2013 UCLA Anderson MBA Admissions Q&A with Adrian Aguirre and Lindsay Haselton
2013 UCLA Anderson MBA Admissions Q&A with Adrian Aguirre and Lindsay Haselton
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Linda Abraham: Hello, my name is Linda Abraham. I'm the Founder of Accepted.com, and the moderator of today's chat. First of all, I want to welcome all applicants to the chat today, and I want to congratulate you for taking the time to learn more about UCLA Anderson School of Management. It is critical to your decision making process and your admissions chances that you know as much as you possibly can about the schools you are applying to and about the schools that you are considering applying to.
Being here today allows you to ask the experts about UCLA Anderson. Now, I also want to give a special welcome to our panelists, Adrian Aguirre. Adrian is the Associate Director in the Office of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid at UCLA Anderson.
A graduate of UCLA Anderson's FEMBA program, Class of 2001, he is happy to be back once again in his alma mater. Originally from Peru, Adrian has lived in the U.S. since 1987, completing both his undergraduate and graduate education at UCLA. He has extensive corporate experience in direct response marketing, U.S., Hispanic marketing, and training and development. Most recently, he headed a consulting practice focused on workplace training and development for California manufacturing companies.
Lindsay Haselton is the Associate Director of MBA Admissions and joined UCLA Anderson in August of 2010. Her specialty at UCLA Anderson is women's outreach, and her passion is traveling to as many global and domestic destinations as possible to meet prospective applicants. You must have a very well-marked passport, Lindsay.
Lindsay Haselton: I do, but it always has more room for more countries.
Linda Abraham: Okay. In addition, she oversees the design and production of the MBA program printed marketing pieces. Prior to joining UCLA Anderson, Lindsay worked with MBA Admissions and Career Services at the University of British Columbia, Canada for four years. Originally from the U.K. and Canada, she received her Bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of Victoria, Canada and her Master's degree in Political Science from UBC.
I want to thank everyone for joining we have a nice international crowd here today. Welcome to all from all four corners of the world. It may not be quite as colorful as Lindsay's passport, but we do have some variety, or Adrian's passport. Adrian, I'm sure you do your share of traveling too.
Adrian Aguirre: Absolutely.
Linda Abraham: This is your chance to ask questions about UCLA Anderson, but I'm going to take advantage of my position as moderator and ask the first question. And I'm going to precede that with a congratulations. The first question is, "What's new at Anderson?" And the congratulations is for the brand new Nobel Peace Prizer that has joined or is now at UCLA in the Economics Department, right?
Adrian Aguirre: You know you are ahead of me on the news there. I haven't …
Linda Abraham: Oh really? Yeah, the news this morning was – I forget his first name, maybe somebody on the call remembers – it was a certain Dr. Shapley from the Economics Department at UCLA won the Nobel Prize for Economics with Alan Roth from Harvard, who I think has gone to Stanford.
Adrian Aguirre: Wow. That's excellent news. Great to hear.
Linda Abraham: Yes. Congratulations. And then, we can go back to my question, "What's new at UCLA Anderson?"
Adrian Aguirre: All right. I will start, and I'm sure Lindsay will help me and follow up. Thank you very much for having us here and welcome, everybody to the webinar.
There have been a number of things, and I'm going to try to keep this rather brief. But if you follow the news related to MBA schools over the last few weeks, maybe three weeks or so, there was a lot of coverage about UCLA Anderson, and most of the press was talking about an increase of 20-plus percent in the number of applications that we've received. That is a very nice sign, I think, of the public's awareness that a lot of stuff is being updated and retooled and improved in the program.
One of the big differences in the last couple of years has been the customization of our MBA curriculum to allow for tracks to be defined on the first year, so people can express an interest in a functional area, such as finance, marketing or consulting, and for the addition of specializations to follow in the second year as people begin to choose electives.
This is not necessarily very different from what we had before in terms of the number of electives and the variety of ways that people could specialize. But the structure that we've added to the program is allowing our students to have much more clarity in the path that they want to follow to pursue their career aspirations, and at the same time, allowing them to signal potential employers with a great deal of clarity how much work they've done to become experts in the areas of their choices.
That's one of the areas that we have been putting a lot of energy in. We have been working very hard also to restructure our career center to help our students achieve the outcomes that they're looking for, and also added a number of communication courses to the incoming MBA students to allow them also to be much more marketable when they're interviewing for internships, almost within the first few months of starting the program.
So I guess you could say that the emphasis has been applied to helping people prepare to achieve the goals and the reasons why they came to pursue that MBA.
Linda Abraham: Great, so I'm going to ask the applicants to post their questions. And I'm going to pose the first question from Tyler, "On the section of the application that asks for previous employment information, are you interested in seeing a full breakdown of employment during our undergraduate summers, or are you just concerned with salary and job responsibility information post-college?"
Lindsay Haselton: Very good question. We definitely do put more emphasis on the experience that you've had since you've graduated from university. But what you can do is on your resume outline additional experience that you've had before you graduated from university. So perhaps on the application you might want to put salary information that you've had since you graduated, but then, if you'd like us to see the experience that you had during your degree, you could put that in your resume.
Linda Abraham: Okay. Sounds good. And Alison asks, "What type of leadership opportunities within one's track, such as focusing on such as finance, marketing, consulting, does the curriculum offer?
Adrian Aguirre: The entire MBA, the entire two-year program, I think, is an opportunity for folks to push beyond their comfort boundaries and try to take a leadership role. So one of the immediate options or opportunities that students have is we have over 47 student clubs, and our students are encouraged to be members of multiple clubs, but not just members, also leaders within those clubs.
So for somebody, let's say, interested in finances, it's normal and expected that they would seek out roles within the Finance Student Association, for example, or the Financing Investment Club where they get to manage a $2 million portfolio for example. So that's one of the options that students get to exercise leadership.
Another one is during the second year, there are student trips that are organized, for example, and people go to different countries for research and different projects. That's another opportunity for that kind of activity. Of course, there are summer internships that are happening in between the first year and the second year where students get to use the connections that they've developed at the clubs and reach out to alums and transition into summer jobs.
And I guess the last option that I should mention is there's a number of case competitions that happen throughout the year where students compete with each other and with other departments on campus. So that's another opportunity for students to gain visibility, practice leadership, and really network with folks outside of the boundaries of the business school.
Linda Abraham: Okay great. Vishal asks, "I am an IT consultant working in a solution-providing company. My goal is to cross to the other side of the table to become the IT manager for an organization and aiming towards CIO position. I am really attracted by the BIP of UCLA. I want to know more about BIP. I'd like to know what the acronym stands for, and how it will help, as currently I have expertise in only one IT domain."
Lindsay Haselton: Sure, yes, I can definitely address that. So if you are switching from, I'd say, a technical role into a management role, that's pretty common. I think most of our MBA students from all different backgrounds are doing a very similar thing, so the curriculum is designed to help you make that transition.
Some of our students that do come from an IT ( information technology) background, they come to focus on general management, and then take, often in the second year of the program, a specialization in technology if they're looking to stay in that industry. So we actually do have a specialization called the Easton Technology Leadership program that you can add on, which would be a combination of electives that you would do throughout the second year of the program that would give you that industry-specific background.
But in general, I think the first year of the program you're going to be getting your leadership foundations, your strategy, your marketing, your finance skills, so all of those things will help you make that move from a technical IT role into a management IT role. Adrian, I don't know if you have anything you wanted to add.
Adrian Aguirre: Yes, I think that something that I didn't mention in my earlier answer that I think is also applicable to this question is what we call the Applied Management Research Program, or AMR. And all of our students, in order to graduate from our program, they have to complete this.
It's a six-month project typically involving something very similar to a consulting engagement for a real-life corporate client that will approach the University looking for students to work on a project. Typically, groups of four or five students will work with a company as little as a small startup, maybe in a different country that is looking to enter the U.S., or as large as Google, let's say, looking for help to work with them optimizing the marketing strategy of YouTube, for example, which was a real client last year.
So those opportunities are providing the students the opportunity to take multiple leadership roles, but at the same time, to build a case for their successful transition, or the beginning of that transition into a managerial role as now they are stepping away from the technical day-to-day, and having more of a strategic view of the problems the company may be facing, and at the same time, interacting with senior leaders within the organization. That's pretty extensive. It takes place during the second year where all of the stuff that was taught on the first year gets to be applied. That is something that about 80 percent of our students will do. For the 20 percent that don't have that interest, they tend to pursue more of an entrepreneurial project in which they will take a business plan and really execute it. And we call that the Business Creation option.
So for folks that are in the technology arena that are not necessarily looking to move into management, but maybe start their own venture, we have options as well.
Linda Abraham: Very interesting. I'm regularly asked, "I'm in a technology role. I have a business idea. I just don't think I have the business knowledge to run with it. Can you recommend to me programs?" And obviously, UCLA is definitely one of the ones that I recommend, but I hadn't realized that you had this business plan option as opposed to, or instead of what used to be field study. What I knew as field study is now the AMR.
Adrian Aguirre: Right. And what's very interesting about that program is that it's really not about writing a business plan. The assumption is that by the time you get to that level, the plan has been already developed, either by yourself or one of your teammates. It is about executing that plan and working with a faculty advisor to take it to really, the early stages of implementation of whatever business you have.
Linda Abraham: Yes. That sounds great. Okay. Let's see. Prim asks, "What is the difference between UCLA Fall MBA and Spring MBA?" I'm going to assume this is a FEMBA question, Which is better for the experienced professionals of, say, five years? Am I right?
Adrian Aguirre: I'm going to try to answer it even though I internally, I don't believe we use Fall or Spring as differentiators between the programs. So we're going to assume that this person is curious about the difference in the three different MBA programs that we offer, and hopefully, this will begin to answer that question.
So there is a full-time MBA, and that's the two-year, full-time experience. There is a part-time MBA for working professionals, called Fully Employed, and that's a three-year program, and then there is a shorter two-year Executive MBA. The main difference between those two part-time programs is that folks are expected to continue working while they are pursuing their degree, unlike the full time program. And also that their work experience coming in to the program may be a bit more senior, accounting for the fact that they've been already working for a few more years, and they have achieved in the FEMBA program mid-level management positions, and in the Executive MBA, as the name say, more of an executive-level role.
Linda Abraham: Okay, next question is from Shiva. Now, before I ask Shiva's question, I just want to ask the audience a question. How many of you are concerned about your GMAT score. Ten out of the 24 applicants here are concerned about their GMAT scores. That's 41 percent. That's a pretty high percentage and that relates to Shiva's question. "Can a GPA of 3.98 be used to offset a GMAT of 660? Please throw some light on how GMAT impacts admissions prospects." That seems to be a widespread concern.
Lindsay Haselton: Absolutely. Sure. So, no, this is definitely a concern I'd say for most of our applicants. Everyone I think comes in with a different range. So we see – well, first of all we look at your GPA and certainly I think if you are coming in with a very strong GPA, it shows to us that you have a very strong academic potential and that you can get through the really tough first year of the MBA curriculum.
Then next, we do look at the GMAT score because it does help us assess, to a large extent, your quantitative ability. So our faculty actually really lean on this indicator as a way of them feeling confident that you will be able to handle some of the rigorous finance classes, your stats classes, etc. But it really is a combination of both your GPA and the GMAT that helps us feel confident that you will be able to get through the program. So if you're coming in with a really high GPA, but your GMAT is perhaps a little on the lower side, that's definitely something that can help you if you've done well at the undergraduate level.
But I will say with the GMAT you will see published on our website, ranges. And so our range typically is anywhere from 660 up to 760 or 770, and if your GMAT falls within that range, you can feel pretty good that you have a strong chance of being considered for admission. I'd say look at the range, think about your GPA. If your GPA is perhaps on the lower end, you might want to think about bumping your GMAT in to be a little bit higher than the bottom end of the range just to balance it off. But it really is a combination of the two numbers. So you're right that a high GPA can offset a slightly lower GMAT score. And I don't know if Adrian wants to elaborate.
Adrian Aguirre: Yeah. I'm constantly asked on the road, I think a lot of people have the feeling that if they apply early, the stats are going to be lower or the bar is lower if they are early, or just by being early they get to make up some extra points that they may be lacking otherwise.
I always tell folks that it's better to have a stronger application on the second round or even the third round than to be first in line with an application that you know you could have improved on with a little bit more work. So if the time allows you to take the test again, there is absolutely no negative connotation to somebody who's taken it multiple times. We will only take the highest score, and if that means that you push your application to the second round, there is really nothing that is getting lost by waiting to the following round. And although we have been concentrating on the academics on this part of our conversation, there are other factors that are critical in our evaluation of folks in this process, having to do oftentimes with their career, past experience, with some of their accomplishments, with the quality of the recommendations, and the essays. So that score is oftentimes assisted by some of those other pieces.
But again, the only thing that is really up to the individual to control is the score. Everything else is very much said already. Nobody is going to go and redo a Bachelor's. Nobody is going to change supervisors to get somebody – well, I guess you could find a different recommender, but for the most part, the variables are relatively fixed with the one exception being the GMAT and your performance on it. So, with time, if you can do it again, and you think that you have an extra 20, 30 points in you, I would recommend retaking.
Linda Abraham: Right. I'm also asked this question a lot, and I think, I believe there is a slight advantage to applying early, but that advantage only exists, and this is the thing I think that applicants constantly forget, it only exists if you hold the quality of your application constant. If your application is going to be better in a later round, then you are far better off applying later. . . .
Adrian Aguirre: Right. . Yes, that's a fair assessment.
Linda Abraham: Okay. Back to the questions here. You guys are asking really good questions, so thank you. And actually I'm going to ask another question of you. I'd like a show of hands. How many of you are planning to apply round one?
Okay, great. We have ten, a little bit over 40 percent. And now how many of you are planning to apply round two? 11. Okay, so you're just doing your homework ahead of time. That's great. And I guess the rest will be applying either round two or round three or just thinking of it or undecided.
Okay, so back to the questions. This is a rather interesting one. Alison asks, "How many people do you recommend trying to connect with at UCLA, in terms of recent students, alumni, professors, etc., before applying?"
Lindsay Haselton: Sure. Absolutely. No, we do get asked that question a lot, and I think it is great to be able to get a feel of the culture of the school that you're entering or planning on applying to. So we do provide a number of different ways that you can do that.
I think most commonly, first of all, would be an event. So we host a lot of events on campus and off campus where we have alums and current students hosting information sessions or sitting on panels, and they're a really good chance to be able to ask questions about what it was like actually going through the student experience. So that's one way.
The other way is by reaching out to our student clubs, and I know Adrian had told you a little bit about the leadership opportunities that you will have in the program. We have 45-plus different clubs. So what applicants often do is they will go to our website. We have a list of all of the different clubs, and you can email the leaders in those clubs and ask them questions that are relevant their career interests or perhaps, just hobbies on the side. So those are the two common ways. We don't necessarily recommend our MBA applicants to reach out too heavily to professors or alumni at this stage. I think, first of all, for the professors it's perhaps not as relevant in an MBA program because you're not doing a heavy research-based program. So with a Ph.D. program that's where you may need to find a professor that you have a very similar interest in pursuing.
With the alums, you'll probably start interacting with them a little bit more after you're admitted to the program. You get matched with an alum. They are often a great resource. We try and match you based on your intended industry placement. So that's when those more in-depth conversations start happening as you start deciding which offer you're going to accept. But before you apply, I think events and emailing people is probably the best way of reaching out.
Adrian Aguirre: And if I could add just an extra thought. I want to make sure folks don't misunderstand the reason why this is important. We're not keeping track or scoring you for how many alums or students or faculty you have contacted. But it will definitely have an impact on the quality of your application, particularly in your essays for example, because the more informed you are and the more grounded your plan for the future is, the better it's going to be perceived, and we think the more you're going to be excited and enthused about the whole process. So it's not so much for our sake. It's really for you as an applicant to do part of your due diligence and to realize if this is the right school for you, what are some of the reasons that you feel that way/ And it may be things that you discover in your interactions with us and with students and alums.
Lindsay Haselton: I'll also add that we do have a very active student blog, so if you don't have the chance to come to campus or go to an event, read the blog. We have students that blog all the time about the experience they're going through right now in the core, and I think that will give you a really good feel as you start doing your research, as Adrian mentioned, towards your essays. I think you can get a really good feel for what it's actually like to be in the program.
Linda Abraham: Sounds good. Great. Okay. We have another question about AMR. Kuhnal asked, "Do the students get a chance to select the company for AMR or is it faculty/school-assigned?" Maybe you can go into the process there a little bit.
Adrian Aguirre: Sure. So we have an office that channels all the requests that we get from outside parties, and we have quite a long list of companies that are on queue waiting for students to work with them. The process is a two-way, very free market-driven process in which students are given an option to seek companies and identify projects that resonate with them and their professional aspirations, but at the same time, the companies have a say on who they want to work with because they may need people with very specific skill sets. Having said that, if a student comes with a project or a company in mind – we have that happen all the time – there is a relatively very simple process or agreement that the university signs with the company related to intellectual property and that sort of thing and a small fee that the university collects for the project; and therefore, we get them both. We get students that bring in oftentimes companies where they have worked or family businesses, or people that have a very specific interest, and they reach out for the companies that are part of our waiting list.
Linda Abraham: So it's a two-way street.
Adrian Aguirre: Yes.
Linda Abraham: Great. Vinod asks, "I'm an IT developer. In order for people with a similar profile to get into MBA Finance, do you expect the candidates to have taken finance courses during his or her work experience? Do you recommend taking these courses before applying for a major in Finance?"
Lindsay Haselton: I can certainly address that. No, we actually do not require you have any specific coursework. Our MBA students, they're coming from all different industries, all different undergraduate backgrounds, and our MBA curriculum is designed to provide you with the tools that you need to make a transition. So if you're looking to switch into a field like finance where there is a strong emphasis on quantitative skills, we probably pay a little more attention to your GMAT score as opposed to specific classes in that field.
So put your efforts into that and just make sure you're very clear in your essays that you're making this switch and the reasons why you're making that switch. That's probably more what we think about, is that you've done the research into why you're making that transition, than actually having classes in that field, because that's what the MBA will do for you.
Adrian Aguirre: I would also add that if you are making a transition into finance, we want to see that there is some evidence of having taken math or being comfortable with it. So as Lindsay pointed out, the GMAT will give us a fairly good assessment of that. But if you are the kind of person, for example, that majored in art in college and the last math class that you took was when you were in tenth grade, and you went through college without taking any single math-related course, we want to make sure that you didn't make that choice on purpose because you were afraid of math.
Having that score in the GMAT side would definitely be helpful, but if that score is not necessarily stellar, then we would want to see some coursework in college to reflect some affinity with the subject matter. And it is not uncommon to see people that go out and take a class at, say, a community college and get an A in statistics to prove a point and to say, "Yes, I was the Art major that didn't take any math, but I'm actually quite good at it now at this point in my life." And we will look at that as we look as everything that we get as data points in the evaluation process.
Linda Abraham: There are certain fields that just sound cool or they sound lucrative. Do you want to, in addition to seeing talent, do you want to see some experiential or some indication of more serious exploration of the future goal as opposed to, "It just sounds cool," or "I hate my job. I've got to do something else?"
Adrian Aguirre: I'd be happy to take that. The thing about the MBA degree, maybe unlike any other degree, is that it is the one degree that folks are expected, to some degree, to go through a major transition or transformation as they go through the experience. And probably 50 percent of the folks that come in, come in with one background, and they switch gears midway through this MBA, and then go into a different direction. So to some degree, that past relevant experience will be there for some, but will not be for a lot of others.
So to the degree that maybe some transferable skills are there, it makes us feel a little bit better. I'd say unless the cases are pretty extreme, we give folks a lot of the benefit of the doubt that their transition will be completely plausible given the resources and tools that they will have as students because there will be many of those, whether it's through the clubs, the internships, academics, the extra-curricular activities.
It's only when you have something that defies logic a little bit that we wonder, right? Let's say somebody who maybe has a very traditional quantitative background, maybe somebody who's been an accountant their entire life, and they want to go through the MBA to become a movie producer when they graduate. Then, we want to see something that maybe shows some transferrable skills to indicate that this person, who maybe has spend the last ten years behind a spreadsheet, will have the necessary people skills or social skills to make a transition into an area where that's going to be key. But for the most part, whether it's folks going from financing to marketing, or from marketing into strategy, or from consulting into finance, all of those changes are relatively done every day by our students.
Linda Abraham: Okay, great. Vamsi asks, "How flexible is UCLA Anderson when it comes to certificate programs? For example, can I pursue the consulting track and get a certificate in entertainment? This hopefully leads to an AMR opportunity with an entertainment firm like Universal."
Lindsay Haselton: Our tracks and specializations are actually designed so that you can do a track in the first year. And all the track is, really, is you're front-loading a lot of the core classes that you would have had to take anyway in an order that fits logically with the recruitment process that you're going into, but then perhaps, adding a few more electives in that first year, relevant to that track.
As you go into second year, you actually have so many electives that you get to do in the second year, that there's certainly room to do a track in the first year, so consulting is a great example, as well as an industry-specific specialization, such as entertainment, technology, or entrepreneurship. And some of our students probably will end up doing one track and then even two specializations, if that make sense. So the specializations in second year are groupings of electives that you fulfill to gain that. So really all you're doing is electives that you would have taken anyway, but you're focusing your studies a little bit more to obtain the specialization. So certainly, it's very, very flexible on how many you can do.
Linda Abraham: Sounds great. And I think Abhinav’s question, and this question I'm going to pose is a little bit of a follow-up on something, Adrian, you were talking about earlier. "UCLA is known for its history of cultivating entrepreneurs. What kind of initiatives sets it apart from other business schools when it comes to building future entrepreneurs?"
Adrian Aguirre: That's a very good question and . . .
Linda Abraham: We're getting a lot of good questions.
Adrian Aguirre: You guys have done your homework. I'm not going to speak for what other programs may have in place because there's too many universities out there with different things, but I can talk a little bit about our university and our program.
Entrepreneurship is something that not every student necessarily may have as something that they want to do, and not everybody wants to start a company the day they graduate. I think that there is a general shared belief and sense that [entrepreneurship] is the culture of the institution and most people want to have that as part of the experience, whether it is because they do want a start a company or want to be a part of a new growing organization, or somewhere in the future that's part of the plan.
And it has to do a little bit with wanting to take the ultimate leadership role and design the future that you're going to have, and wanting to achieve the highest level of responsibility within an organization, and oftentimes, that will happen as you take that role. Ironically or interestingly enough, if you ask CEOs and folks that have startups, I think they both share the same mindset, whether one is the CEO of a very large company or the other one is somebody in charge of a small startup.
Having said all that, there are a number of initiatives on campus that make a lot of this tangible. One of them is the Entrepreneur Student Association, which is the single largest student association on campus. Almost everyone is a member of the student association, and with that there is almost a constant inflow of conferences, speaker events, activities, whether they're extracurricular or professional, giving students with that interest a lot of exposure.
I'll use myself as an example. When I was here, once upon a time, as a student, I was a member of the Entrepreneur Association, and one of the activities that I participated in was a program where you have dinner at different CEOs' homes. And I went and had dinner with the CEO of a company in the technology video game field called THQ. And the level of interaction and exposure that you have with folks in their houses, eating with their wives and children is something that would be impossible to dream of under any other circumstances.
Like that, there's another program called Vestige where folks are paired up with mentors and have a yearlong relationship, where on a monthly basis there are meetings where you're first meeting with somebody who your mentor has appointed to meet with you, typically a leader of industry or a CEO. And then after that meeting, you are meeting again with your mentor, sort of debriefing and creating or finalizing or fine-tuning your action plan.
So great exposure, case competitions that allow you to take business ideas and present them to real investors, opportunities to network with, whether it's alumni or people from industry that come to participate in activities that are oftentimes also done by the Price Center for Entrepreneurship on campus. So it is about the connections with faculty that you're led into, connections with alumni that are coming to school seeking out students to work in those younger startups and organizations. It really is part of everything we do.
Linda Abraham: That's great, thank you. Thank you very much. Excellent question, excellent answer.
We have a couple of questions here that are GMAT-related, and I'm going to lump them together. The first one is from Prasuna who asks, "If you take the GMAT more than once is the highest score considered or the last score?" And the second one was, "Is the verbal or the quant more important?" It seemed to this questioner that the Quant somehow was getting more emphasis.
Lindsay Haselton: Okay, sure, I can definitely address that. We do take your highest score. So while we'll see multiple scores in your application, we will lean a lot more heavily on the highest score and give you the benefit of the doubt that you've put the preparation in that you need to have obtained that higher score.
And with regard to verbal versus quantitative, we actually look at both. I think quantitative, we look at that to assess your ability to do well in the heavy quantitative courses, but we also look at the verbal scores to make sure that, especially if you are coming from another country, for example, we want to make sure that you can communicate well in the program and have the writing skills to be able to contribute to teams and to projects as well. So I think just to be simple, they are both as important as each other. I don't know if Adrian has a different perspective, but I certainly lean on both when I'm looking at a file.
Adrian Aguirre: I concur, although on the verbal side, there are perhaps additional data points that could allow you to perhaps slip a little bit if you are able to offset it by showing us competencies in some of those other indicators. So for example, if you are an international student and your verbal score is not necessarily the greatest, there is a TOEFL that is also providing us with another data point, and the writing assessment part of the GMAT is also providing additional information. So it's not that we're not taking it equally seriously, it's that we have more additional data points to combine with it.
Linda Abraham: I would say that if either one is low, it's a problem.
Adrian Aguirre: Well, but if there is a borderline issue you can always try to give somebody the benefit of the doubt if they have a very solid, let's say, TOEFL score, and the other component there is that we interview everyone that gets admitted. So ultimately, if there is an outstanding question as to communication skills that interview will definitely add to, again, our data points and confirm once and for all whether our suspicions were correct or incorrect.
Linda Abraham: I remember years ago, Alex Brown, who was an Admissions Director at Wharton was asked, "What's the most important part of the application?" And his very succinct answer was, "The weakest part."
I don't know if that's true. I don't know if you'd agree with it but – and actually at last year's UCLA chat, Dean Ainslie was on the call, and a lot of the questions were tending towards "I'm weak in this area. How do I compensate? I'm weak in this area. How do I compensate? I'm weak in this area . . ." It was like question after question was going in this direction. And he got a little frustrated with it.
And he said very powerfully and very effectively, he said, "It's your job to show us why we should admit you, what have you done that's exceptional. Not how to overcome this little thing and that little thing or that number or that weakness or that bad semester. What have you done that's exceptional?" And again, he was a little annoyed, I think, with the direction that the Q&A was taking, and he made an excellent and very eloquent point. So there is the flip side of that rather flippant comment from years ago that I heard.
All right. Prakhar asks, "What sort of placement trends do you see in the field of technology, and what sort of roles do IT companies generally recruit for at UCLA Anderson?"
Adrian Aguirre: We see folks transitioning into managerial roles, not so much staying in the technical engineering space, and that's the reason, I think, most engineers want to pursue MBAs to make a transition. That transition oftentimes will take the form of a product manager role, but at the same time, it's not uncommon for students to take leadership in senior marketing roles or finance roles within technology companies. So I guess the short answer is in a variety of different places, but if the interest is staying connected to a specific product, those tend to be product or brand-management – not brand-management, but product management-related roles.
Lindsay Haselton: I'll also add, and I don't know whether Linda if you can share a link, or if I can share a link to our statistics, but we are actually seeing technology being one of our biggest placements. So that's something I think it's been within the top three placements in the last couple of years. So I've just put the link there where you can download our employment data and just really drill down into which companies were hiring and what kind of roles and what kind of salaries etc. that you can see.
Linda Abraham: So yes, I understand that Los Angeles is now known as Silicon Beach as opposed to Silicon Valley, right?
Lindsay Haselton: Exactly. Yes.
Linda Abraham: Right. Okay.
Lindsay Haselton: We've actually got some great alums that are now, for example, if you look at this year's brochure, we feature one of our prominent alums, Susan Wojcicki, who's pretty high up in Google. So, we're seeing alums that have gone to these companies are now coming back to us and hiring a lot of our students, so it's great.
Linda Abraham: I have a son who's in web development and IT, and he certainly has had absolutely no trouble getting jobs and interviews. Locally, I'm talking right now. So there certainly is a lot of opportunity out there. :
Linda Abraham: Let's see where is this next question? "How do you compare undergrad performance of students coming from universities that did not provide GPA?"
Adrian Aguirre: Well, if this is related to maybe somebody coming from India or from the U.K., there are different tiers that students graduate in. The short answer would be we do not put everyone through a magic calculator to compute a 4.0 U.S. average. We have a book bigger than an encyclopedia that literally has information for most universities in the world, certainly, the ones that we get applicants from. And everybody is evaluated by the standards of their individual countries and the scores that are evaluated are also evaluated in the context of the difficulty of the subject matter and the institution.
So there may be folks that studied at universities that were known for being very, very difficult, and if their grades were lower, that would certainly boost up our perception of those scores in comparing them to somebody else that may come from a school known for being an easy grader for example. So I wouldn't worry too much. If you've come from a four-year degree anywhere on the planet, we'll be able to make sense out of the scores, and if within your country those scores were respectable, we will share the same thoughts.
Linda Abraham: Sounds good. And so related question from Kumar, "My university uses only the final year marks to grant the degree. Should I use my average of the four-year degree or only my last year mark that my university used?"
Lindsay Haselton: So you're talking about, I think, that you have individual marks that you are assigned every year and then one final standing for the degree. If this is India, we do see that quite commonly. What we ask people to report is the degree standing, so the grade that you received in your final year examination. And what we ask you to do also, and this is for all countries, is report the grade in the scale of your country.
So if, for example, your Indian degree, or whichever country it might be, assigned a percentage, or say for example, a first class with distinction standing, when you report those scores to us report them in the scale that your country assigned and do not convert it to the 4.0 scale. So that's just a tip there. But yes, from India, what we ask you to do is you would upload all of your grades, so we're able to look back and see how you did each year, but ultimately, what we lean on is that final degree standing.
Linda Abraham: Okay, great. Chloe asks, "What do you have to offer someone who's interested in pursuing a career in social enterprise?"
Lindsay Haselton: So now, we are certainly seeing a lot of interest in students pursuing careers in social enterprise, and I think one of the reasons we're seeing that is because of the entrepreneurial focus of the school in general. And also, we do also have a certificate – or sorry, a specialization in sustainability, so a lot of the classes that you can do in second year actually allow you to look at entrepreneurship from a social perspective.
Typically, what students do is they'll take the specialization in entrepreneurship and often take the specialization in sustainability as well. We have what's called the Leaders in Sustainability program where you can do classes that focus a little bit more on the social perspective of entrepreneurship.
As Adrian talked about earlier, the Applied Management Research project does allow you to create your own business, so the business creation option is a very popular way that students will use the school's resources to launch their own social enterprises, and I can think of some pretty interesting ones that we've had in the past couple of years. We had a group of students launch a bag company called Jootstrap.
But this was an AMR project that was launched by a group of our students, and it was designed to create a profitable enterprise, but also give those profits back to a social cause. And our student had this bag made by, I think a group of women in India who were coming out of, I think the sex trafficking industry, and so they actually make the bag. It gets sold, and then once a bag is sold, kind of like the TOMS concept, a book is given to a school, to an Indian institution. So that's been kind of an interesting enterprise that has continued to develop even after the MBA program.
So certainly, we have a very strong student body interested in social enterprises even if they're not ultimately looking to place in that area. We have a club called Net Impact where our students join even if they're just looking to work for a private company, but maybe thinking that they're going to have a sustainable perspective to give back to that company. So a very active club, Net Impact, I'd definitely encourage you to look that up as well.
Adrian Aguirre: There are a couple of other things worth noting. One is the area of micro-finance, it's a growing interest on campus as well, and there are at least a couple of very popular courses in that field. And in fact, my last event that I did in San Francisco, the alumni that I had with me at my table were folks that were working in micro-finance.
And then, the other comment was related to the AMR projects. Some of those projects can be done in other countries and with more of a social-minded interest goal in mind. So we have had students that have travelled to Africa and worked with women's clinics or people that have travelled to other parts of the world and worked in education projects for different governments. So if that's something of interest to you, you will find definitely a lot of people that share your same interest and are pursuing many different paths with the same common goal.
Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you. What about reapplicants? Do you have any suggestions for reapplicants?
Adrian Aguirre: Reapplicants have a streamlined application process that mostly only asks for the submission of an essay and a letter of recommendation. So that essay is typically devoted to what has changed, what has hopefully improved between your last application and this application. And the recommendation, it's the same dynamic as the previous recommendation, just a different recommender.
I would recommend concentrating on, if you are reapplying, trying to do a little bit of soul searching and figuring out, okay, what do you think were the weakest links in your application in the previous go around, and what have you done about it to address it and make yourself stand out this time around. And even though we have the entire file at hand from the first time you applied, I would suggest that the applicants should, without rehashing everything they have done, reintroduce themselves so the application is coherent and is not simply, "Oh well I have done X," or "I have changed my job." But you know, the document should be a stand-alone document, but address the differences between the previous instance and this instance.
Linda Abraham: When you review the application from a reapplicant, especially considering the abbreviated application for reapplicants, do you refer back to the previous application?
Adrian Aguirre: Yes. Absolutely.
Linda Abraham: I assume the abbreviated application is only for those who are applying in the subsequent year. If you applied two years ago or three years ago, it would be a full new application, correct?
Adrian Aguirre: Actually there is a time limit, but my memory doesn't serve me correctly in this instance. Lindsay, do you remember what is the number of years that you can basically have that abbreviated application? Two? Okay. So it is two years.
Linda Abraham: Okay great.
Lindsay Haselton: Yes, and just a positive word of encouragement. We do see reapplicants become successful on several occasions, so it's not a bad thing to be reapplying. If it was something you just needed to improve, we definitely look positively at your continued interest in the school.
Linda Abraham: Okay. Great. Now this question is from Prem, "As UCLA has a number of different nationalities and a wide range of background professions, me being an IT professional, like many applying from India, so how competitive will it be for me in the big crowd of similar background and nationalities? Are there any fixed numbers or quotas for a class?"
Lindsay Haselton: Certainly, there are regions and industries that we do see a lot of candidates from, and I was just actually in India a week ago. So I definitely got asked that question a lot, and what I tell people is that's where I think applying early can help. So applying in rounds one and rounds two does give you just a little bit of I think a step up that you're not going to be competing against so many people in round three when spaces in the program have started to fill up. And we don't have quotas, I'd say, in the program for any country, but there is, certainly, we need to bear in mind that there needs to be a certain amount of diversity in the class, and we can't fill the whole class with one region. We do try to balance that out a little bit.
You are, in a way, sometimes competing against similar candidates from your region, so you do need to make sure that highlighting leadership activities that you've had that make – if you've come, say, from an IT position that might be similar to someone else from your region – really highlight ways that make you stand out. And I think extracurricular involvement, showing a really strong fit with the school, taking on projects within that role can make you stand out from someone with a very similar background and nationality to you.
I also think – I don't want to scare people – I think GMAT can play into that a little bit where we do see slightly higher averages from some countries where we have a very competitive pool. There is definitely some importance placed on making sure that your score is competitive and at least looking at our ranges falls within that.
Linda Abraham: Okay. I think this is going to be our last question. "How does the admissions committee view a candidate with a high GPA, for example, 740, and a lower than average GPA – a high GMAT rather, 740 and a lower than average GPA, 3.1 for example?"
Adrian Aguirre: Well, it's hard to take two data points and be able to offer advice to somebody because there will be people who will have 770 GPAs and 4.0s that will not be admitted. And there will be people that will have scores in the 600s and lower GPAs and will be admitted. Because at the end of the day we are looking for a number of sort of skills and characteristics, some having to do with your leadership potential, with your work experience, with your aspirations, with the kind of person that you are, the contributions that you will make to the school and to your class. So, looking at it blindly with those two data points, I say your chances look relatively promising, considering that or assuming that the rest of the application is competitive.
Linda Abraham: Yes, well, I really want to thank Adrian and Lindsay for your participation today. I want to give special thanks to you. I also want to thank our audience. I think you've asked really excellent questions, very informed questions, very thoughtful questions. So thank you too.
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So again, thank you so much for coming, best of luck with your applications. And Adrian and Lindsay, you've been fantastic. Thank you.
Adrian Aguirre: Thank you for having us.
Lindsay Haselton: Yes, thank you.
Adrian Aguirre: We definitely enjoyed it.
Linda Abraham: Great. All right. We'll do it again next year.
Adrian Aguirre: Take care. Thank you, everybody. Good luck and come visit our website and sign up for events.
Linda Abraham: That sounds like a great idea. You'll be much more informed.Continue exploring our free resources with our MBA Admissions 101 pages