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Admissions and Beyond: An Interview with Kristin McAndrew of Notre Dame

Kristin McAndrew, University of Notre DameApplying to business school can be a daunting endeavor, especially as MBA programs and admission requirements seem to change every year. Luckily, Kristin McAndrew, Director of MBA/MSB Admissions at Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business, has some great advice for prospective MBA students.

What advice would you give students trying to figure out which type of MBA program is right for them?

Research more than just overall rankings. The top schools tend to be the schools that are most often recognized by employers in interviews; however, simple name recognition is not the only factor that will impact your achievement of life goals. Make sure to research location of the program; whether it is online, full-time, part-time or otherwise; course rigor; fit of the curriculum to the industry you want to be in after earning your MBA; size of the class; distinctiveness of the faculty; and alumni network resources, among other considerations. Also, pay attention to rumors and reputation, but be careful -- while it can be helpful to know how your school is perceived by the masses, many times these are individual feelings passed on through the rumor mill that actually have no merit in reality. Make sure to investigate these rumors with multiple sources, whether the rumor puts the program in a positive or negative light.

How do you think that MBA admissions requirements have changed and evolved over the course of the last few years?

We have seen a reduction in the requirements overall. As more and more graduate business degrees have opened up, competition for applicants has increased significantly. With that, we've seen the removal of requirements that would eliminate otherwise qualified applications. For example, the Notre Dame MBA reduced the requirements for our One-Year MBA last year from requiring a four-year business undergraduate degree to requiring only the successful completion of financial accounting and statistics courses from an accredited university. This has opened up our application pool to more candidates who have a basic understanding of business, but perhaps not a full four-year degree.

How much should students be concerned with their undergraduate GPA when it comes to MBA admissions?

Undergraduate GPA is a strong indicator of ability to succeed in an academic environment. Many programs are hesitant to admit students who have shown poor performance in the classroom because it can make for a difficult situation for the faculty, the student and the rest of the class. However, if your GPA was low, but the rigor of the undergraduate program was exceptionally high, many schools consider that in their comparisons of actual GPA scores. It definitely helps to have paid close attention to your classroom performance as an undergrad, but if there were extenuating circumstances, we will consider that in our review.

What are some of the biggest changes you foresee with the MBA and how it is applied going forward?

We are seeing the need for new approaches to business management based on the changes due to advances in technology. For example, business analytics is a fairly new concentration track we offer that deals with managing big data concepts and application at and across large organizations. This is a relatively new concept for business schools, but we are seeing more and more students choose that curriculum for their MBA. As a top MBA program, we must be prepared for what is yet to come as far as technology goes in order to be at the forefront, so we find it necessary prepare our students to be leaders in innovation and technology.

Keeping a global perspective in mind, how do you think that the MBA is evolving and will continue to change with our interconnectivity?

MBAs are being offered in more locations, both geographically and virtually. Some programs are brand new and some programs simply adjust the curriculum and methods of coursework to meet the needs for global outreach capabilities. The Notre Dame MBA offers several opportunities to network across the globe and offers the sixth greatest potential to network globally according to The Economist. These opportunities are simply the tip of the iceberg. Someone seeking an MBA with international exposure should definitely consider the global reach of the programs for which they apply.

What is the biggest change in thinking you'd like to see with regards to the MBA for students?

On occasion, we encounter applicants who simply want to have the three-letter degree on their signature line. They want the MBA to work for them. While this is not an unjustifiable thought, it will serve you much better to work for your MBA before, during and after graduation. It is not the degree name itself that will provide you with opportunities for the rest of your life, it is the people you interact with, the cases and curriculum you study and participate in; it's the effort you put into the experience that will determine your success in life. Make sure you're putting enough into it maximize its worth for you.

What advice would you give to a student applying to an MBA program now?

Call us. We, along with most other MBA programs, are very willing to speak with you directly and provide you with helpful insight on applying to our program successfully. We want you to succeed just as much as you do - the first step is to reach out. What do you have to lose?

Ready to start applying? For a step-by-step guide to the application process, visit our MBA admissions page.