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MBA Admissions Q&A with Neil Mangus of UND's Mendoza College of Business

Neil Mangus of UND's Mendoza College of BusinessJust as MBA applicants typically look at several school features, such as available concentrations and rankings, when deciding on a program, admissions committees tend to consider a variety of factors when evaluating MBA applicants. Undergraduate GPA, work experience, admissions essays, and standardized test scores are just a few examples of metrics they use. Different schools emphasize different criteria, and many have statistics for the newest student body on their websites. But what makes a strong applicant?

Brian Lohr, former admissions director for Mendoza's MBA program, previously shared his thoughts on four crucial components of the admissions process - networking, application essays, experience, and standardized test scores. Adding to Lohr's comments, Neil Mangus, Associate Director of MBA admissions at the Mendoza College of Business, offered his insights during a Q&A with MBAPrograms.org.

Mendoza offers a variety of MBA programs, including a one-year and two-year MBA, and has been highly-ranked by several publications. For example, The Economist ranked Mendoza's executive MBA program as 15th in the world in 2013, and Bloomberg Businessweek ranked the full-time program 20th in the U.S. in 2012. Such highly-ranked schools are often selective when admitting applicants. Read on to find out what Mangus looks for when assessing applicants.

How important is networking during the admissions process?

We understand that society is becoming more digital and we encourage that technological progress; however, we have not yet seen any of our graduates hired on at a firm where they didn't have to interview and interact directly with other people. Networking and social interaction are therefore very important skill sets that we look for and which we cultivate and develop in our MBA candidates.

What are the components of a strong application essay?

The essay portion of the MBA application is an opportunity for prospective applicants to exhibit their thoughts clearly and concisely to our admissions committee. It helps us understand how the applicants pull together cohesive thoughts in a professional manner. A strong essay can help the committee understand portions of a topic that might not have otherwise been mentioned in the application or in an interview. A poor essay can weaken an applicant's chance at admissions because it shows us one of two things: either the candidate does not grasp the level of professionalism that is expected throughout the entire application or the applicant has a difficult time verbally communicating series of thoughts in an intelligible manner at the graduate business level. Either way, a poorly written essay is a red flag to our admissions committee.

How much weight do admissions committees give life and leadership experience?

MBA applicants who have a great story about their life and leadership experience are highly sought after by most MBA programs. Applicants who expand on this experience with the admissions committee tend to do well because it shows us first-hand that they are well-rounded individuals who make the most of their situations and are able to adapt and thrive in various environments. We are a program designed to prepare business leaders, so being able to recruit individuals who already exhibit strong leadership skills and life experience helps greatly in that effort.

What advice do you have for applicants who have not scored well on the GMAT or GRE?

My best advice to applicants with low standardized test scores is to study hard and retake the tests on which you scored poorly, if that is at all an option. Most business schools use the scores to filter out those students who might not show enough potential to thrive in the academic environment of the MBA. What this means is if you have scored low on the tests, many business schools might not ever see your application cross their desk because they have filtered you out of their database due to a low test score. Applicants who take these tests seriously, study and score well will have a hand up against others who are competing for seats in the more prestigious MBA programs.

If you are unable to retake the test and/or if you are unable to produce a higher score in subsequent attempts, it is wise for you to strengthen all other aspects of your application. A strong test score tells a school many things about an applicant's ability to perform well in an MBA program and post-MBA, but many of the other qualifications are also great indicators of success. If you have scored low on a standardized test, I advise you to seek out additional opportunities that will show us your leadership potential and which will reassure us that you will be successful in the MBA program and also throughout your life. Efforts such as volunteering with community service organizations, taking a leadership role in a club or at your job, starting your own business or participating in and winning highly competitive contests show admissions committees that you have what it takes to be a successful member of society and to do good in the world.

Executive MBA ranking, The Economist, July 18, 2013, http://www.economist.com/whichmba/executive-mba-ranking
Full-Time MBA Programs, Bloomberg Businessweek, 2012, http://www.businessweek.com/bschools/rankings
Q&A with Neil Mangus, Associate Director of MBA admissions at the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business, conducted by Eric Lipsky, MBAPrograms.org, December 2, 2013
The Notre Dame MBA, University of Mendoza College of Business, http://business.nd.edu/mba/