previous corporate finance experience. So to the question, I would say that your passion and your previous experience in training in finance have already set you ahead of the curve. The fact that you have a technical background should in no way be seen as a detriment; it should be seen as an advantage. Because what I have found is that someone with a technical background moving into finance or moving into marketing, brings different frameworks to the table. And that's really what a graduate business experience is about. It's about sharing different ways of thinking about the same problems and sharing different experiences in dealing with the same types of problems, in the real world. And so that is what we are trying to do here at Notre Dame-- to bring those types of people together and then equip them with the standard set of tools that they need to move out and be successful in working in a standardized work environment like Procter & Gamble, like IBM, like GE, like any one of those companies that you'll be going to for corporate finance. So I hope that answers the question, at least from the student perspective, that this place has definitely given me that.

Brian Lohr: There were two questions in there. One question was regarding what the corporate finance offerings are, and one was advice for career switchers. On the corporate finance offerings standpoint, it's almost too much to mention. We obviously have a concentration track directly in corporate finance, and we just have so many resources there. We will take our students out to Wall Street, for Wall Street Week in the fall. We have professors who have tremendous experience. One that comes to mind is Jerry Langley, who is a former CFO in McDonald's, and he teaches a number of our courses. There are just tremendous resources here for students. One thing that you might think would be more for investment management. but has some application for corporate finance folks, is our AIM course. The market views students coming out of this AIM class, as a real quality indicator. AIM stands for Applied Investment Management. It is essentially Jerry Langley, and a few other professors, team-teaching this course over a semester. The course helps you understand how the market thinks about equity valuation and about investment. And it's obviously something that is valuable for investment folks, but also for corporate finance folks who are trying to understand how the market reads certain actions. So there are so many resources here to answer that first question, that there is no question that if you want to get into corporate finance, this is the place you want to be. A lot of companies are definitely looking here.

Andrew Sama: Just one adder on the AIM course, with the emphasis on 'Applied'. The students that are in that course actually have a piece of Notre Dame's endowment that they invest, and they monitor that investment. Their task is to make sure that investment is performing. And any time that you add real funding to a situation like that, you are going to take note. And so that 'Applied' aspect is very important.

Brian Lohr: The second half of that question was about advice for career switchers in general. I think it's important to note that the majority of people in our two-year program are career switchers. So the first thing is, you're in good company. It's nothing new for our Career Development Services to handle and work with folks who are career switchers. They have a process called Career Catalysts, which they walk our students through. It essentially tries to help students figure out where their strengths are, where they are right now as they come in to the program, and where they want to go. It's really important to have a plan. And then it progresses them through the various stages they need to get to; building skills, meeting up with opportunities-- with corporate recruiters for internships and for full time positions-- until we get them where we want to be. In addition to being an administrator here, I went through the program myself a number of years ago, so I am an alum. I think there are probably three stages of success in that whole career development piece. Firstly, you need to have a plan. If you don't know where you're going, any road will do, and that's not good. So you've got to have a plan and know what career you are trying to switch into. And then I would say that you've got to work on the skills. And this is for all career switchers. You really need to learn the jargon of the industry you are trying to break into; learn the landscape. What are the terminologies? What are the jobs? Understand what you are looking at. We do some things with workshops in Career Development to help you understand that and work on the skills of interviewing, networking, and resume writing, and those kinds of things are ubiquitous across all careers. And the third thing is that you've got to go after opportunities. You can't sit and wait for the things to come to you. Notre Dame is going to put some tremendous opportunities in front of you. But I always like the old parable about how I can give you a fish today and you can eat for today, or I can teach you to fish and you can eat for a lifetime. You need to learn the skills, you need to learn how to fish, but we will also put some fish on the table for you! We're going to get you in front of corporate recruiters, we are going to get you out to Wall Street, we are going to do all those things for you, but you've got to take advantage of it. So regardless of what career you are trying to get into or switch from, if you have a plan, if you work on the skills and learn the landscape of what you are trying to do, and you take advantage of the opportunities, you're going to be fine.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you very much. Puish asks, "I went to your website and it says, 'Familiarity with basic accounting' is the prerequisite for students applying for a two year MBA program. How does this affect chances of a perspective student who never had any exposure to accounting? Does that person need to get exposure before applying?"

Brian Lohr: It doesn't impact the application process at all. And I'm speaking from my own experiences with the program; I was an English major in college and had gone through four years of high school and four years of college and had never had an accounting class till I got into graduate level accounting at Notre Dame. I survived and I earned a good grade. You are not at a disadvantage in the application pool; you are at a disadvantage arguably, in the classroom. Because of your lack of knowledge with T-accounts and debits and credits-- just the basics of accounting--, it's going to be challenging. Accounting is the language of all business; if you don't understand accounting, you are not going to be successful. And that is a key thought. We do have workshops for our incoming students that help to prep them and get them into a position to help them be successful. One of the things we do at Notre Dame is that when we invite you to join the Notre Dame family, we want you to be successful. We are not trying to run anybody out of town. You are part of the family and we want you to be successful. So with that in mind, we spin everybody up as best as we can through a week long accounting workshop, but it wouldn't hurt to have a basic 101 accounting class to get you acclimated to that world.

Linda Abraham: I don't know what Notre Dame's position on this is, but there is an online course called MBA Math.

Brian Lohr: We use it; it's a requirement for incoming students. They have to get a certain number of modules in MBA Math done, before the start of orientation.

Jeff Harer: As a student, I did that with absolutely no accounting background, purely engineering. So I did not take any accounting in undergrad, I did the MBA Math, I did the prep-session during orientation, and I felt pretty well-equipped. What you find out is that the level of talent that is coming in generally has the quantitative muscle that it takes to do the accounting and they just need to understand the process and how to do it. And they do a good job of putting that in front of you, prior to your stepping into the classroom on the first day.

Kathryn Eisele: You get into the classroom and you are taking accounting within your first year. The professors are amazing. They know that there are a variety of different accounting comprehension and levels within the classroom, and they do a really amazing job of ensuring that everyone comes along and is learning what they need to know, in order to speak the language that is kind of universal in the business world. So the professors recognize the different skill sets that come in and they ensure that everyone is definitely picking up. And they put in the time to ensure that everyone has the background that they need to move forward.

Jeff Harer: I would even build on that to say that one of the reasons I chose Notre Dame was because I felt like there was a sense of community here. And I was told that the environment within the student body was very collaborative, as opposed to other more aggressive, cut-throat sorts of environments. And I figured that it would be great if that's really the case but I don't know if that is actually going to be true, because I'm sure that a lot of people say that. But when I got here, that is actually what happened. We have a lot of classmates that are very skilled and talented at different skill sets. Mine happens to be in process management and supply team management, which is a course that we take, and so I was able to help some of my classmates in that course. Then there were the guys who got me through accounting, because they were very good at that. And legitimately, people hold tutoring sessions that they do on their own, separate from any sort of administrative actual involvement. So that's not just a sales pitch, that's not just a line here. From a student perspective, it actually happens on a daily, weekly basis.

Linda Abraham: Thank you very much. The question being posed by Mary Ann is, "How about young applicants? What percentage of your new class has one or less years of experience?" The question I am going to pose to the audience is how many of you are concerned that you have too little full-time work experience for Notre Dame? Okay. So it's about 20% who are concerned that they have too little experience. Conversely, how many of you are concerned that you have too much experience or are too old for the full-time MBA program at Notre Dame? Apparently, fewer are concerned about that. So 20% are concerned that they are too young and 10% are concerned that they are too old. So there is less concern about age in this group than in some of the other groups I've asked. Let me ask another question. How many of you are concerned that your GMAT is too low? Nobody is concerned that it's too high! Okay, we have about 41% concerned about the GMAT. Next question: How many of you are concerned that your GPA or your undergraduate performance is a negative in your profile. Okay, we have about 37%. If I add up these numbers real fast, we get to 108%. So I guess some people have more than one concern. But I think that the other conclusion you can draw is that most people have some concerns or some weaknesses in their profile. Getting back to Mary Ann's question, how do you feel about early career applicants?

Brian Lohr: We look at the whole person, so there's not a magic number of work experience that we are trying to drive to. That being said, we take a handful every year directly from their undergraduate experience. Typically, they've had outstanding internships, they have very good GPAs, they have excellent test scores, and they have an appreciation for the values of our institution. But the one thing that the people who hire our MBAs look for is candidates that have a skill set, but also the judgment to make difficult decisions. And it's very difficult to earn that judgment through internships and through limited work experience; you have to get beat up a little bit, quite honestly. And that comes from that full-time work experience.

Andrew Sama: I really echo what Brian said. One of the parts of the original question was-- what percentage of the class has less than a year of work? I don't know the number off the top of my head, but it's going to be fairly low. On average, the folks coming in have about five years of work, and that is important to us because of what it does for the classroom, not to mention the corporate recruitment. From the student's perspective, you can contribute a lot more to case discussions about topics in the classroom when you've had some experience with the thing that you are talking about. And conversely, for the students themselves, I think you have to recognize that you make some tradeoffs. I remember sitting back in the classroom as a student and going over stuff in OB class and saying, "Oh! That's why that project that I did totally bombed-- because I didn't do x, y, and z." And I took that learning in a much more real way because I could relate what I was learning in the classroom to an actual experience. And I think low to no work experience candidates really miss out on a lot of that, for their own benefit, not for what we want. So like Brian said, there are exceptions to the rule. But those exceptions usually have very high test scores and GPAs, very good internship experience, generally are mature beyond their years perhaps, and sort of get what the value of an MBA is.

Linda Abraham: Alex asks, "Is there significant group work or does the program emphasize more the independent element?"

Kathryn Eisele: There is definitely a mix of both. You get assigned to a core group when you first come in as a first year student. And it's an amazing opportunity to work with people who have backgrounds that are very different from your own. And there is the regular group work, depending on the class. But you will see that there are strong elements of team participation, really similar to what you will see in a work environment; you will typically be working in a team. But I would say that it's probably about 50-50 in the classroom that you are working on a team or you're working individually. In my experience of working in the real world, that is pretty spot on. You are going to have the times that you are working on your own and you are bringing your core competencies to the table, and then there are definitely going to be the times that you are working as a team and understanding the team dynamics that go into work; understanding how to divide work up, and all of these key traits that you are going to need when you are in a workplace.

Jeff Harer: Kathryn talked a lot about in the classroom and during the coursework. I would say that in addition to that, there are a lot of opportunities to work in groups outside of the classroom. The MBA experience is very immersive. You are an MBA student and at our best, we are learning all the time here. And we are really given the opportunity to take leadership roles outside of the classroom as well. Certainly you see it on Kathryn's bio, and I've done quite a bit of student leadership myself. And I would say, those have been incredible opportunities, and for the most part-- group work. And I think the most incredible part about that is not necessarily being a leader of one of those groups, but being a part of a group of leaders. Because the type of people that you get in an MBA program are all very motivated, very talented, and very driven. And the experience of learning how to work in a group with those types of people is really going to serve you and it's really what you are here to do. So learning from them and learning how to work with them, has really been maybe the most rewarding part of the entire experience for me. So is it all group work? Is it not? There is definitely individual work but I would throw myself into as much group work as I possibly can get my hands on, because I feel like that is where the learning comes at the highest degree.

Linda Abraham: Fang asks, "Do you have a preferred word limit for the essays?"

Andrew Sama: The limit would be two typewritten pages that are double-spaced. We have a little bit of a new aspect in that portion of the application. We have the traditional, 'What do you plan to do with your MBA career?' aspect question.

Linda Abraham: You have a lot of options there.

Andrew Sama: We do, very selfish of us though, because we enjoy reading about all the different aspects that people are interested in. And it gives them an opportunity to show some creativity and talk about subjects that may not be of the norm. So that is why we've gone to those options.

Linda Abraham: Sounds good. Is there any preferred option among the six options that you provide, or is it really just an opportunity for the applicants to write about something that they are genuinely interested in?

Andrew Sama: Yes. Really just write about what excites you in there. We hope that there are some interesting topics.

Linda Abraham: There definitely are; there are many interesting topics.

Andrew Sama: Yes. I think we put out some stuff that is a definitely a little non-traditional, but hey, we were interested in knowing what people think about these topics. So write on something that you are passionate about, something that interests you. And the most important advice that I would give is to just be authentic. We read enough essays to know when you are telling us what you think we want to hear.

Linda Abraham: And that's not what you want.

Andrew Sama: Right. We are trying to get to know the applicant a little bit better. So just try to be authentic, try to be genuine about what you are writing. And of course, no grammar mistakes and no punctuation mistakes; you have to be letter perfect. You are trying to enter a professional school here, so just make sure that you are buttoned up in that regard.

Jeff Harer: Going back to that authentic piece, choosing a business school is really a personal decision. And putting your best foot forward but making sure that it's your foot, is pretty important. Because you want to make sure that when you get that foot in the door here, it feels right. You want to make sure that you made the choice for the right reasons because fit is a big deal. Knowing what I know about what Brian and Andrew do, they are trying to put people in a position to succeed. Being authentic and honest is important because it allows them to do that, and puts you in a position to be the best you can be.

Linda Abraham: That sounds great. Okay, Rick asks, "How much emphasis does the program put on quantitative skills, and what are some way to mitigate a low quantitative GMAT score?"

Brian Lohr: If you look at the class make-up, about a third of our candidates will be math, science, engineering, about a third will be business undergrad, and about a third will be humanities. So it's a very diverse group of candidates that come in. So obviously, there are varying skill levels in the quantitative area. But there are basic skills that you have to have to be successful. We take a look at the quantitative section in the GMAT closely, we take a look at the transcript and at how well somebody has done during their undergraduate experience, and we weigh those factors and make a decision accordingly. But I would say that the undergraduate transcript is a key component there.

Andrew Sama: One of the questions is how you mitigate the perception of less quant ability. So there are a couple of things. Obviously, there is no penalty for GMAT retakes. The committee will only see your highest score, so you can keep pounding your head against the wall, depending on your pain tolerance. So that is one option. Another would be, if you want to look at taking an econ course, an accounting course, or a stats course; it depends on where you feel that you have the need. Take a non-degree seeking course and knock out an "A". That is a good thing which can't hurt. So you have some options. Recently, I actually saw an applicant completed MBA Math on his own, and had MBA Math reach out to us and say that this person completed this module, etc. That is kind of uncommon and I think there is probably a significant expense that person incurred to do that so I don't know that I would across the board advocate, but these are examples of things that you could do. We recognize that not everybody is a great test-taker. And maybe that GMAT quant score isn't where you want it to be or you don't feel that it's reflective of your abilities; there are other ways for you to demonstrate that. Ultimately, what we are looking for is academic aptitude. You have to be able to integrate concepts quickly and move on in our seven week curriculum. So that's what we need and that's what we'll find through a combination of GMAT, GPA, transcript, etc.

Linda Abraham: Eric asks, "Do you accept Consortium applications?"

Andrew Sama: We are not a Consortium member, but we would love to get applications from people that are engaged with the Consortium.

Linda Abraham: Alex asks, "Many strong MBA programs see the majority of their graduates going into either commercial banking or into strategical managerial consulting. Does the Notre Dame MBA see its graduates following this path as well, or is it different in some way?" And I'll add-- in that case, where do most graduates go?

Brian Lohr: If you look at placements as a barometer, we are going to send the majority of our students in the area of finance, investment banking, and private wealth management. Right behind that would be consulting and marketing. And those two flip-flap year over year, depending on what is going on in the marketplace. But I was just up in Boston last week, and I had an opportunity to visit with some of our alums up there and we went out for supper. And it was really interesting. One of the alums is a finance person for Staples and is doing a great job at Staples. The other one is working for the Salvation Army in Manhattan. And I thought, "Wow, what a perfect example of how diverse the Notre Dame experience is." And they both are enjoying their careers and are experiencing great satisfaction in their careers. But I thought that was really an interesting observation when I was up there with those folks.

Linda Abraham: Great, thank you. We have lots of questions.

Andrew Sama: None on Notre Dame football?

Linda Abraham: Not yet, but I'm sure someone will post one now.

Andrew Sama: We have an opinion.

Linda Abraham: Okay, without the question, what's your opinion?

Andrew Sama: We are excited about Brian Kelly! Absolutely the right guy in the right spot, and we are going to be great.

Jeff Harer: From the student perspective, I would say that the tailgating is fantastic, regardless of winning or losing.

Andrew Sama: While we're on the topic, I would throw one thing out about that-

Brian Lohr: Don't get Notre Dame going on football!

Andrew Sama: It is a tremendous business resource for us.

Linda Abraham: So when you're sitting in the stands, it's all for academic reasons, right?!

Andrew Sama: Not then. But I'll tell you what: On Fridays, do you know how many alums come back to campus? You should look at the list of speakers we get on Friday afternoons, before home games.

Jeff Harer: Dan Hesse from Sprint just spoke here two weeks ago.

Brian Lohr: Last year, we had the CEO and CFO of GE. We had Herb Kelleher, the CEO and founder of Southwest Airlines.

Jeff Harer: Pickens was here last year.

Brian Lohr: And Warren Buffet. Yes, we had all these people come on Friday, before home games.

Andrew Sama: Tommy Hilfiger. I had lunch with him and my family was so impressed-- the one and only time that they were impressed with anything that I did!

Brian Lohr: And we also get over 1,000 Mendoza alumni back for every home game for a tailgate, right here in the Mendoza College of Business. We do it right here in the courtyard; we are right across the street from the stadium. When you are a college student or when you're an alum, you have some outstanding networking opportunities. So it is a lot of fun and games and we do have a good time with it, and believe me, it generates a lot of spirit around campus, but there is a business function to it as well for our students.

Linda Abraham: It sounds like a lot more fun than some of the professional mixes I've been to, that's for sure. Okay, the next question is, "I was contacted by direct mail and was told that I am a "priority candidate". What or how much credence does this hold when I apply?"

Brian Lohr: I think it holds a lot of credence. We wouldn't put it on there if we didn't feel that person had the characteristics to be successful in our program. We search via GMAC's Graduates Management Admissions Search Service, for candidates that hit a profile that we want. And that's where the terminology comes in for a priority candidate.

Linda Abraham: I have a couple of questions here from international applicants and they are related so I am going to give them both. One is from Jim and he asks, "As a non-English speaking student, what TOEFL score is required?" And the other one is from Alalou, "What do you recommend for a non-English speaking student with a much higher score on the quant section than the verbal section of the GMAT?"

Andrew Sama: We don't have a minimum for the TOEFL score, but I can say that generally speaking, most of the applicants have more than 100 on the iBT, and they are about 250 on the CBT of the TOEFL. I would also point out that we take the PTE Academic, which not a lot of folks have taken advantage of yet. But that has some good features to it. Mainly, it has a speaking sample in it, which may be a way to address any concerns there. So PTE Academic is something to look at. For TOEFL there isn't a minimum, but they are normally over 100, or 250. The other question was about how to address a lower split?

Linda Abraham: Yes, there were a few questions on that. A high quant, low verbal-- how do you address it?

Brian Lohr: I think the interview is going to be a key part of that process. We typically will utilize our professional staff, alumni in their home areas, or recently we've gone to G-chat and have been able to have a video chat with candidates. I think the interview is a key component if that is the case.

Linda Abraham: Mayher asks, "Notre Dame doesn't offer guaranteed loan options for international students. Can you please explain the other financial aid options available to them, and specifically to Indian students?"

Brian Lohr: A great website for prospects and candidates is www.nd.edu/finaid. That is Notre Dame's financial aid office and there is a tremendous amount of information and resources there. But essentially, international candidates to our program would be eligible for fellowships. All of our fellowships are merit based. It's a healthy fellowship budget; about 65% of our incoming class will receive some form of fellowship. And those fellowships ranged from $5,000 all the way to full tuition plus a living stipend of $12,500 this past year. So it's a healthy financial aid budget, all based on merit. So we evaluate the candidate's GMAT, their GPA, their work experience, their leadership within that work experience, plus all the other facets of the application. Many students have actually utilized the Notre Dame Federal Credit Union from a loan aspect. So they will make contact with Notre Dame Federal Credit Union. There are many banks in the local area that are excited about investing in our MBAs; they are going to be successful. I wouldn't want funding to be a limiting factor. I think there are ways for all of our candidates, domestic and international, to fund this experience.

Linda Abraham: This is a follow-up question on the tailgating discussion. "Do typical, first year MBA students have the time to make it to the games?" It sure seems like you do, but Kathryn and Jeff, do you want to address that question?

Kathryn Eisele: Absolutely. We definitely make it to games. There is the time and we enjoy the time that we spend there. I'm a Notre Dame undergrad as well and I'm from the area, so I was raised around this. And I will tell you that on Saturday, there is a magic around this place, and it is a lot of fun. There is a ton of spirit and it's a very good time. And I would say that pretty much 100% of our class is in the stadium and enjoying their Saturday there.

Jeff Harer: Not only that, but every student at Notre Dame can purchase a seat and tickets for a very reasonable price. So I think our student tickets this year were like $200 or something like that. When you think about the number of people who want to come to games at Notre Dame stadium, the fact that you get a ticket to every single game and sit in the student section and are a part it, is an incredible experience. And beyond that, when you think of the coursework and the people that are involved in making that course work, fortunately those people, your professors, are also incredible fans of Notre Dame football, and so they tend to schedule things accordingly. They are at the game too. And oftentimes, part of my role as Student Association president, is helping to plan and manage our student tailgate because there are a number of tailgates that go on. And more and more faculty has been showing up at our student tailgate. So you see the faculty members that are actually teaching your courses, on Saturday, before game time, and it's an opportunity to interact with them outside of the classroom. And so yes, everybody does attend and it's an incredibly valuable thing, not just professionally but socially and in a lot of aspects.

Brian Lohr: And if you are married, your spouse also gets a ticket, so that has become an incentive for many of our MBAs!

Linda Abraham: Do you have any last minute tips or thoughts that you want to share with our applicants here?

Andrew Sama: We're excited about reading your applications. Be yourself in the process and enjoy it. It's a great opportunity to discern, to figure out where you want to go, what you want to do, and how you want to impact the world. It should be an exciting time rather than a time of stress. So I would say, enjoy that process. You may not have that opportunity as you go forward. So I would say, enjoy that process; it's a lot of fun.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you all again for participating today. Special thanks to Brian, Andrew, Kathryn, and Jeff. If you have any additional questions for them, specifically for Brian, please email them to blohr@nd.edu. For general admissions questions, please email mba.business@nd.edu

We look forward to seeing you at future chats, and here is a list of the upcoming scheduled chats:

Chat with Current Consortium Members and Alumni
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wharton Q&A with Tiffany Gooden
Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cornell Q&A with Randall Sawyer
Thursday, October 21, 2010

Yale Q&A with Bruce DelMonico
Wednesday, October 27

And Michigan Ross, CMU Tepper and Columbia are scheduled in November.

If you would like to automatically receive notices about these MBA admissions Q&A and other MBA admissions events, please subscribe to our MBA event list. Please check the website for additional details.

Good luck with your applications!

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