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Business Schools

A Talk with Rochester's Admissions Director

Q: Those are good questions. So how do you stand out in a crowded B-school marketplace?

A: I think we can continue to use our alumni to tell the story about what a good experience Simon is. Many referrals we get for students are through alumni, who tell the story of our top-ranked faculty, the cross-cultural nature of our programs, the education you get. [Otherwise,] it's really hard todiscern how one school is significantly different from another.

Q: As a city, Rochester, N.Y., may not be on many people's radar screens. What would you say to an applicant who may have some trepidation about moving there?

A: The first thing is, school becomes a huge part of your life, both academically and socially. You'll be socializing and going to school with a significant population of interesting peers. It's a nice, medium-size city. It's clean, it's safe, it's relatively cheap -- those are all benefits.

The university has a world-class music school, so there are lots of events to go to. We have museums, theater, great restaurants -- all the things students are interested in. The reality is, you're going to spend a lot of time -- especially in the first year -- studying, so where you are may not be so important. Though personally, I find Rochester a very enjoyable city.

Q: It gets pretty cold, no?

A: It varies. This year, we've already had as much snow as we had the entire winter last year. The campus is designed for a cold climate. There are tunnels to everywhere you need to go, so once you get in from the parking lot you basically don't have to set foot outside. You can get to the gym, to restaurants and dining halls, to the library.

Q: Do many graduates end up staying in the Rochester area?

A: Not a significant number, no. We don't draw significantly from the area for our full-time program. Most students come for the two years and are looking to move elsewhere, though we always have people who find Rochester a delightful place. We had a woman from Puerto Rico who came to school a couple years ago, and she and her family loved Rochester. She set out to get a job here, and they are now Rochesterians.

Q: How does the school interact with the big corporations in Rochester, such as Bausch & Lomb (BOL ), Kodak (EK ), and Xerox (XRX )?

A: Many of our part-time students come from those companies. If you take evening classes, you're sharing them with students who may talk about a situation in their company. In good economic times, those companies are all employers of interns as well as sources of permanent placements. The last couple of years, that hasn't been the case so much. All of those companies are actively involved in the school somehow -- perhaps their executives serve on advisory boards or as university trustees, or [the companies] donate money.

Q: Rochester has four application deadlines -- Dec. 15, Feb. 1, Mar. 15, and June 1 -- but you use rolling admissions [in which applications are judged as they are received rather than in formal application rounds]. What role do deadlines play if admissions are rolling?

A: We commit to looking at all the applications received by a certain date before we look at the rest. The two first deadlines are priorities for financial aid. So if you're interested in being considered for financial aid, it's a good idea to get your application in by the first two deadlines. Thatdoesn't mean we won't consider you for financial aid after that, but at that point [we'll consider you based on whether] there is money left.

Q: A lot of people believe that in a rolling admissions cycle, it's best to get the application in as soon as possible. Does that hold true at Rochester?

A: If I were applying, I would get my application in by one of the first two deadlines.

Q: How soon did you fill the class last year?

A: We were pretty much full by Apr. 15. We did still take people who applied by the last deadline, but the majority of the class was filled at that point.

We bring in 180 to 190 people every year for our fall class. We also bring in a January class of 50 or 60 people. The January class allows you to complete the degree in 18 months. It compresses the degree -- you take classes in the winter quarter, the spring, and the summer to complete your first year, andthen you join the second year [schedule] in the fall.

Q: Where else do Rochester applicants apply?

A: Cornell is right down the street, and we have many cross-applicants. Carnegie Mellon is another school, also NYU. And then Chicago and Wharton, because of our finance strength.

Q: Your application requires candidates to answer four broad essay questions. What should be going through applicants' minds as they begin to answer them?

A: Being focused and answering the question [are key]. We kept the word count really tight -- 450 words apiece -- because we want people to think in the business mode, which is to get to what you're saying and focus on the answer. We're looking to see that somebody has goals and objectives that fit with what we offer. They really understand why they want an MBA. They can give us some sense of how their background relates to their future objectives once they get an MBA. I suggest you edit your essays carefully and not refer to another school in them.

Q: How often does that really happen?

A: It's surprising. Every 12 essays or so, you'll see somebody refer to another school. Clearly they're trying to use the same essay for multiple schools and didn't do their editing well.

Q: Admissions officers have been giving increasing attention to candidates' ethics and integrity. Does Simon use background checks or the like to screen applicants?

A: We do some random checking of references and recommenders. We take random r?sum?s and check companies -- especially names of companieswe haven't heard of. We haven't reached the point of an across-the-board background check. It's something we've been talking about with other business schools.

Q: Are there any misconceptions about Rochester you wish would go away?

A: One is: "Unless you are a highly quantitative person, you're not going to be successful at Rochester." I think that's a huge misconception. Rochester is a great school for someone who isn't a highly quantitative person. I was a history major in undergraduate school and had basically no math. I went back and did some preparation before I got my MBA, but for me the broad liberal arts background melded wonderfully with the MBA degree. People are scared off by the misconception that we're only a "quant" school.

Another is: "If you don't want to do finance, you shouldn't think about going to Rochester." We have many strong concentrations -- entrepreneurship, brand management, health sciences. There are many reasons to come to Rochester other than [to study] finance.

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