2012 USC Marshall MBA Admissions Q&A with Kellee Scott, Grace Kim, and Janella Chiang

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2012 USC Marshall MBA Admissions Q&A with Kellee Scott, Grace Kim, and Janella Chiang

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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 USC Marshall’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 Kellee Scott and Grace Kim, Senior Associate Directors of MBA Admissions at the Marshall School of Business, and Janella Chiang from Career Services, Academic Services Manager. Thanks to everyone for joining.

I’ll start by asking – what’s new at Marshall?

Kellee Scott: We are, as you all know, in the midst of our second round. So we are knee-deep in looking at applications, and of course, fairly soon, we will be inviting folks for interviews. But right now we have some exciting things going on with our student loans. For those of you who are interested in entertainment, we have a very large entertainment conference going on at the Radisson Hotel which many students will be attending. And of course, Career Services are in high gear. So we are very busy; this is our busiest time of year.

Linda Abraham: I would like to get a better sense of where everybody is at, so I’m going to launch a poll, and I’m just wondering what stage you are at in the application process. Are you currently researching schools to apply to or working on your application? Have you submitted your application? Have you interviewed and are waiting for results? Are you wait-listed? Or are you at some other stage not covered by all of the above? 19% are researching schools to apply to or are working on their applications, and 75% have already submitted their applications. 6% are in the "other" category.

Let’s get back to the applicants’ questions. Abby asks, "What should one do if your undergraduate GPA is low, but your work experience is excellent with many accomplishments and leadership examples?"

Kellee Scott: First let me just address how we look at the GPA because everyone sees our average number which is 3.3 right now. But if you notice, we don’t do a range in GPA the same way we do in GMAT. And that is because it is different. There are a lot of variables that go into a GPA. Even if your GPA is low, what we are going to be looking for is primarily demonstration of analytical skills. If you’ve done well in analytical classes, that could be a really good demonstration. And of course the GMAT goes in conjunction with that. But also with the GPA, you could be in a very strenuous program where very few people get a 3.0. For biomedical engineering, at some schools a 2.8 is considered really great. What we do is we really holistically take everything into context; where you went, the strength of the curriculum, how you challenged yourself. So don’t feel that we just look at the number of the GPA and assess it that way. And of course, we take that in conjunction with your work experience and all the elements of your application.

Linda Abraham: Piyush asks, "Typically, what percentage of the class receives fellowships? Do any of the students receive Grad Assistant or TA opportunities?"

Grace Kim: Our scholarship process is merit-based. It is not a separate application. Once you are admitted to the program, everyone is looked at for a scholarship opportunity. As far as percentages, we award scholarships to the top 25% of the class. And that scholarship can range from a half-tuition scholarship to a full-tuition scholarship. Those are the two types that we have.

The last part of the question was about TAships. There is no formal process that we do in the admissions office for TAs. If you do want to become a TA or a Research Assistant, there are opportunities available, but that is left up to the student to pursue. Usually we advise you not to do that in the first year, just because of the rigors of the program. But in the second year, there are folks that do get TAships and RAships.

Linda Abraham: Kris asks, "Could you please tell me about the Certificate in Technology Commercialization and the Certificate in the Business of Entertainment, and whether an MBA student can do both?"

Janella Chiang: Yes, we have a certificate program in both technology commercialization and in entertainment, along with the School of Cinematic Arts. Both of those certificate programs are in addition to the MBA, so the student would have the opportunity to apply to those certificate programs. They are great programs where they can take MBA electives along with classes at our Viterbi School of Engineering for the technology commercialization, or our School of Cinematic Arts for the entertainment program, and apply those to their MBA as well. So it is possible to do both. It might be a little bit tricky because that’s a lot of classes and you might end up taking a few extra classes, but there is definitely a way to walk away from USC with three different diplomas.

Linda Abraham: Deuel asks, "I’ve earned my AA at Santa Monica College. I am now attending Cal State L.A. Before that, I attended college in Eastern Europe. Do I need to submit my transcripts from my Eastern European colleges?" I assume this would apply to anybody who attended school abroad, briefly at least, and then began their college education in the United States.

Grace Kim: Actually, you do; you are required. If you list any of those schools on your application, which you will be required to do, for any school that you list on that application, we will require a full transcript from them. So yes, you will have to give us official transcripts from all schools that you have attended.

Linda Abraham: Amir asks, "How does a CFA Charter affect your evaluation?

Kellee Scott: We will absolutely have students in our pool who have CPAs, CFAs and different industry designations. Those are nice, they are very credible; it does not necessarily guarantee admission or anything of that sort. But it’s nice to know that you were motivated enough to get yourself a credential in the industry in which you were working, particularly if it’s an industry you are interested to work in, in the future. So it’s definitely not looked at negatively, but it doesn’t necessarily give you extra brownie points. But it is something that says – hey, here is a motivated person who got this certificate.

Linda Abraham: Going back to the question Abby posed earlier about a low GPA, would a certificate like the CFA somewhat mitigate that GPA, especially if it’s tied to the candidates career goals?

Kellee Scott: It is definitely something that will be taken into consideration. It doesn’t necessarily mitigate, but it will be taken into consideration.

Linda Abraham: Dominique asks, "How many Consortium applications do you receive on average and what is your acceptance rate for Consortium applicants?"

Kellee Scott: On average, we get a little under 200; we’ve been averaging 150-200 applications. And we basically admit the same amount percentage-wise as we do in the general pool, which is close to 20% of the applications. So it just depends; it varies year to year.

Linda Abraham: Deuel asks, "How much weight do you put on the GMAT, versus other parts of the application?"

Grace Kim: As all the questions on GPA, CFA, accreditation, etc., GMAT is one of the components we use to make a decision. So it’s safe to say that we look at everyone’s application with a holistic view. It’s not that if you have a high GMAT, you can have a low GPA. It doesn’t work one for one. It really is a totality of that person’s application that we look at and what their future goals are. That is why your essays are important, as is what the recommenders have to say. So every component in your application is important and has a role to play in our decision-making process. So it’s not necessarily about having the highest GMAT. There are plenty of people who, unfortunately, are denied from schools, even though they have a high GMAT because we are looking at their work experience, we are looking at what extra things they’ve done, and what their career path has been and will be. So those things are all taken into consideration when we make our decision.

Linda Abraham: USC is known for its strong connections with the Pacific Rim and Latin America – a very strong global program. Angie is asking "What are your foreign placements like? I am interested in transitioning to a more global career. Do you offer any internship abroad or any exposure to that type of thing?"

Janella Chiang: We have a very strong Global Leadership Program here, with our Global Context of Business course and our PRIME travel at the end of the first year. We do have a person in our Career Services office who is dedicated to both helping our international students transition to job opportunities here in the US, and exploring job opportunities internationally for any of our students who might be interested in working abroad. We have several career treks during the first year, and one of them is to Hong Kong, for those who are interested in the financial sector. And we definitely tap into our alumni network around the world to connect our MBA students to potential job opportunities.

Linda Abraham: Of course the other thing USC is known for is its very strong alumni network.

Sharif asks, "I am graduating my BA this May and taking my last class during the summer. Can I still apply or do I have to have my BA completed prior to applying?" And I would like to add, how do you view the applicant who comes in without full-time work experience?

Kellee Scott: The idea is to have a complete application; you really do need to have an official transcript which you don’t really get until you graduate. Also just so you know, starting last year, the MBA program for USC starts at the end of July, so we start very early. And usually by that time, close to 100% of the class is in place, so there may not even be room for you in class at that point. So I would totally encourage you to think about waiting till that following year.

But with that said, to address really briefly the work experience, our average student has five years. We would prefer to see you with two years of full-time work experience before you apply to the MBA program. And that is due to the interactive nature of the program. One of the things we look at in your application is what you are going to be contributing to class, more than just your ability to get good grades. You are going to be dealing with people with a lot of work experience, and they also come to learn from you. And getting that work experience makes you a bit more credible in that process.

Linda Abraham: So you prefer a person with work experience?

Kellee Scott: We prefer it. It is very rare, if ever, that we take someone straight from undergrad into the full-time MBA program.

Linda Abraham: Art asks, "What strengths do you believe separate your school from some of the other MBA programs?"

Grace Kim: There are great programs out there, ours being one of them. Academically, any school that you go to, you will get a great academic education. So it’s really about fit – where do you fit culturally? What sort of experiences are you looking for as you are going to graduate school? I think that makes the difference as far as distinguishing factors from schools. Because when you go to an academic environment – a college, a graduate program – there are certain standards that everyone maintains to give you that type of education. But the other component is – what kind of network do you want to have? What type of culture? What type of experience? And that is what is unique from school to school.

So we always encourage our applicants, whether you are starting the application process or you’re thinking about schools, or even during the application process, to really go and visit the schools that you are going to apply to because that will give you a very good idea what the school is about and what the students are about. When we say teamwork and camaraderie, what are we talking about? How do people interact in class? What is the relationship between the professors and teachers? You will be able to get that kind of feeling and sense for the school when you actually visit. So we encourage our applicants to always visit the schools. Most schools have a visitation program. We certainly have one here; it’s called the Ambassador Program. Anyone can come Monday-Thursday. There is a morning class or an afternoon class, and a student will host you and take you around. They’ll give you a tour, answer any of your questions, and introduce you to the professors and other students so that you really get a feel for the school and what the unique characteristics of the school are. So we encourage you to do that. Feel free to call us any time in your application process to schedule an appointment.

Linda Abraham: Art asks, "How would you describe the culture at Marshall?"

Kellee Scott: We definitely have a very collaborative and very team-based culture. So what you find here is people working together, people helping each other. MBAs in general are competitive people, so don’t get me wrong – there is going to be some competition. But it is more of a friendly competition here because we do believe that when one person does well, that helps everyone do well. And the whole purpose is that at the end of the day, we are all Trojans, and you’ll find that whole Trojan mystique. Part of the reason why I feel our alumni network is so strong is because we cultivate that collaboration and that respect of ideas. So I wouldn’t sit here and say you are going to love everyone; I don’t think that is going to happen at any school. But you are going to see this modicum of respect and this modicum of being willing to help people out and to work with each other on their strengths and their weaknesses in the program.

Linda Abraham: Can you speak a few minutes about the joint MBA/MRED program and how the two programs interact?

Janella Chiang: I can talk about our MBA/MRED dual degree. You would have to apply to each degree separately, and if you were admitted both and are pursuing both simultaneously, you can request that the two degrees be merged into the dual degree. At that point, you would still need to isolate one consecutive fall or spring semester for the full-time MBA first year. So during that one year, you are taking only MBA classes. And then during the summer, between your first and second year, you would begin taking MRED classes. The majority of the classes during the summer are MRED classes. I think you take two MBA electives at that point. And your second year is a combination of MRED and MBA elective classes. At the end of two years, plus that summer in between, you would be able to earn both the MRED and the MBA degrees from USC.

Kellee Scott: But keep in mind, because you will be taking MRED classes that summer between your first and second year, depending on how you schedule, you may be in a position where you may not be able to take an internship; it depends on your company. If you find a flexible company with your hours, fine. But you still will probably be taking classes during the day and it might be difficult to have an internship that summer.

Linda Abraham: So it might be better for someone who is already in real estate and wants to go back into it or for someone in a family business or something along those lines.

Kellee Scott: Yes, I would suggest that.

Janella Chiang: And the Real Estate program does look very highly on previous real estate experience.

Linda Abraham: Can students take electives from other USC programs, like the MHA program? Are there any limitations to what you can do outside of Marshall?

Janella Chiang: Absolutely. As part of our program, students who remain in good academic standing have the flexibility of requesting permission to take classes outside of Marshall, but still within USC. So we have lot of students taking classes from the School of Cinematic Arts, the Viterbi School of Engineering, the Annenberg School for Communication, and the Real Estate Program. We can approve up to 9 units of non-Marshall coursework to be applied to the MBA degree.

Linda Abraham: Abby asks, "What would you consider a typical application pitfall, especially when applying in the third round? And how can one avoid that typical application pitfall?"

Kellee Scott: That’s a very good question. The third round is a little smaller than our second round, but I would say as far as a pitfall that comes to mind right away, it’s the tone of an application that makes it sound like – I’ve just decided at the last minute to apply to B- School, and I was able to make this third round so I’m going to throw this application together. It’s when you see people not paying attention to detail; people not really answering the essay questions as focused as possible. And sometimes we have similar essay questions across several schools, and maybe that essay comes to us and you forgot to replace the name of the other school that you were sending it into! So in general, it’s really just being sloppy with the application versus being focused on why you are applying to Marshall and why you think you’d be a good candidate for our program.

Linda Abraham: Frances asks, "When do you begin sending out interview invitations for round two? Do you extend interview invitations for the Consortium applicants at the same time as regular applicants?"

Grace Kim: We do. If you actually go on our website, it will clearly tell you the dates that invitations begin going out. It is February 15th for this year’s round 2. So notifications begin going out, and I stress the word "begin" because everyone thinks that if they don’t get an invitation that day, they’re never going to get an invitation. That is certainly not the case. So we begin notifying students of invitations beginning as of February 15th for round 2. That’s just two more weeks.

Kellee Scott: But I’ll just address the Consortium because they are on a slightly different timing. We still will be inviting throughout, but it is possible that Consortium invitations may start going out next week. Because of how the Consortium works, we have to give decisions a little earlier. So I would suspect, if not later this week, probably next week we will be sending out Consortium invitations.

Linda Abraham: And just to reiterate, no import should be attached to the timing of the invitation.

Kellee Scott: Exactly.

Linda Abraham: Are you sure? Because I read about this on the board all the time; I get frantic phone calls…

Kellee Scott: Yes! We have called people to interview close to the decision date. It’s a matter of the amount of people. And of course, in round two, because this is our largest round and we only have so much capacity here, we’ll be going in longer cycles. So I would tell candidates, please don’t panic. You can be called to interview at any time, so be patient.

Linda Abraham: Applicants, you can post that information on the board – it will calm things down!

Dominique asks, "Can you speak to the Society and Business Lab. What opportunities does it afford to students?"

Janella Chiang: Our Society in Business Lab is led by Professor Adlai Wertmen, who is very connected in the corporate social responsibility and non-profit world. Every year they have an application for incoming MBA students to be a SBL Fellow, which gives you a greater range of connections with their board of directors and guest speakers that come in. They do try to make arrangements for internships and make connections with students who are interested in that particular industry and sector. He also teaches a class called Social Entrepreneurship which is required for all their SBL fellows, and he brings in a lot of guest speakers. So there definitely are a lot of opportunities within SBL.

Linda Abraham: Maeve asks, "I have a more qualitative question. Could you speak about Marshall’s commitment to social entrepreneurship; economic development, economics in environmental social sustainability, social entrepreneurship education? Specifically, beyond student activities, what other opportunities are there to participate in social entrepreneurship education?"

Kellee Scott: Think about it this way too: there are still businesses that are looking for business skills as well, so you are definitely going to need to look at the financial side or the operational side of it. But to address just opportunities, we definitely have a Net Impact Club that focuses on corporate social responsibility – energy, high tech. We have our Venture Capital Club, and some of the other clubs are also focused that way.

But in addition, USC is very community-minded school, and specifically in the MBA program. So throughout the year, we have Challenge for Charity where we are raising funds for the Special Olympics, and we also do events on campus with them. In fact, they are about to do a Polar Plunge in Malibu, so our students are going to go into the cold waters to raise money for Challenge for Charity. And then we also have a Marshall Outreach. So our MBA students go out and do junior achievement and talk to elementary school students. We actually do tutoring and all kinds of community things. So we are very busy in that regard. And a lot of students come in with that in their background, and they are more than welcome to find the opportunity to continue that. We’ve sent students out to Africa to help put a school system together. There are so many different projects. And we also have many professors who also have their own social responsibility projects that they bring students into.

Linda Abraham: John asks, "As a follow up to the Certificate in the Business of Entertainment question, can you form a joint degree program with the Film School?"

Kellee Scott: I don’t think that is in discussion at this point, only because to get that certificate, it’s only a set of classes, so it’s really not a full degree. But that is something to ask if that is something you would be interested in, but right now I don’t think that is on the table.

Linda Abraham: Is it possible to have a custom joint degree program?

Kellee Scott: It wouldn’t be a custom joint; you would have to apply to that Entertainment degree, and that would be separate from your MBA, although you may have some classes that will count for both. But that would be a totally informal degree that you would customize yourself.

Linda Abraham: Deuel asks, "When it comes to international transcripts, do you prefer that a specific organization translate the transcript?"

Grace Kim: We actually do not. Our university has their own department that translates and calculates foreign GPAs for us. There are private companies that do translation for international transcripts for students, but we actually prefer that our students do not use services for Marshall. Send the university your original language, as well as the English translation if the school provides it, and they will do their own evaluation, and then they will give those results to us at our department. That is how our system works. So we prefer that you do not go to a private organization to get those transcripts evaluated.

Linda Abraham: Jennifer asks, "Do most full-time students live close to campus, and is this recommended based on the level of involvement in on-campus activities?" And there was another question posed earlier about married student housing and programs and support for married students.

Kellee Scott: That is a very good question. In general, because our students are usually a little bit older – they usually have five years of work experience, average age 27-28 – many really don’t live on campus or too close to campus. To be in a big sports school in the fall is really crazy with the football season. So with all the work you do on the MBA, you want to get away a little bit. Since the Downtown area of LA has been building up and we’re really close to Downtown, we have many students who will live there. But in general, students will live in certain parts of LA that allow them a relatively easy commute into campus. I would say popular areas are Hollywood, West Hollywood for the entertainment folks; they love to be in the thick of things. That is about thirty minutes away. You have the South Bay Beach area; especially the ‘out of towners’ love to go there and have the beach experience. And then you have folks like a lot of married students, and some may have children, who tend to go to more quiet communities like Glendale and Pasadena. But the good thing is that we are centrally located here in LA, so all the freeways really come into USC. And I would think the toughest commute might be someone coming from Orange County, which we’ve had in the past. But for the most part, you should be no more than 35 minutes away. You will be so busy here at Marshall.

We often joke that the first year, we should probably put some cots out so you can sleep because you’ll be really busy the first year and I’ll guarantee you that it will not feel like a commuter school. But if you are interested in on-campus housing, because we have students who have done that before, once we admit you, you need to get into that pool right away, and Janella’s group will help you work with that.

Linda Abraham: Jamie asks, "In what way do the students have access to the Marshall Sports Business Institute?"

Kellee Scott: The Sports Institute is one of our Centers of Excellence, as well as all the other things we have; the Entrepreneurial Studies Program, the Center for Effective Organization. Once you are a student in Marshall, there is absolutely no limit to what you can get involved in. So if you were looking to contact that group – to maybe volunteer there, maybe get involved there – you are more than welcome to do that. And whatever contacts we have, we’ll help you facilitate that.

Linda Abraham: Another question from Jamie. "Can having another graduate degree from USC hurt your application, as the program may be looking to diversify with students from other schools?"

Grace Kim: Not at all. We love to have our alumni come back from all different departments. If you have a graduate degree from USC, that’s great. It is a component of your application. And we know, especially from USC, what type of education you would have received here, so it can help you and it’s certainly not going to hurt you. And we do have quite a number of alums from either masters programs or undergraduate degrees that come back to get their MBAs at USC.

Linda Abraham: Do you have any tips or advice for applicants invited to interview, since the invitations are going to be going out shortly for round two?

Kellee Scott: Yes. Just to reiterate, you have to think of this interview no differently than a job interview. You need to be professional; you need to be on time. Of course we are going to invite you to come on campus to interview, but if you are unable to do so, we have been offering Skype for the last few years, so we can do it via Skype. But we do prefer to have some face to face with you. With that said, I would say to definitely know your story and come prepared. One of the things that we see a lot is students that go on the boards and see that others say that we ask this question and this question, and they end up practicing to those questions. So they sound rehearsed. And then if we ask them something that is not one of those questions, they seem a little bit surprised. The idea is really to be yourself. Know your application, know why you’re there, and know why you’re in this process in the first place. Because the best interviews, I think, are the ones that end up just being a really good conversation where we get to know you better. We are going to learn a lot about you from what you put on that piece of paper, but when we see you in person, it is more that fit, it’s more of us seeing – who is this person and will they work well in our environment?

Linda Abraham: Daniel asks, "Who interviews – adcom or students? "

Grace Kim: Actually it’s most of the folks here, the adcom. We will have a couple of weekends where we have our second year ambassador students who will do a Super Saturday interview session. But again, they are ambassadors, they’ve been betted and they’ve also been trained, and of course some of the adcom will be there as well. But in general, interviews are with the adcom, but there are some situations and Saturdays where we will have our students interview.

Linda Abraham: Do you have any advice for wait-listed applicants?

Grace Kim: Yes, that’s a difficult crowd – it’s that hurry up and wait kind of thing!

Linda Abraham: Well put.

Grace Kim: Yes, we do have some advice. If you have some pertinent information that you want us to know – for example, since the time that you’ve been wait-listed you got a promotion, or you’re working on a very difficult project that was successful, or you’re going to be going overseas for a little bit because of work – do tell us that. We want that kind of information. And if you send an email, we will make sure that it’s printed out and attached to your file so that the next time we are reviewing your application, we’ll know what it is that you are up to currently. So anything you can provide for us, we do encourage students to give us additional information.

But don’t go overboard. There are some students that email us all the time, which is great. If you’re still interested in remaining on the wait-list, by all means, do tell us that. But just be aware that you don’t want to take that invitation and go all the way overboard and email us every day and send us materials. Because there are some students that do that, and at some point, enough is enough. So remember, you want to put yourself in our position. What would the admissions committee want to know? Is this pertinent information in my application? Not just extraneous, but pertinent to my application. So you want to use that filter before you contact us. But if you have any questions while you are on the wait-list, do contact us. We’d be happy to let you know. If you just want to know if everything is okay and if you’re still on the wait-list and when you might hear from us, those are legitimate questions that we do want to answer for you. So by all means contact us, but just make sure that you use that filter.

Linda Abraham: A little judgment goes a long way! It’s the difference between being proactive and a pest.

Kellee Scott: Well, we all talk about the stalkers, and it really shouldn’t get into a stalking situation.

Linda Abraham: Andy asks, "What is the admissions committee’s take on applying for round 3?" And if I could reformulate the question a little bit, when do you think it’s better to apply round 3, and when do you think it’s better to wait till next year?

Kellee Scott: I’ll go back to what I said before. If you think you are applying to round 3 as a rushed effort, and you just throw in not your best application, you are probably better off waiting until the next cycle. And the reason I say that is because round two is our biggest round. We also have a round 1. So by the end of that, it’s a smaller round. We are still going to take about 20%, but it’s a smaller number of people.

But I’ll also address something that hasn’t been mentioned, and that is scholarship opportunities. We are going to give away a lot of money in rounds 1 and 2. There is money available in round 3 for scholarship opportunities, but there is less availability by that time. So the idea is not to apply when you can’t put in your best application; it’s better to wait.

Linda Abraham: Do you give feedback on rejected applications?

Grace Kim: We do actually. In the sad event that you do get denied from us, we specifically ask that you call us in the month of September and make an appointment. We will be happy to review your application, and you will have an opportunity to have a conversation with us on how to improve your application and ask any questions that you might have. So we do have a feedback opportunity, but that is only in the month of September.

Linda Abraham: That’s very helpful and very generous. And are re-applicants at any advantage or any disadvantage when they reapply?

Kellee Scott: I would say they absolutely are not. The only disadvantage I would see for a re-applicant is someone who didn’t show any difference or improvement over that year or anything new. If you are just going to put in the same application as you did the year before, it doesn’t really indicate that there is movement there. But for the most part, no. In fact, reapplying tells us that you are still really interested in Marshall, which is a good thing. And so we will certainly take that into consideration when we are looking at applications.

Linda Abraham: But failed experiments that are repeated identically are not likely to achieve different results.

Kellee Scott: Absolutely.

Linda Abraham: When my first son was about three months old, we ran into somebody we knew. He saw my husband and me pushing the stroller with this very cute three-month old baby. And he took one look at me and said, "This is an experiment that should be repeated!" Rejected applications are the opposite. There has to be some change.

Can you discuss the video interview process?

Grace Kim: We do allow our part-time students, our PM applicants, to have the opportunity of doing an interview via video. Those invitations go out approximately a week after you have submitted your application. There is a deadline date as to when to complete them, but it is a maximum of a four-minute video that you can upload. We do ask specific questions to be answered within the video and you have a choice of a few. You can be as creative as you want or you can be as straightforward as you want, so you do have some latitude there, unlike if you were invited to come, it would be an interview. But you have some latitude as far as the video opportunity.

Linda Abraham: Adrienne asks, "Can applicants to the fully employed PM program also schedule a classroom visit?"

Grace Kim: They can. We do offer the opportunity for you to come and visit the school. But it would be through our Ambassador Program, in the day program. You would definitely go to class; you can do an information session as well where we address all of the programs. So if you would like to participate in that, please feel free to contact us and we’d be happy to set you up and have you come and visit.

Linda Abraham: John asks, "How many students take internships during the academic year?"

Kellee Scott: That’s an interesting question. Usually that first year is so busy, especially that first semester beginning in July all the way through December. We really advise folks in that first year not to try to work because you are going to be so busy with schoolwork. Sometimes in the second year, if somebody has interned at a company and they’ve done really well and the company wants them to continue to work, they can actually work that out with their schedules. Because if they are taking electives, the students are in more control of when they are taking their classes and at what time. So that can happen. But we really discourage people from trying to work in that first semester especially, but students have done it.

Linda Abraham: We have a couple of questions here about career placement and recruitment and that kind of stuff. What are the top recruiting companies, by number of positions, conducting on-campus interviews at USC?

Kellee Scott: If you go onto the website and you go into the profile, it does give a list of those companies. And the reason we don’t publish those numbers is because it varies so much year by year. Because one of the things about USC Marshall’s School of Business is we have such a diverse mix of students going to such a diverse group of companies. We have the traditional cookie cutter MBA route, with the finance, consulting, and marketing. But add that to all the things that are offered here in the state of California with the entrepreneurship, the high tech, the healthcare – there are so many different things. So you can see the list of companies that come to recruit. And over the last year or so, there was a 15% increase in the number of companies that are coming. So definitely students are doing that. And I’ll add entertainment into the mix, which tends to do just in time title recruiting. We have a lot of students going in that area so it’s very diverse for us.

Linda Abraham: Piyush asks, ""What is the current scenario for international student placements? Is finding a sponsor for an H-1B Visa challenging in the current economic environment?"

Grace Kim: Unfortunately, it is. We always tell our international students that there is always a possibility for you to gain employment here in the United States, no matter which country you come from. But it really is a difficult process because of our peril economic situation. So companies are reticent in trying to support the application for students getting their H-1s. And keep in mind that there is a limited number of H-1s that the US government will actually allow within a year as well. So it’s sort of a double whammy. But we do have support as far as the Career Center to help our international students look at recruiters and get on the recruiters’ schedules. We have all of that support for them but it is a difficult process. But we don’t discourage international students from trying that avenue because we will do what is possible to help them with that process.

Kellee Scott: In addition, it’s not an issue with the internships, since that is a temporary kind of assignment. But with the H-1B, of course if you are trying to work full-time it’s more difficult. And the only thing I’ll just add to that is that the tech industry is really the area where they are more likely to be receptive to that, but it’s going to vary. And as Grace said, it’s just difficult in this economic environment.

Linda Abraham: We have a question from Bonnie. "Are there any differences between Marshall’s full-time versus part-time MBA programs, obviously other than the fact that one is part time and one is full time?"

Kellee Scott: The only operational difference is because of the front loading of the full-time program; that super turn that we start in July is just a little different from the part-time program. But in the end, when you graduate, your diploma says you have an MBA from the Marshall School of Business; it doesn’t designate whether it is full-time or part-time. And in addition, the PM program also has an international program called PM Globe. So in your second year on the PM program, you are going to be required to do a project that will take you overseas as well. So it’s pretty much a similar program. And then you will find some synergies when you start taking electives. Especially if you take any of the elective classes in the evening, you will probably be in classes with PM students as well, so that is when it merges.

Linda Abraham: Angie asks, "How is an applicant that is 3-4 years older than the average evaluated? Do you place more weight on work experience?" Or is that level of work experience in some way a disadvantage?

Grace Kim: There really is no difference. Certainly, because you have more work experience, we’ll take a look at that and obviously at your progression in that particular job, and /or industries. But it’s really no different if you are a little bit older than the average or a little bit younger than the average. It’s really a person’s profile that we look at, and their application in totality.

Kellee Scott: Just to put it in context, I am an alum of the program and I was older than the average candidate.

Linda Abraham: What three qualities do you want to see in applicants before you admit them, and I’m not talking now about the quantitative stuff; I’m talking more qualitatively?

Kellee Scott: I hate to sound cliché because you are probably going to hear the same thing at just about every school. We’re definitely looking for leadership. We want people who have that potential for leadership. And when I say potential, we know that not everyone is going to be these superstars. But leadership is really good. We also like people who can work with others very well. And I would definitely say someone who can listen to others. Listening skills are very important at an MBA.

Grace Kim: I would add to that, the sense of community. The reason the Trojan network works is because people are willing to give back. So we look and think highly upon those people who are involved in different volunteer activities and are giving back to the community, because we ask you to give back. It only works if people think of others and want to participate and give back. So I would say definitely people that are community minded and show a level of commitment. You’re here. You’ve spent so much time in the application process. Try to have a good time. Be involved. Use the resources that are available for you. These are two years that will go by very quickly, so it’s definitely important for people to have that level of involvement and commitment.

Linda Abraham: Abby asks, "How is an entrepreneur evaluated when they apply to Marshall?" How do you look at their experience since they won’t be able to show promotions and things like that?

Kellee Scott: In general, everybody is unique, everybody has their individual story, and we are going to take everything into context. So as an entrepreneur, we realize you may not have different titles or different promotions; we are looking at what you are doing. And think about it this way. You were motivated to take the risk to start a business; that is something to be said and that is something to evaluate. I think the more difficult part of an entrepreneur is finding the right people to write their letters of recommendation because, especially if you are from a family business, we don’t really want family members to do it. So being able to find clients or someone who could really speak to your business skills is usually a little bit more difficult for an entrepreneur but absolutely can be done. But it’s a great thing. We are going to evaluate what you are doing and your motivation and how it ties to why you are trying to get an MBA.

Linda Abraham: Do you have any last tips for the applicants?

Kellee Scott: First and foremost, if you do have questions, please feel free to call our admissions office to answer some of your questions. I would say: Do your best. Once you hit that "submit" button, take a deep breath and relax. And just be mindful as you are looking through a lot of the blog. I love social media, but at the same time, we sometimes know that there is information that may not always be correct out there. So if there is anything on your mind, you can always contact the admissions office directly to make sure you are getting the right information.

Grace Kim: I would agree. Take a deep breath once you submit that application because your job is done and it’s now up to us. But again, if you have questions, don’t guess. Definitely contact us so that we can answer those questions for you.

Linda Abraham: Thank you again all for participating today. Special thanks to Kellee, Grace, and Janella for joining us today. If you have additional questions for the USC Marshall team, please email them to Marshallmba@marshall.usc.edu.

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Once more, thank you all for joining us today. Best of luck to all with your applications!

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