2012 UCLA Anderson MBA Admissions Q&A with Andrew Ainslie, Jessica Chung and Craig Hubbell
2012 UCLA Anderson MBA Admissions Q&A with Andrew Ainslie, Jessica Chung and Craig Hubbell
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Linda Abraham: Hello. My name is Linda Abraham. I am the founder of Accepted.com and the moderator of today’s Q&A. First I want to welcome all applicants to the Q&A today, and I want to congratulate you for taking the time to learn more about UCLA Anderson’s MBA program. It is critical to your decision making process and your admission chances that you know as much as you can about the schools you are applying to. Being here today allows you to ask experts about this top business school.
I also want to give a special welcome to Dr. Andrew Ainslie, Senior Associate Dean of the MBA Program and Associate Professor of Marketing, as well as Craig Hubbell and Jessica Chung, Associate Directors of MBA Admissions at UCLA. Thanks to everyone for joining.
I’d like to take advantage of my position as moderator and pose the first question. Usually I ask what’s new, but we know that UCLA Anderson has a brand new curriculum, so can you give us a little bit of an overview of the major changes and perhaps what was motivating the change.
Dr. Andrew Ainslie: I’ll start by talking about what motivated the curriculum change. We had a look at some fairly extensive changes that happened in the marketplace over the last few years in the way in which companies recruit. They tend to recruit very early. In fact, if you are looking for a summer internship, you really need to be well prepared to interview for the summer internship by January in your first year, and that is very difficult. So we started the curriculum reform around the idea of how can we get people up to speed that quickly.
The first big move is allowing people to customize their core classes. So basically we allow people to take either marketing or finance in the first quarter, depending on their interests. They take the other classes in a mixed group because we didn’t want to break the classic MBA experience of interacting with a lot of different people from different backgrounds. So for everything except marketing and finance, it’s a classic MBA program. But for those two particular classes, you get to pick which one you do first, and the idea is to help you accelerate your preparation for your internship.
The next big change was to introduce a really wide range of tracks and certificates. I’ll start with tracks. The idea behind tracks is basically to allow you to signal to the market who you are and what you intend to do. There are four tracks. The first is the marketing track, the second is the finance track, and the third is the consulting track. And you can see that those are very much aligned along the three main areas that MBA students go into. The fourth one is broader, and we call it the custom track. Basically what you do there is that you do two certificates. And that allows people to do interesting things like entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, entertainment, or something like that to customize the program to their needs.
Let’s talk next about certificates. Certificates are shorter than tracks. Tracks require five classes; certificates require four classes. I really encourage people to go to our website to look into this if they are interested in this. Certificates are across a wide array, such as finance. It splits into areas like investment management and corporate finance, so you can get more specific about your interest. Within marketing, we have entertainment management, which is sort of focused on marketing. We also have a brand management certificate. And then in other areas, there are wide arrays. Real estate is another example, and so on and so forth. So these allow people to prepare for very specific career interests. So those are the two big changes: tracks and certificates, and the introduction of the idea of customizing your core in the first couple of quarters.
Linda Abraham: And if I recall correctly, if there are elements of the required courses which are not central to your particular focus, you can actually take them in the second year. Is that correct?
Dr. Andrew Ainslie: Yes, absolutely. There is still a lot of flexibility within the rest of the program. But tracks only take up five classes during the entire MBA experience and you are required to take 19 different classes across your MBA experience, so there is plenty of latitude for other interests.
Linda Abraham: What’s new on the admissions end at UCLA?
Craig Hubbell: One thing that I can say is that we are actually going to go to a paperless evaluation system this year. And we figured that this will help to expedite the evaluation of applications as they come in.
Linda Abraham: So no more trips to Starbucks with stacks of essays to read?!
Craig Hubbell: We may still go to Starbucks, but now it will be with iPad in hand to evaluate the PDF of all the applications! So we are actually refining even our evaluation metrics and procedures so that we can determine, hopefully with even great insight, which are the best candidates for our program, and we’ll be able to start the interview process and everything even faster. So we are hoping to be able to be even more responsive to our prospective students’ interests too.
Jessica Chung: We also made some changes to our requirements for international applicants. Craig is our international guru here, but I can give a quick recap of what is going on. We are allowing any applicants that were educated abroad in countries outside the US to apply without a TOEFL, given that their medium of instruction was completely in English. Details about that are on our website. And we are also going to be more open to considering more three-year degrees during the admissions process, particularly perhaps those from countries like Europe where many of the degrees are three-year bachelor’s degrees, as well as in India. We can look at this on a case by case basis and depending on how strong the overall application is – it can still be considered a pretty strong candidate.
Linda Abraham: Angie asks, "How does UCLA evaluate Consortium candidates? I was once told that UCLA has a huge amount of Consortium candidates and does not always accept them readily. How does UCLA award this fellowship?"
Jessica Chung: Vicky would actually know more specifics about the whole Consortium application process, but she is not on the chat today. The thing that I can say is that we get our Consortium applications. There is a school specific essay for UCLA Anderson where you can talk about why you are interested specifically in our program. And we evaluate Consortium applicants pretty much within our overall applicant pool. When it comes to actual Consortium fellowships, I don’t know. Craig, do you?
Craig Hubbell: In general, we evaluate Consortium applications just like any other. What is nice about the Consortium application is that those particular applicants can submit a standard application to a variety of schools, and it provides enough information for us to do our standard evaluation here. So it is presented in a little bit of a different format, but we are still looking for leadership potential and academic potential. And I wouldn’t say that Consortium applications benefit from any kind of special treatment or anything; we just merge them into our flow of regular applications, while still respecting that the Consortium has a little bit accelerated deadlines. So we work to expedite our review and get our invitations out so that the Consortium can do its process too. And I know that part of their consideration and who wins Consortium fellowships are those who fulfill their mission the best in terms of contributing to a community. That of course is something that we have taken into account in general for every application. But we use the Consortium guidelines to pay special attention for those applicants too.
Dr. Andrew Ainslie: We got involved in the Consortium for our first time ever last year, and perhaps we still had a little bit of learning to do last year. If there was any impression that we don’t accept candidates readily, I feel that is very unfortunate and I’m sorry that that was the impression that was left. Because believe me, we view the Consortium as a very critical part of our strategy, a very important part of our strategy, and we are very excited to look at the candidates in this coming year. I would really hate for anybody to think that we don’t take the Consortium seriously; we take it extremely seriously.
Linda Abraham: Tara asks, "How much do you encourage applicants with a family business background in real estate consultancy looking to switch careers from IT into marketing? And how strong would the new curriculum be in this situation?"
Jessica Chung: We definitely encourage applicants with a wide variety of experiences to apply. So there is no standard or stereotypical MBA applicant for our program, or probably for many other programs. I think it depends on how you frame your application and your reasons for getting an MBA and your post-MBA career goals. A lot of times applicants or students who have a family business background might have a wide variety of responsibilities, they may wear a lot of different hats, and they might have a very unique perspective or point of view to bring into the classroom, which would be great for their peers.
Regarding switching from IT to marketing, I would say that half of our students are career switchers. So getting an MBA is a really great way to transition from doing one career into another. It would really depend on how she positions herself. Why does she want the switch? How does she think she is going to be able to do this, and how is an MBA going to help her do this successfully? And if she can also point out to the various resources that we have at UCLA Anderson that will help make her successful – such as perhaps the revamped curriculum as well as other resources we have here – that would make her an even stronger candidate. And if she presents these compelling reasons, that can also really help make her case in the application process.
Linda Abraham: The second part of the question was that she wants to move from IT to marketing, and she asks how strong the new curriculum would be in this situation.
Dr. Andrew Ainslie: Let me speak firstly to the background in real estate. That is actually a fantastic background, I feel. And I’m sure having spent your life or a lot of your time around your family in real estate, you will have realized that there is a ton of finance related components to real estate but there is also a ton of marketing – understanding what the best use for a property is, understanding who the customer base might be. So that is something to think about and emphasize because I feel you already do have some experience background in marketing.
In terms of the curriculum, I think the curriculum is exactly designed for somebody like you. You will start in that first quarter doing a marketing class, and then in your second quarter, you already would be doing a marketing elective which just makes you feel and sound much more prepared in the marketplace when you are doing interviews for marketing internships.
Linda Abraham: I’m an Anderson alum, and from my work I really see applicants applying – good applicants, bad applicants, successful, unsuccessful – the last fifteen years. And I can tell you that I think applicants must have clear professional goals. They can change, they can evolve, but they have to have them when they start. And I think this kind of curriculum approach that you are taking is really fantastic because it serves the purpose of the MBA, which so often is to advance one’s professional career. And I think that Tara is a perfect example in her situation of how the curriculum would do that. I can also say, having grown up in a home where there was a family business, you learn an enormous amount about business just by growing up in such a home.
Osama is from Egypt. He just graduated and he is asking, "What are the chances for me to get a full MBA scholarship as an international applicant?"
Craig Hubbell: We give merit fellowships to the top third of each incoming class, strictly based on the relative strength of the application. So there is no additional paperwork or application required. And all applicants, international or domestic, are mixed in together for merit consideration. It is possible for a fresh graduate, or what we call an early career graduate, to show a lot of potential and therefore be somebody that we would really welcome into the class for the benefit of everybody. And obviously, the most skilled people are the ones being rewarded with the biggest merit fellowships. So our largest ones would cover the cost of tuition, and we offer what we can to the different levels until we’ve covered about at least a third of the incoming class with some kind of award.
Dr. Andrew Ainslie: We do not differentiate at all between international and domestic candidates when it comes to merit-based scholarships. So no matter where you come from in the world, it’s really about the quality of the applicant and what you are able to offer to Anderson. And if we feel that you are able to offer a lot to us at Anderson, we will go as far as to give you a complete scholarship.
Linda Abraham: Julie asks, "Can you do more than one track? For example, can you do the marketing track and do the custom track by taking several custom classes?"
Dr. Andrew Ainslie: Right now we would discourage that just because boy, it would be difficult. The thing about the tracks is that you have to take certain classes in your second quarter, so it would really be difficult to do both. But there is nothing stopping you from taking the marketing track and two certificates. And two certificates is of course a requirement for the custom track, and that would leave you very thoroughly prepared. It would be tough though. It would mean thirteen of your classes would be specific to the tracks. You would actually have to take more than the standard number of classes, which you are allowed to do –you don’t have to pay extra to do that – but boy, you would be taking on an unbelievable workload to be able to achieve that.
Linda Abraham: Ketan asks, "Why is there no dedicated track for high tech? With Anderson’s strong connections with California’s tech industry, one would have expected that. Do high tech management pursuers need to take the custom track?"
Dr. Andrew Ainslie: It is not a track, but it is a certificate and it is our oldest certificate. The Easton Technology certificate is designed exactly for people moving into that area. So why a certificate and not a track? Basically because we feel that even if you do go into high tech, you are going to go into high tech in one of those areas, either marketing, finance, or consulting. Marketing, finance, and consulting provide the core of pretty much every MBA’s career, especially in their early years. But they need to specialize in something, so you would take a track in one of the three areas and a certificate in high tech. And I think that is going to be a very popular option, and I can see a lot of people going down that route.
Linda Abraham: Can you go over again the difference between a certificate and a track?
Dr. Andrew Ainslie: The idea behind the track is really to set apart for your entire two years around one of those three main areas – marketing, consulting, or finance. If you don’t want to fit into one of those three areas, there is a custom track where you will do two certificates. The idea behind the certificate is a little bit different. It is briefer and they tend to be more specialized. And by the way, there is no reason why you can’t do one track and a certificate. A very popular combination might be to do the marketing track and the entertainment certificate, and somebody at Walt Disney would love to have somebody like that. So that would prepare you for a company like that.
Linda Abraham: "Are grades from your undergrad university as pivotal if you have been in the workforce longer than five years?"
Jessica Chung: So the question is how much do we scrutinize undergrad transcripts if you’ve been working for a long time?
Linda Abraham: That’s a good translation!
Jessica Chung: It is a holistic review process, so it really just depends on the overall strength of the application. Perhaps the further removed you are from your undergrad studies, we would maybe look a little bit more heavily on your GMAT just because it is a more recent indicator of your verbal, quantitative, and writing abilities on the standardized test. But of course, we still look pretty closely at your undergrad transcripts. We don’t just look at your overall GPA, but also the last two years of your time in university. We also look at trends. We want to see that you’ve been improving your grades over the 4-5 years that you’ve been in school. We also look at the rigor of your academics. We look at the major, the classes you’ve taken, and your quantitative classes; so a lot of other things go into it when we look at your undergrad transcripts.
But overall it is a holistic application review. And unfortunately, if you have a weaker transcript, no matter how far along you are in your career, that is still going to be a data point on your application. But of course if there are other things in your application like really great work experience, a really compelling "Why MBA? Why Anderson?" case, strong letters of rec, strong GMAT, etc. Those are always data points that could help to overcome a weaker undergrad GPA.
Linda Abraham: I want to hear from the applicants. How many of you are concerned about a low undergraduate GPA? 78% have voted. 64% are not concerned and 41% are concerned about their undergraduate performance. How it came to over 100%, I have no idea, but that’s what I’m reading! I guess for those who are concerned, you have a lot of company, and for those who aren’t concerned, good for you!
Jessica Chung: I would say to look at not only your average GPA, but you should look also at the range. And if you look at the range of our program specifically, the 80% range is anywhere from a 3.2-3.9. And that really could mean that we don’t just look at your GPA as the main factor when we look at an application. There are so many other aspects of an applicant that we look at, and we want to look at someone who is well-rounded. So if you have a lower GPA, given that you have strengths in other areas that you can showcase to us in the admissions process, then it can absolutely overcome something that is maybe a weaker overall Grade Point Average or transcripts.
Linda Abraham: Daniel asks, "How do UCLA admissions look at applicants who have worked in a family business? Are there specific concerns that an applicant can address to avoid any possible stereotype?"
Craig Hubbell: I think we certainly look favorably at those who have the broad range of experience that most people get in a family business. And with one of the strengths of our school being entrepreneurship, we are particularly impressed by those who have already made a difference by building up a venture along with their family members. Some people want to go back to that venture after the MBA; some people want to strike out on their own. And obviously, our flexible program lets people customize the curriculum according to what they are interested in doing afterwards. In general, any applicant, but in this case someone who has been in a family business, you want to show how you’ve started to reach that managerial potential. So whether it’s structuring operations or developing new products or training other people – anything that has started to show that you can set a vision and a plan and buy into it and produce measurable results. Those are the kinds of things we are looking for in the applications. And in some ways, people who work in a family business have more opportunities to have that kind of impact, so it can make for a really compelling kind of application.
Linda Abraham: Melis asks," How does UCLA differentiate itself from other MBA programs in terms of the career services? What are the chances of an international student getting an internship in leading companies in the US?"
Jessica Chung: We have a wide variety of services through the Parker Career Management Center. And the one that I would like to talk about specifically is one that a lot of applicants are interested in and it’s called the Anderson Career Team or the ACT program. And this is a really great opportunity for first and second-year students to get together. First-year students are broken up into teams based on specific areas of interest or sector. So we have an ACT team in brand management, entertainment, investment management, corporate finance, etc. And these are all led by various second-year students who are chosen by the Parker CMC, who have successfully landed and finished a summer internship, and most likely have job offers in hand or are on the way to finding one pretty shortly.
And they really help to mentor and coach first-year students for the summer internship recruiting process; to really best prepare them to understand what recruiters are looking for, to prepare them for the types of questions that will be asked, to get them to stand out during the recruiting process. I would say that virtually everybody who has gone through the ACT program would highly recommend it to any other student, especially students that are career switchers, but even for career enhancers that are pursuing a summer internship. And it’s been so popular that we’ve expanded it for second-year students with a program called ACT 2 for those students in the second year that perhaps might be looking for full-time jobs.
And also, it’s one thing that a lot of other schools have looked to as a model in their career services offices. From my understanding, it’s very popular and it’s something that has not quite been able to have been replicated in terms of its success at other schools. And I think a lot of that has to do with the culture of the program as well as just the strength of the career services that we have here.
Linda Abraham: Sara asks, "What advice do you have for recent college graduates without a lot of work experience to stand out in the application process?"
Craig Hubbell: Recent college graduates can certainly demonstrate their leadership potential, in particular to extracurricular activities. We always like to see those who have committed to an organization and have risen up to leadership roles. In addition, we obviously look at internships if a person doesn’t have post-graduate experience to offer. So that is another area where somebody who is in college now can be thinking about boosting their profile by getting those great internships that start to show managerial potential, or at the very least would give them experience in their target industry. Just in general, we are looking at all applicants for academic potential as well as managerial potential.
So if a person is pretty early on in their career and hasn’t had much of a chance to take on job responsibilities yet, then hopefully it would be more the academic side that would be their strongest suit in the application. And since we have a lot of flexibility in admissions to consider about the whole package the person is presenting, naturally you would want to boost up whatever areas you can influence and where you do have time to make a difference. So that might mean taking the GMAT a few times to really get the best score to make sure the academic side of the application is the strongest possible. That is a good way to make up for what somebody is not quite able to offer yet in terms of what they can contribute to the classroom.
Linda Abraham: Peter asks, "I had a question about the UCLA Anderson Forecast. I understand that it is a center for economic analysis. To what extent can students utilize this resource and interact with the center? For example, is the staff readily available to answer questions and provide insights about the market? I want to consider a career in global investment management, so a center dedicated to economic studies can be a tremendous asset."
Dr. Andrew Ainslie: I want to start by mentioning that we have quite a large group on our faculty. It’s an area called the Global Economics and Management (GEM). That is a group of seven or eight faculty members who specialize in global economics. Professor Leamer who runs the Forecast Center is of course one of our faculty members, so his classes are available. But there are many others. One is Romain Wacziar, one of our more popular faculty members, who runs classes on international economics and international business. And in fact, we have an international requirement which is an important part of our MBA process.
In terms of the Forecast Center itself, the staff for the Forecast are also available. In fact, another of our faculty members, Jerry Nickelsburg, an accomplice with that group, also runs classes at Anderson. So there are many ways that the students can interact with the faculty and the center itself.
Linda Abraham: Mathilde asks, "This question is about the optional question in the application. Does the admissions committee expect applicants that have not had any quantitative classes since high school, and/or got a median quantitative GMAT score, to use this essay to explain to the admissions committee how he/she will prepare for the quantitative demands of the MBA? Or is this essay really reserved for students to explain gaps in the resume, etc.?" So let’s touch for a minute briefly on what is the purpose of the optional essay, and then if you could apply it to Mathilde’s situation.
Jessica Chung: The optional essay is really there to explain any sort of extenuating circumstance or something unusual on your application that would make the admissions committee look twice – like gaps in employment, maybe there was a semester or quarter during your undergrad studies where your grades were really low but not indicative of the rest of your academic performance during college. It’s for something that is an aberration in your application that it would be helpful for us to have some background information on. It really won’t help your application if you submit an optional essay that just explains that I don’t really do well on standardized tests or my liberal arts major did not require any quantitative courses because that’s all stuff that we can see on the application itself. It’s not really going to add that much more value to your file. Specifically to the applicant’s situation, I guess she did not take any quantitative courses in college.
Linda Abraham: And apparently would be in that quant score which she describes as median, but she is taking some steps to prepare for the quantitative demands of the MBA. Would you want to know what she is doing to prepare?
Jessica Chung: It can be helpful for us to know if she is taking classes at this time, but it’s really not going to be able to give us an understanding of her additional academic abilities unless we see official transcripts with the grades reflected in them. Because we won’t know how well she fared or did in these courses when evaluating her academics specifically. So it would actually be more beneficial if she wants to increase the strength of her application to take a quantitative course before she submits her application, and submit a scan copy of the transcript to the online application just so we have that information with this as we evaluate her file.
Linda Abraham: Jamie asks, "How would students who concentrate in entrepreneurship do an internship? Also how does UCLA help students start a business for any kind of incubator?"
Dr. Andrew Ainslie: One of the certificates, I should have mentioned, is in entrepreneurship. And in fact, in many ways the main aim of the custom track was for entrepreneurs. We’ve had a reputation for entrepreneurship for a long time. And there are a couple of ways in which you can do that. In terms of preparation for entrepreneurship, the first is to do the track itself. But the next really important thing is pretty much anytime anybody really wants to go into their own business, they need to have an idea of what business they want to go into, and that is where the other certificates are very important. So for example, do you want to be an entrepreneur in high tech? Then you would also take the high tech certificate. Do you want to be in real estate? Then you would also take the real estate certificate. We also have what we call light versions of the track, so you could also take one in marketing or in finance, and so on and so forth. So you would take the entrepreneur track, and then secondly, a certificate in a vertical business area that you want to start running your business in.
The second part of that question is asking about what opportunities we offer. Probably the most interesting thing is the Knapp Venture competition. Betsy and "Bud" Knapp are two of our strongest supporters. And this competition has some prize winning associated with it, but it also puts people in touch with some great venture capitalists, and many businesses have come out of that. We also have the Price Center, and the purpose of the Price Center is to help people start these businesses. We also have something called the Business Development option. One of the things you have to do to fulfill your requirements here is a two-quarter process of doing a project that’s in the real world to demonstrate that you’ve learned how to apply your MBA skills to the real world. And one way to fulfill those requirements is to develop a business plan for a particular business. So there are tons of ways in which we can help entrepreneurs at Anderson.
Linda Abraham: Jane asks, "In the new curriculum, how much emphasis is placed on understanding the global economy, specifically China and India. That being said, are MBA students able to take language classes?"
Dr. Andrew Ainslie: First of all, you can definitely take language classes, although we discourage people from taking language classes in languages that they are already familiar because that is clearly just an easy way to get an easy grade. There are some limitations on that. You can’t sit there and do seven or eight language classes; clearly there are limitations. But we do encourage people to go out and do one language class as part of their MBA.
One of the things we introduced last year is immersive electives, where you go to a country for a week of very intense learning. A faculty member goes with you. There are business to businesses, business to governments and other entities in these other countries, and we run these all over the world. And China is clearly in this scenario for us. And our intention is to go to countries that are a little unusual. We don’t want these immersions to be occurring in places like the UK or France, but really where there are emerging business opportunities. And then in terms of classes as well. We have a lot of classes run by faculty in the GEM group. There are a few who specialize in global opportunities and global economics.
Linda Abraham: "How much emphasis does Anderson place on volunteering and community leadership positions? I feel that I’ve done a great deal of extracurricular work within the confines of my company, so I’d like to know if that is an acceptable replacement for lack of community involvement outside the company? And is community involvement highly regarded by admissions officers?"
Jessica Chung: Yes, absolutely. We love to see applicants that are very involved in extracurricular activities, both during school and post-college while they are working. It’s one of the things we look for in terms of fit. Anderson students are very active inside and outside the classroom, and we want to continue to bring in students that are going to be very engaged within their community, with their peers, and will be involved with all the various clubs we have on campus and also within the greater Los Angeles community on the whole as well. So in any way you can indicate that you are going to be very involved and committed here while you are an MBA student, that will help your application. We get it in a variety of ways. Anything that you list in terms of your undergraduate extracurricular activities, and especially with leadership positions that you may have held, that will be very helpful for us to know. Also with post-graduate activities, any kind of community service or volunteer work, and again with an emphasis on anything where you’ve had some leadership opportunities as well, would be great.
And we understand that with certain jobs, it might be a little bit harder to have the time to be able to get involved in other activities. For some jobs you might be working a 100-hour week, so you really might not have as much time to be able to participate in those kinds of things. But as much you can outside of your job is good, and it could even be something through your company. It might just be helping with recruiting activities or mentoring incoming analysts or something else where you are not just doing your day-to-day rules or responsibilities. Those are all things that we see in terms of being proactive, taking initiative, and finding opportunities to get involved and to develop your leadership skills. Those are really helpful and key too, and something that you should definitely list on your application and discuss during your application process.
Linda Abraham: Adam asks, "Can you please speak to how re-applicants are viewed. Have re-applicants been admitted the year after they were rejected, and what drove the change of decision from a "deny" to an "accept"?"
Craig Hubbell: We definitely do like re-applicants because we figure that they really are interested in our school, and we always appreciate people who boost their profile from one year to the next so that they improve their own admission chance. And in fact, a pretty good proportion of the re-applicants do get admitted the second time around if they have taken some proactive steps to boost their application, whether it’s retaking the GMAT, or hopefully taking on more job responsibilities at work, doing a better job on the essays to lay out their post-MBA plan, or figuring out how Anderson in particular is a great choice for their MBA. And they lay that out in the re-applicant essay – about why they are even more excited about Anderson as they have done some more research on the school.
These kinds of things are obviously something that we look for in every application, and we just merge re-applicants with the consideration of everybody else, so they are not held to any kind of different or higher or tougher standard at all. And in fact, we like to see progress. So if people can make their profile stronger just within the 6-8 months between applications, that shows somebody who has a lot of initiative, and is by definition somebody who is trying to get on the right track. And that is the kind of person that we love to help by admitting.
Linda Abraham: "Does what round you submit have any significant impact on your chances of acceptance to the program?"
Jessica Chung: My advice always when people have a question about what round to submit their application is to think about when your application will be strongest and go for that round. It won’t necessarily help your candidacy to submit by round 1 because you heard on the street that it’s easier to get in on round 1 if you have very weak application and you didn’t spend much time to prepare for the GMAT or put together your essays, things like that. I think it’s better to think back and strategize and think about how much time you need to prepare a very strong application. So whether that means giving your recommenders enough time to write a very solid, detailed recommendation for you, doing your research on the program and putting together a very compelling case for why you would like to be a part of Anderson specifically – just getting together all your application materials. If that means that you are going to have a strong application that would need to be submitted by round 2 or even round 3, that might be a better strategy for you than rushing and submitting something that is not as strong quality in an earlier round.
I would say in terms of the application timing itself, you have up until the round deadline date to submit all of your materials. And we would like all of your application materials, as listed on our website, to be submitted by that day. I wouldn’t say to wait until the last minute before the round deadline to submit just because a lot of other people might be doing that and there might be some technical issues that come up. But I would say that you don’t have to submit for round 2 on November 1st because you think that will give you a better chance than submitting later in January. So take advantage of the time you have between the round deadlines to really put together a very solid application.
Linda Abraham: "I’ve been working in Ernst & Young for three years. During this period, I have focused on corporate finance and investment banking. I aim to continue my career in finance. How are finance courses in the program designed? Which areas of finance are covered in these courses?" I guess the subtext of the question would be, given his background, where does he go in terms of the program if he wants to stay focused on finance?
Dr. Andrew Ainslie: Finance is not my area, so it is a little bit difficult for me to answer. I will point out that we are regularly ranked as one of the top 10, and frequently we are in the top 5 in terms of intellectual capital in our finance group. So the offerings are very broad. We have world leaders like Tony Bernardo, Richard Roll, just to mention two at the top of my head. We have world leaders in that area and quite a wide range. What I would suggest if you really do have particular questions is that you contact people in student services ahead of time, and they can really let you know a list of classes and a list of exactly what is in the classes. If you contact Jessica Luchenta who is in student services and who helps people with curriculum questions, she could give more details of exactly what finance classes are available. It’s a pretty wide range though.
Linda Abraham: Aydin asks, "As far as evaluating academic performance, does performance in a graduate program carry nearly as much weight as the undergraduate performance?"
Craig Hubbell: I wouldn’t necessarily give a weighting because obviously there is such a big variation between different graduate programs and undergraduate programs too. So if somebody did a really rigorous master’s and did really well, then yes of course, that speaks to the strength of their academic profile. On the other hand, somebody who just did a one-year master’s and then left that field completely, we would evaluate that within context too. So it wouldn’t necessarily weight as much as their whole four years of undergrad. It really is something that we look closely at in terms of our overall academic evaluation, in terms of the rigor of the school and the rigor of the coursework, and the trend of the grade – whether they went up over time – and how this all compares to the performance on the GMAT. It’s all in the mix there of what we do on the academic evaluation side, and there isn’t any set formula that we use either within the academic part or between the academic and managerial potential evaluation. It really is something where we try to understand the context and see how well that person performed in the time and given the challenges that they had.
Linda Abraham: We have a couple of questions here regarding test scores, and I’m going to raise both of them. One is, "How does UCLA resolve the GMAT versus GRE conundrum? How will a re-ap who reported a low GMAT score last year, but now may report a higher GRE score, how is that person evaluated?" Question #2 is, "How do admissions officers look at multiple GMAT test scores? Is it okay to take it three times? Is there a maximum number of times that an applicant should take it?"
Jessica Chung: At this time we are not accepting the GRE as part of the application. We only do accept the GMAT. That might be something that could change in the future, but at least immediately for next year’s applications, we don’t. So if you haven’t taken the GMAT or the GRE yet, I would suggest going for the GMAT just because you know that at least every school will accept the GMAT.
Then regarding the second part of the question with respect to the number of times you can take the test, for us specifically, we look at the highest score for admissions purposes. So if you take it more than once, and a lot of our candidates do take the test twice or sometimes three times or even more, that is something that we are okay with. But keep in mind that we can see a history of all the times you’ve taken the test. So if you’ve taken the test 5/10/20 or more times, which people have done in the past, we will see the score report with a list of several dozen scores or whatever. So that is a data point in itself, and it actually might not necessarily put your application in the best light. And we also see that when candidates take tests multiple times, especially more than three times, their score doesn’t tend to improve that much more. So in terms of the time, energy, and money that you are expending in taking this test, it might not be a very good investment of the time. It could be a better investment focusing on strengthening other areas of your application. But that being said, yes, you can take the GMAT more than once and we take the highest score; we don’t average the scores when we see your official score reports.
Linda Abraham: Claire asks, "Is it atypical for applicants to express an interest in moving from investment banking to media entertainment? Does the revamped curriculum more easily allow for this?" Maybe you can give an example of how it would allow for it?
Dr. Andrew Ainslie: Is it atypical? I’ll just be honest here and say that yes, it is a little. That is a bit of an unusual career change. But I think what is not atypical is for people with a quantitative area to be interested in entertainment. The world of entertainment has changed hugely in the last few years and more and more people with stronger financial or stronger modeling backgrounds are really valued in entertainment. So although it’s a little bit of an unusual choice of career to change to, I think it is a very doable one. In terms of the curriculum, I’m not quite sure what area of entertainment she wants to go into, but first is to just decide which of those tracks would be the most useful. And then second is to think about classes associated with this.
We happen to have a fantastic class at the moment on models in entertainment, basically trying to think of structured ways of approaching the entertainment business. It is run jointly by our faculty member Xavier Dreze with a real industry titan, Harry Sloan. You might want to actually Google him and find out a little about him, but Harry Sloan is a very impressive man. And that is a surprisingly quantitative class, trying to teach people how to think about the entertainment business. And we speak of entertainment broadly – sports, movies, of course the move towards streamed content, and gaming. All of those get covered in that class. I think we can offer a lot of interesting classes and interesting paths in that direction. The most compelling case is going to be for someone to stay fairly close to their background. So if what you are really interested in is the area of financing and structured financing in entertainment, then you have a fantastic background which could be very useful. If you are more interested in going into the marketing side, that is going to be a little more work. But again, the whole purpose of this curriculum is to help you get to that change in career as fast as possible.
Linda Abraham: Ronald asks, "If you could boil it down to two or three points, what key attributes do you see from applicants?" And I’m wondering if each of you – Jessica, Craig, and Dean Ainslie – if you could just boil it down very succinctly to what are the two or three qualities you would like to see in UCLA Anderson students.
Dr. Andrew Ainslie: I think we’ve been seeing a lot of repetition of the question sort of along the line of – If I’m missing this or that, is that a problem? I think the bigger thing for applicants to realize is that what we are looking for are signs of something exceptional. It’s not as though we are hunting for the negatives; we are really hunting for the positives. So I’d hate to categorize it and say that we are looking for this or we’re looking for that. If we have some sign of exceptional leadership, some sign of exceptional intelligence, some sign of exceptional business experience, just some sign that you shine in the pack – that is what we are looking for. And we really don’t want candidates to think we are pigeonholing them into just being capable in certain areas. So just show us a sign that you excel. That is probably the single, most important thing.
Jessica Chung: I would just echo what Dr. Ainslie just said. And we’re looking for someone who would just bring a unique perspective into the classroom that their peers or classmates can also learn from. And that is someone who is well-rounded. Those are things that really stand out when I look through an application.
Craig Hubbell: I would just say in general that we certainly appreciate applicants that understand the power of the MBA to transform them professionally and personally. So the people who have done the homework on themselves and on the opportunity and can make a compelling case in their application, those are the ones we get the most excited about. And just in general, we like to make sure that the people we admit fit with our culture and understand our culture here which is definitely one that is challenging and yet supportive. So it’s friendly, it’s collaborative, and yet it keeps you on your toes. So people who are ready to take advantage of our dynamic location and do the kind of practical projects that are part of our learning, and are ready to contribute to the learning of others as well as being open to learning from people of all sorts of backgrounds, that is the kind of well-rounded, ambitious, ethical, and creative person that we like.
Linda Abraham: Thank you again all for participating today. Special thanks to Dr. Ainslie, Jessica Chung and Craig Hubbell, for joining us today. If you have additional questions for the UCLA Anderson admissions team, please email them to
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Once again, thank you all again. Good luck with your applications!