2011 Cornell Johnson MBA Admissions Q&A with Randall Sawyer

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2011 Cornell Johnson MBA Admissions Q&A with Randall Sawyer

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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 Cornell's Johnson Business School. 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 Randall Sawyer, Assistant Dean of Admissions, Financial Aid and Inclusion at Cornell Johnson. Thanks to everyone for joining. The first question is from Bill. He asks, "There is a perception that unless a person has a 700+ GMAT score, they should not apply to Cornell Johnson." If all of the components are positive, and I'm assuming that Bill does not have a 700+ GMAT score, should he apply?

Randall Sawyer: First of all, I want to welcome everybody here today, and thanks for being here to communicate in this new forum with me. Bill, I think that is a great question, and I think there is a misconception out in the marketplace that if you don't have a 700, you shouldn't apply to the Johnson School. As you look at business schools, one great indicator of the GMAT range is obviously our eightieth percentile, and ours last year was 640-740. So that obviously indicates that the 700 is not a capstone or a threshold that is required to apply. 10% of our class will be below 640; 10% of our class will be above 740. And so I think it is a misperception. One thing that we do talk to applicants a lot about that has to do with that 700 threshold on the GMAT, is if you are interested in consulting or investment banking, your GMAT should be somewhere in the 700 space because it is so competitive in both of those marketplaces right now, and has been for the last couple of years. The GMAT is just another indicator for those companies that are hiring in consulting and in the IB space that you are going to be capable of doing the work. But one important number associated with the GMAT that we always look for is under the Quant percentage. We like to see that at 65% or better; it's just usually a definite indicator as to whether or not you can be successful in our core. We have students that apply with under 600 that get into the Johnson School; we have some students that apply that have 770, 780, and 790s, and they don't get into the Johnson School, so we run the gamut. And 640-740 is a good range for us to be in for GMAT scores.

Linda Abraham: Thank you for the very thorough answer. I am going to take advantage of my position as moderator and ask you a question about what's new at Cornell Johnson.

Randall Sawyer: We are about to unveil a new institute here at the Johnson School. I can't really get into it right now, but it's going to be very exciting for those folks interested in global study. We also have completed our first round of applications. Our applications deadline was October 5th, and we are running about 20% higher in applications than we were last year, so that's exciting for us. We are making our way through the round one applications. Notification date is a few days before the domestic Christmas holiday here, so it's the 21st of December. We're excited; it's been one of the strongest round ones academically that we've had in a long time. So that is great news for us. I think it's important to note that last year our selectivity was about 23%. So 1 in 4.5 of the applicants got offers from us. Our yield settled at 61%, and it will probably turn out to be one of the higher numbers in the country for yield so we are very excited about that. We made about 450 offers for 275 seats, so we're pretty excited.

Linda Abraham: Those are some really great numbers; thanks for sharing them. And we look forward to hearing more about the institute when it can be more publicly discussed.

Randall Sawyer: Soon. I wish I could announce it here, but it's not mine to announce.

Linda Abraham: Fair enough. Entreman asks, "What is the core strength of Johnson? Columbia is famous for finance, Harvard for entrepreneurs, what is it when it comes to Cornell Johnson?"

Randall Sawyer: I think that we're a great general management program. When you make your way to Cornell and to our program, you are going to end up with a great general management degree. Underneath that we have our Immersion Program which is basically our strongest and greatest differentiator from other schools. First semester you take the core, and then the second semester we "immerse" you in your program, whether it's brand management, investment banking, managerial finance, consulting, etc. We have nine different programs. And so we are known for four major programs: consulting, investment banking, entrepreneurship, and brand. But when you come to the Johnson School, you will have nine immersions. It will allow you to really get to know the subject matter--research, theory, and practicum-- of what you want to go into once you come out with your MBA. I hear from recruiters all the time that the Johnson School students are the best prepared for their summer internships, regardless of their past experience. So it's great when we know that we can take someone coming to us from perhaps the sales space, and turn them into a brand manager over six months of academic classes, and we know that they'll be in the running to at least get an offer at the end of the summer for that first year internship. So I think we are known for those four programs I mentioned before, but over and above that, our biggest differentiator is the Immersion Program. It's been widely successful for us over the last ten years and recruiters and students continue to mention that as the most important factor of coming to Cornell.

Linda Abraham: Great, thank you. Sundeep asks, "Is it fine to take a letter of recommendation from people who have left the company and joined another, or from someone who has joined some B-school? What about someone who has joined Cornell?"

Randall Sawyer: We only require two letters of recommendation; we have an option of a third. They are very important to your file and your application. So certainly our first choice is a supervisor of yours for whom you've worked for a while so that they can make a great business assessment on you. Some people can't get their supervisor because they might get fired, or they won't get a bonus, or they won't stay in the promotional track if the supervisor knows that they are applying to business school; we understand that. So we would invite you to look for a peer, a colleague, or a supervisor from a former job that is maybe a year or two (maximum two) away from your work experience. We understand some of the conflicts that you run into. If you are struggling to find the appropriate people for your letter of recommendation, think about a peer or a colleague that's worked on a team with you, who can talk to your strengths. One of the reputations that the Johnson School students have coming out is that not only can they lead a team, but they know how to be an active and contributing member of a team. They know when to lead; they know when to be in the trenches. So when you pick your recommenders, look immediately around you at who can offer you a positive letter of recommendation. If that fails, take a look at a previous job that is not too far away from the calendar. Whenever I talk to students and when I'm on the road, I tell students that they can use my office as a resource. It's easy to send me an email saying, "I've got four recommenders I want to use; who do you think would be the best? I'd like your input." Now we don't want to write your recs for you and help you with your essays and so forth. But many times when we have someone involved in a family business, he/she reports directly to their mom or their dad. Let's be honest, most mothers and fathers are going to write us good letters of recommendation, if not great letters. And so I often say to look to a client, look to a vendor; someone in your family business that you work with who doesn't have a familial side to you, and go ask them for a letter of rec. For the most part, we know your parents are very fond of you, and that's great. But this is one of those deals where we're looking for a business assessment.

Linda Abraham: The question is from Avishek, and he asks, "In Essay 3 which asks for a table of contents on your life story, are we allowed to incorporate images along with text?" Before we get to that question, I want to ask how many of you are enjoying the opportunity for creativity and telling your personal story through Essay 3? Okay. 50% are really enjoying Essay 3. And my next question is, how many of you are really worried about responding to essay three, and you don't know where to go with it? Okay. That is about 15%. So more people are enjoying it distinctly than are losing sleep about it. Now back to Avishek's question which was whether he could incorporate images along with the text.

Randall Sawyer: To let everyone know, question three is the question that we get more consternation and concerns about on the row of students that we talk to. I love Essay 3; it provides an opportunity for everyone to be creative. The first two essays of the Johnson School are very business oriented: "What is your greatest business accomplishment?" and "Where do you want to go with your MBA, and why the Johnson school?" And then there is this one: "If you're life were a book, what would your chapter writings be?" It causes consternation because people say--should it be my whole life? Should it be from now until I enter the Johnson School? Should it be from now until after I leave the Johnson School? What are the parameters of it? And happily, and to some, sadly, I say that there are no parameters to it. Write it as if it were your book. So if it's your book, what are the chapter headings? And yes, you can use images. We get a lot of very creative submissions for Essay #3. So give thought to that one in the sense of how you can be creative. Some people use pictures; some people just have one or two words for each chapter heading, and then write two or three sentences underneath each one. We had one a couple of years ago put to music. They picked titles of songs and then put some phrases from the songs underneath the titles; really very creative and very interesting. The reason we take a look at that is because many times if we're in committee and we're on the fence about the student whether or not to interview, we may actually look at Essay 3 to see how creative the student is. What are they writing there? Does that put us over the edge towards a 'deny' or towards an invitation to interview? So we think it is very important. Some have made me cry. Many have made me laugh. And it really tells us what's most important to you, the applicant. Because if you have a limited amount of space and you are going to tell us only several things about you, what is most important for you to get across? So I find that last question just fantastic. Here is a little story. We had an applicant last year who had written the essay, and he was in the military and was stationed abroad. It was a letter to his twin daughters, and that's how he wrote his book.

Linda Abraham: Does he really have twin daughters?

Randall Sawyer: He does. And so it was a story about how he was as a boy, when he met their mother, when they were born, and what he did in the military. We have a few offices and initially I had gone into the back office. Then when I came out, I saw that several of the people in my office were crying, and I said, "What's wrong everybody?" And they said, "You've got to read this." And I started reading it, and quite frankly, I started crying. It was so beautiful and so amazing. For him, what was most important were his children and how they would remember him, which I thought was quite lovely being the father of two. But then for others, they talk about being a millionaire, making their first million. And some talk about growing up with their parents, and what kind of life they lived, and why they want to go into sustainability or why they want to go into investment banking. Others talk non-academic at all; they just talk about the fun things they've done in their life because they want their life to be fun. So there really are no parameters to it, and I hate to go on ad nauseam about this. But it is whatever you want to make it, so feel creative.

Linda Abraham: I guess in a world that values innovation, a little creativity is probably a good thing to show. I assume when you talk about creativity, you are not talking about gimmicky stuff; you are talking about genuinely reviewing creativity. As you said, choosing what the applicant thinks is important for you to know about them.

Randall Sawyer: That is exactly right. I am the youngest of five; I have four wonderful older sisters. I thought they were wonderful when we were all living in the same house; I think they are wonderful now. And I had two wonderful, loving parents, both of whom are deceased now. But my base for that essay would be something about being raised in that family. So that for me would maybe give me an opportunity to tell a funny story, and I have several of them considering my older siblings were sisters. I'm an optimist, so I would probably share some of those funny stories, where I want to go, and I would talk much about my children right now. I spent six years on the governor's staff in New York, and I got my Master's and my undergrad here as well. So it would be something like that. Education is very important to me, as is evident by me taking this job. But in my personal life, education is very important to me. So it really allows me to think about who I am, and what I am about.

Linda Abraham: Great, thanks. Manish asks, "I'm looking for a career switch from technology services to the consulting industry. What traits does Cornell specifically seek for somebody trying to make that kind of a switch?"

Randall Sawyer: We like to see individuals who have a good financial base and a good numbers base; we want to see that they'll be able to run the numbers as a consultant if they want to go into the management consulting or strategy consulting space. We look for a good degree of interpersonal skills because they'll need that while they are a consultant. You're in the technology space right now. If you are looking to go into technology consulting for a company like PRTM on the West Coast here in the States, we'll want to see some great understanding of the technology space, whereby you won't have to learn it on the fly because you know it now. Obviously in today's technology age, going out of the marketplace for a year or two to get your MBA will put you at a slight disadvantage because you'll be out of the technology. But we want to make sure that as a consultant with the Cornell brand on your back, you'll be able to go and be successful. Some students come in and want to make a wild career change from IT software writing or coding all the way over to investment banking. That is such a large jump; it's probably not going to happen. But certainly if you are coming from the technology space and want to go into management strategy consulting or IT Technology, that won't be a great leap for you.

Linda Abraham: Lynn asks, "What are the biggest misconceptions about Johnson?" What is the news out there that you are constantly fighting?

Randall Sawyer: I find out some of the misconceptions when I travel. There is the misconception that Cornell is not located in NYC, so how could someone possibly get a job in NYC if the school isn't located in NYC? By car we are about four hours northwest of NYC, and I could make it there in about three hours and forty minutes. But it's a situation whereby we have a wide array of recruiters who come to campus to interview and recruit our students. So even though we are not physically located in NYC, it doesn't mean that we're at a disadvantage to find employment for our students. Making that type of a statement, "Well, you're located in Ithaca, NY, so you could never get a job in NYC because you are so far away", is kind of like saying that someone who graduates from Harvard or MIT in Boston, can't get a job in Chicago. The geographic boundaries of where you go to school in this global economy are not worth much. We place students in Hong Kong, in China, and in India. We place students around the world and we're located in Ithaca, New York. I think the importance is that recruiters around the world understand what they are getting when they get a Johnson School student; what brand they're getting, what academic level they are going to be at, and how hard working they are going to be. So I think that brand is understood and it's nothing that recruiters run from; they actually run to us to get our people. So it's a dynamic where yes, we are in a rural town in upstate New York, and we still have Deutsche, Citi, JP Morgan, J&J, P&G, and all these other companies that recruit here because they want to pick up some of our students to be the future leaders of their corporations.

Linda Abraham: Ashish asks, "How do you view international re-applicants? My post-MBA goals are to get into consulting for non-profits. Does not having a 700+ GMAT impact my chances at Cornell, as you mentioned in response to the first question? Does having a strong professional community experience really count at Cornell, or for that matter for post-MBA recruitment?" There are a few questions in there: there is the international component, the re-applicant aspect, and then does the GMAT impact if you are applying to consulting for non-profits? And also what is the value of the professional and community experience at Cornell and for recruiters?

Randall Sawyer: So the first off is obviously we value international students here at Cornell. It brings us great diversity. I think we had 32 countries represented in the incoming class this past August. We usually see about 60% of our applicants are international, and about 40% are domestic. The composition of the class ends up being about 70% domestic and about 30% international. So regarding the 700 GMAT score which we fixated on earlier, I only say it because in today's dynamic world where we've had layoffs in consulting and in investment banking, you want to be as competitive as possible. And so if you have a sub-700 GMAT for those two industries, then you are probably going to have to shoot As and A+s in the core. Because the recruiter's first questions to you will be something like, "How are you? Great to see you. Saw your resume. How's the core going? What was your GMAT score?" These are the recruiters who are interviewing you. And we don't want you to be less competitive than someone else. So I will tell you that you probably want to get 700 if you want to go into those industries. Does it put you at a disadvantage? I don't think it does to get admission to the Johnson School, when we have an eightieth percentile of 640-740. But the GMAT is a test you can retake again in 31 days. So if we get to someone who makes it to the waitlist for example (and last year, our waitlist was over 380 people), the only thing you can change on that waitlist is another letter of recommendation, an update of what is going on in your professional or personal life, and then the last thing is you can retake the GMAT. So I think it is important that you understand that while we focus on the GMAT in this conversation and many times on the road, it's one of 22 different variables that we look at when we look at an individual student and invite them to interview, or to deny them. So I think in that case, if you are under a 700 and you want to go into consulting or investment banking, you should consider retaking it. Re-applicants are great for us. We ask you in the re-applicant space to tell us what you've done in the last year to improve. And many students have had the opportunity to assess themselves compared to the average of the rest of the class, or the entering class at the Johnson School. So we've had students who were very successful re-applying to the Johnson School. It's easy because we grab your file from last year, and we compare your resume, we compare your essays, and so forth. But we want to see change; we want to see more things that you've accomplished in one year. And sometimes students who may have a 720 GMAT score might not retake the GMAT and say I'm good with a 720, and then we find out that they got a new leadership position at work, or they got a promotion, or they've answered some of the questions about their career focus or their goal focus. And we think, "Okay, that was a concern of ours last year. They've definitely improved on it. Let's definitely talk to them." I would say that of the re-applicants, maybe 40% end up getting an offer from us. That's a guesstimate, it's not an exact number, but it sounds right to me.

Linda Abraham: It's also significantly higher than your overall acceptance rate.

Randall Sawyer: That's correct, because some students come back to us and say that this is where they want to be. And it's a very symbiotic relationship when you have students who really want to be here and we know that by them coming here and earning their MBA, they are going to be a great part of our community. If today's numbers are the 20% increase that round one is telling, I'm going to end up with 2,500 applications this year to the Johnson School for 275 seats. I'm not concerned about filling the seats; I'm concerned about picking the right people for those seats. Because you can go to a school that has 800 or 900 in the entering class; we only have 275. We are protecting the community and the culture here at Cornell that makes us different and unique. We are not a mass producer of MBAs, and we're okay with that. We want to be certain that we are picking the right people for that symbiotic relationship.

Linda Abraham: The other question was whether there is a different standard for international? And finally, how heavily is the professional and community experience weighed vis-a-vis the academic? I know that you can't quantify this, but maybe you can give some indication vis-a-vis the academics both for admissions and for recruiters, and I'm sure the two are closely related. Also when you talk about your sub-700 GMAT, I'm going to guess that a sub-700 meaning a 690 is very different than a 640. It's also very different if it's balanced or if one element, particularly the Quant, is much lower than the others. You can confirm or correct me on that.

Randall Sawyer: That is the case. In the GMAT space, we like to see a balance. Personally, I'm a 690 GMAT test taker, I'm all verbal, and my Quant is not that great. I understand that, and I'm okay with it. I think that is why I'm in a non-quant job; I'm here doing the admissions space. So when we look at students and we have this focus on the GMAT, we also look at all these other variables about you. We do look for professional experience; we do look for volunteer time. I think that the academic rigor of the Johnson school is very difficult. And each year, we have students who are on academic probation or go before the Academic Standards Committee. We are doing some research to figure out if there is a correlation between their GMAT and their difficulties, and that may change our selection process in the future. But someone like me, who I think I can be very successful in the MBA program, but not that successful in the Quant space, I'm okay with that. The question when we look at students is: can they and will they be successful? And if they carry the Cornell brand with them, what kind of representative will they be on the marketplace for us? Because when you tell someone you have the MBA, the next question always is: what school did you go to? And then they make a value judgment on you based on your response. And they don't know whether you had an A or a C in class. They say, "Oh, you went to Cornell. Great school!" And that has an impression on them and they look at you differently. And that's for every business school that you go to. I know that we are focusing on the GMAT and a 690 is very different than a 640. I was on the road a couple of weeks ago, and I had a student who was actually arguing with me. He was applying for a program and he had a 560 or a 570. He was arguing that he had 8 years of great work experience, and he thought that was great and that we should ignore his GMAT. Well, I hear him, but he's taken the GMAT three times and got a 460 and then a 540 and then a 580. And I basically told him that he shouldn't apply because while he had this great work experience, and it was great work experience, his undergraduate academics matched his GMAT. There was a correlation between the two, and I don't think he is going to get through the program here successfully without getting kicked out or failing out. So what have we done as a school for bringing in someone who will fail? But he couldn't accept that. He felt that Cornell is his school, and so he was literally raising his voice to me in a crowd of 45 other people. And I told him that it has to stop; I've given you every courtesy afforded you, and you are actually yelling at me because you don't agree with what I am saying.

Linda Abraham: That will guarantee that he won't get in.

Randall Sawyer: That is correct; it is a guarantee that he will not get in. It's a sad thing but how will he be in front of recruiters? What if he didn't make the first interview list or the second interview list? Is he going to argue with them and say that he needs to be there? It's not how business looks. So if I can take that one step further, should you get interviewed at any business school or any time you visit a business school, understand that people are watching. They are listening and they are talking to you. So when people come in they meet Marcy, the receptionist here in the admissions office, and she in wonderfully engaging, a fantastic personality, and a great asset to my staff. You may say something to her that is rude, inappropriate, or even very positive, and she will gain an impression of you, and most likely share it with me. And this will happen in every school that you go to.

Linda Abraham: Exactly. That is what I was going to add. That is true for every single business school. Applicants, I cannot tell you how many times admissions directors have told me stories just like the one Randall is saying right now. Your interaction with the clerk and the receptionist are just as important as with your interviewer and the admissions dean.

Randall Sawyer: So when we're on the road, I tell this story. We had a woman who applied a few years ago, and her background was really interesting. I don't normally do this, but I really wanted to interview her because I had a couple of questions for her. So I got her on my interview rotation. I only interview about ten people a year, and I don't usually select them like that; it's usually overloaded and I need to pick up an interview to help release a load. This woman was very argumentative and confrontational with my employee who was setting up the interview. She basically said that if Randall really wants to interview me, why can't he adjust his schedule? So okay, I hear that, and we could have easily let her interview with somebody else, but I really wanted to do this one. So we ended up taking a day, and in finalizing the day, she was so rude to my person, that they came back to tell me how rude she was and exactly what she said. I thanked them for the input. The interview was by phone, and I started by saying that this is the interview, and it's 35-40 minutes, etc. But I said, "Before we get started, I'd like to know why you are so pleasant to me on the phone, and have been so rude to my team?" Silence was on the other end of the phone. She never thought that it would get back to me that she was being so inappropriate. We are the Cornell brand and you meet with recruiters while you're here or when you're done here, and we want to make sure that you are appropriate. So please, whether you apply to the Johnson School or not, take that time to be appropriate in every interaction that you have because people are listening and watching. That's just friendly advice.

Linda Abraham: Bahman asks, "Does the Johnson School have an open curriculum? Are students able to take a class with another school in the university?"

Randall Sawyer: We do, it is part of our pillars. We actually call that Cornell Connections. Cornell is one of the greatest research institutions around the world. Its brand is known in nearly every country on the planet. So when you come into the Johnson School, we urge you to take 25% of your classes outside of the Johnson School as electives. Maybe you want to take the wines course at the Hotel Administration School. Maybe you want to take a real estate development class over at the RE School. Maybe you're interested in human capital strategy, and you want to take some classes at the Industrial and Labor Relations School. That's great. You might be trying to incorporate your own business, and you want to take a class at the Law School. Super. You might be an entrepreneur that's making your first iteration of a product, a prototype, and you want to take a class at the Engineering School to just finalize those last details. We think that's great. We have a student right now, who is interested in organic farming, and I believe he is taking classes up at the Ag School; he wants to get into organic food production on a large level, sold in grocery stores and so forth. That's great. We love that and we urge that. There are students however, that don't take any of their electives outside of the Johnson School. They know exactly what they want to do. They don't need to go take the wines, they don't need to look at human capital, they don't need the Ag School; they take everything here. Our curriculum is very flexible. You called it 'open'; we would call it 'flexible' or 'customized', but in essence, I think it's the exact same answer to the question. Yes, you can write your own MBA ticket while you're here based on exactly what you want to do.

Linda Abraham: Maniche asks, "Can you shed some light on the selection criteria for scholarships for international candidates. And do they get the scholarship results along with the admissions call?"

Randall Sawyer: The answer to both of those questions is yes; I can shed some light, and yes, you do get the scholarship offer in that call. What's different at graduate school than at undergrad is that scholarships are merit based, not need based. So when we take a look at all of our students in the different rounds that apply for a scholarship, we look at what they have done and what they have accomplished. We see what we want to give them, if anything at all, to get them here. There is competition for the top students, not just in the United States, but around the world. And sometimes that has a fiduciary obligation or scholarship answer to it, and we do want to be competitive. And I say this many times on the road that if we're the right school and you've got three or four offers, I want to be the last one on the table, or the next to last one on the table, because I'm a very competitive guy. And if we want you to be here, it will be obvious. Some students believe they got a 700 on the GMAT, they have 5 years of work experience at the AVP level, I'm a great guy and a great person, and I definitely deserve a scholarship. But they don't get any because while they probably are great students, when you look at the pool of students that are applying to the Johnson School, there are others that have done more and are more accomplished. So I think it's a very interesting variable. Because in many conversations I have with students once they get here, they say, "Wow, the quality of the class that I'm in is unbelievable, and I'm really happy to be here." Our students are traditionally type A; they've been the valedictorians or salutatorians in their class, they've gotten the greatest promotion at their workplace, and they've always been in the top 2 percent as a performer. And what happens is that they may be a standout in their company, but when they get here, they're just like everyone else. Because we are taking all the standouts from those companies, and we're bringing them to the Johnson School. And so for some, it's difficult to acclimate to that type of a scenario. In the past, they may have been leading the curve in academic grading, and now they're in the middle of the curve, and it's not so nice sometimes. So we're really taking the cream of the crop from all countries and all industries, and we're bringing them here to be under one roof. Just for the record, about 28% or 29% of students coming to the Johnson School get a scholarship of some sort. And many times, it's not even remotely close to a full scholarship; it may be $10,000 a year or $20,000 a year. So you keep that in mind because you may get a scholarship from another school and not here. If that's the case, I want to talk to you about that. It becomes a business transaction when you have two offers on the table, and one has a scholarship and the other doesn't. My reputation in the marketplace is that I will always be fair, and I will always be honest. You may not like what I say, but I will tell you the truth.

Linda Abraham: You definitely are one of the more direct and open guests that we've been privileged to host. And I think the participants of today are also benefiting very much from your openness and excellent answers.

Randall Sawyer: Thank you very much.

Linda Abraham: I have two questions here. One is from Aritchra and one is from Anna, and they are both interested in marketing and the Immersion Program, one specifically strategic marketing. The question from Aritchra is, "What internship opportunities does Johnson provide? And could you elaborate on the clubs, societies, and the extra-curricular activities?" And Anna asks relatedly, "How could students collaborate with companies on projects considering the remote location of Cornell?" And finally, Aritchra asks if she can get in touch with some students who are participants in these extra-curricular activities.

Randall Sawyer: Sure. First off, we have more than 70 clubs here. You go online to find those clubs, and each will have a contact or two by email which you can just click on and send a note to them on whatever you'd like to know. While we have a great number of clubs, we urge students to only join 2 clubs; one professional like the Marketing Association and one personal where you can have fun. One of the people who work for me, her husband is involved in the Beer of the Month Club. Other people are in the Yacht Club down at Cayuga Lake. There are 70 of them to pick from. We don't want you to get too involved in the clubs in the sense of all your time because of academics, info sessions, recruiting interview schedules, working on your resume, practicing cases and so forth. It's all very busy stuff and that's why we say to please take one that is for professional advancement and the other which is for personal advancement. And when we talk about brand as a whole with the immersion both this past year and the year prior, we had 100% placement for summer internships for our Brand Immersion students. So every single one of them had at least one offer and took an offer, and spent their summer in a corporation somewhere. So that's a very great record, and we are very proud of that. There was one student several years ago who applied for 12 different marketing jobs. We have somewhere in the 40 companies space for the brand folks. The student applied to 12, got interviewed by 10 and got 7 internship offers from those. So it's a dynamic where brand for us if very strong, and I think for those students who are interested in brand, you have to be looking at the Johnson School in some way, shape, or form because obviously our record speaks for itself. I don't know of any other school that has 100% placement; I don't really track our competitors in that space. Maybe they do, maybe they don't, but I know that it works right here at the Johnson School so we'll keep it the way it is.

Linda Abraham: And now distance; the remote location of Cornell. I guess the numbers you cited would indicate that it's not a problem, but maybe you want to go into it in a little more detail.

Randall Sawyer: Most of our recruiters come from the Northeast and they recruit in the fall. We are having a lot more recruiters from the West Coast, and they recruit in the spring. And so we just make our way around their recruiting schedules. If you want to get out of brand and into consulting, last year for example, we sent seven students to Bain. All seven got offers, and all seven accepted. We sent 5 to McKinsey; all 5 got offers, and all 5 accepted. A couple of years ago, Accenture made 14 offers, Deloitte made 10 offers.

Linda Abraham: Randall, I think the question was more related to project work during school.

Randall Sawyer: Thank you for the correction. We have a projects class, generally in the consulting space, whereby we contract with different corporations. The confidentiality clauses of those prohibit me from telling you what corporations they are, but they are real life performance learning, hands-on projects that you do with different companies. We see that throughout the year. Some students may be involved in the Marketing Association, and the Marketing Association may get contacted by a company saying, "We'd like you to do this. Can you put a team together, and try to solve this for us?" And we'll work through the project office to make that happen. So there are real life examples. During the marketing immersion, the brand immersion, and all the other immersions, students are given a real life problem and are asked to solve it. As an aside, there is a funny story with a company here in New York State. Many years ago, we had a contract with them to help solve a couple of problems. And the students who worked all semester on it went down there to talk to the C-Level Suite group. And when the students got there, there was a board of directors meeting for the international company, and the students ended up presenting to the board of directors which I'm sure was a little bit different than "just the C-Level Suite". It was pretty exciting, considering what the board of directors has on that company; who they are, and so forth. Here is another example of real performance learning. We had a company in the Midwest whose owner was a friend of one of the faculty members here. He couldn't solve the problem so he asked for a team of students. We sent three or four students out there. As it worked out, I believe two of the four students got job offers from the company as a result of the consulting engagement that they had, and that company recruits here now. So these are examples whereby we are drawing from many different walks of life in the corporation space to get our students involved and engaged, and hopefully get them an offer out of it.

Linda Abraham: Kelly asks, "Can you please speak to the international learning opportunities that Johnson offers." Perhaps you can give a one or two minute overview and then refer Kelly to a webpage that has more details, if there is such a webpage.

Randall Sawyer: We have 33 different arrangements with schools around the world for our International Study Abroad Program. Many students apply for this program. You go in your first or second semester, or in your second year, and you go to schools in other countries that are at the Cornell brand reputation. So say, if you want to work internationally in China, Korea, Hong Kong, North America, Mexico, Latin America, or Europe, you can make your way out to get one of these Study Abroad programs, and live right in the culture there, and look for a job opportunity while you are studying abroad. We also have 5 student treks each year. They last about one week. Last year, we went to China, India, Korea, Brazil and Prague, and the Czech Republic. This is where we use Cornell connections and the Johnson School connections to have events all day; maybe going to a manufacturing plant, maybe going to a public relations firm, going to a consulting firm somewhere in those countries whereby we have a Johnson School or Cornell alum who works in the company or owns the business. So those are our two major international opportunities for students. The treks are worth a credit and a half, and they are faculty run and faculty attended. So that's great. The person you want to communicate with on my team is a woman Christine Sneva. She is in charge of the international programs, and certainly an email to her would not be inappropriate if you wanted more information. You can go online, see her picture, click a link, and send her a quick email about the international programs.

Linda Abraham: Bill asks, "How many applicants apply to Johnson via the Consortium, and are your acceptance stats about the same for those applicants?" Randall: Consortium is a great program. Last year, we had about 190 students apply through the Consortium; I think we admitted 46, so that is about a third. So they're a little better than the overall average. Are their statistics about the same? I believe so. We haven't run anything that would show differently. Our first year as a member school, we brought in 34 students through the Consortium. For those of you who don't know, the Consortium is predominantly for under-represented minorities making their way into business. It's just a great networking organization and a great program, and we are so pleased to be affiliated with them. And I would urge anyone who is committed to diversity to check out their website and see if you might be an eligible candidate to apply through there. It's not just under-represented minorities; it's people who support the mission of increasing diversity. It's a very cool organization and I was proud to sit on the board of directors for a year. We had a great year with them. Just the inroads and the changes that they are making for the face of business are fantastic.

Linda Abraham: That's great. Ben asks, "I really like the Immersion Program. Is it possible for a student to tailor-make their program? And if so, how much can they do so?" How much can a student tailor, if at all, an Immersion Program?

Randall Sawyer: Great question. Several years ago, we had 3% or 4% of the class who customized their immersion. Last year I think we had 9% or 10%, so it is becoming more popular. Students get an opportunity to look at the entire curriculum of our immersion programs as you imagine yourself in a cafeteria picking different things to eat a la carte. So you might want this class from managerial finance, you might want this class from operations, and you might want this class from sustainability. You can do essentially whatever you like in that space. Thus, you can customize your immersion. We have a lot of students who come in with 4-6 years experience in for example, real estate. So they don't need some of the classes we offer through the immersion because they have already lived it; maybe a development class, a finance class or something like that, so they can opt out of it and pick from other spaces more about what they want to learn. So yes, you can customize it.

Linda Abraham: Good, thank you. Jim asks, "I'm confused. Did I hear Mr. Sawyer say that he compares re-applicant's essays from last year? The home page says that the school does not keep last year's application on file."

Randall Sawyer: We don't keep it on file; it's offsite. But we do compare re-applicant's files. Yes, we go back and see how you've changed and what you've improved.

Linda Abraham: Are you looking at reviewer's notes, or you look at the actual application again from last year?

Randall Sawyer: We bring it out of storage because we see what was done last year, and our impression last year. For example, just this morning, we had 4-5 re-applicants in our committee, and it's good to see where they were last year and where they are now. For example, someone may come in and say that they want to do investment banking and this is why. I want to be successful, and so on and so forth. And we go back and look at their file from last year when they said investment banking, and then this year it's managerial finance maybe. And they may say that they know they don't want to do investment banking because they did such and such at work and realized that investment banking wasn't for them. That's great; that's a great self revelation. Managerial finance is still a related program, and because of their background now, they may be better suited for that. So their goals may seem more plausible to us, and so that helps us make that decision. We are required, I think under federal law, to keep files for three years before we destroy them. So we will have them offsite in storage, and we do bring them back together. I would love an email from you, because we'll definitely make a correction on the website. And sometimes we've given feedback to denied applicants indicating what they can focus their efforts on to improve, and we have notes on last year's file associated to that so we take a look at it.

Linda Abraham: Fang asks, "Is it true that Cornell requires 25 or higher for the speaking section of the TOEFL?

Randall Sawyer: This is a great question because TOEFL is required in many cases with international students. We'd like to see 25 or better in all four of the categories associated with the TOEFL. In the speaking space, we will look at a 24 or a 23. When you start getting into the 22 and 21 and 20 ranges, you are probably not going to be able to be appreciated in class when you speak. You may even be misunderstood in class when you speak, so that is one of the variables that we look at very closely. Obviously TOEFL is a valuable benchmark for us, but we get more valuable feedback from picking up the phone and talking to the applicant. So you could come to the Johnson School with a 22 in speaking and be fine; you just had a hard time with the TOEFL. We've spoken to you and we realize that your English is good. And so with each international student that we admit, we do take a close look at their English skills. And some are required to take English as a Second Language here at Cornell over the summer. It's actually a condition of their admission to the program.

Linda Abraham: I have a question for the participants now. How many of you applied round one? Okay, it's only about 10%. How many of you are planning to apply round 2? 55%. And I guess others are just here for research purposes or aren't raising their hands. For the round one applicants, Randall, can you give some insight as to what you are looking for in the interview? And for round two applicants, any last minute tips?

Randall Sawyer: I think the most important tip I can give is to be yourself; be authentic, both in the interview and the application. Don't write what you think we want to hear from you; write about who you are. It's important. We are building a class and each person is different and unique, and they bring something different to the table. We love that. So I would urge you to think about how you are different from everybody else? And everyone is different from everybody else, but what special talents do you bring to the table? That's very important. In your interview, be prepared. Anything on your resume is fair game. You should be appropriately dressed, as if you were going to a business interview. A follow up email of a thank you is always very nice to the interviewer. I will tell you like this. Last year I received five thank you notes, handwritten by snail mail, and I can name each one of those five people that sent me those notes. So really I know it's a dead art sending thank you notes or letters, but if you really want to make an impression, take the time. What does it take? Ten-fifteen minutes and a stamp to send a thank you note. In today's day and age of quick emails, it definitely leaves an impression. And here's one tip that I can share. We print our applications here at the Johnson School on the day that they arrive. So if you submit on the deadline day, you will be in a large group of students. If you submit four days earlier, you will be one of the first few people off the printer. That means, we will probably get a look at your file earlier; that might be advantageous to you. Think about that.

Linda Abraham: Randall, I can't thank you enough. I think this has been a really informative Q&A. Thank you all again for participating today. Special thanks to Randall for joining us today. If you have additional questions for Randall, please email mba@johnson.cornell.edu.

Randall Sawyer: I also give out my email; it's on my card. My direct phone numbers are on my card, and so forth. I get 250-300 emails a day. I'm happy to take your email. If it's quick, I may be able to respond to you directly, but if I get it and don't respond, please don't be upset with me; I usually forward it to my team to get back to you. And so I'm happy to take the additional questions, and if I can answer them, I will. Someone will get back to you. We like to be as personal as an admissions office as we can be because your decision making process is very important to you and to us, and so we do want to be there to help.

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