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Business Schools

Olin's Goal: Leadership and Passion

Brad Pearson is director of admissions and financial aid at Washington University's Olin School of Business, No. 24 in BusinessWeek's latest B-School rankings. Prior to joining the Olin School, which is in St. Louis, Mo., in October, 2000, Pearson was associate director of admissions at the University of Chicago. He earned his MBA from Governor's State University in University Park, Ill., in 1993. Pearson was interviewed by BusinessWeek Online reporter Mica Schneider. Following are edited excerpts from their discussion:

Q: The last time we spoke, in the winter of 2002, you were enjoying a surge in MBA applications. This past year has been quite a different story...

A: We're down 24% vs. 2003. Even so, this year is proving very competitive. We were just as selective in 2004 as we were in 2003, and the yield [the number of accepted students who enroll] is trending higher.

We're also concentrating our recruitment efforts on targeted groups, for instance, post-doctorate students, participants in Teach for America, military personnel, health-care workers, and anyone interested in our new joint-degree program in biomedical engineering.

Q: How competitive do you anticipate the 2004-05 application season to be?

A: Things may become more competitive, but probably nothing like three or five years ago. If candidates are gauging their chances of gaining admission into Olin, take a look at our school profile.

Q: When is the best time to apply? What percentage of your next class had enrolled by the school's final application deadline of Apr. 23?

A: Earlier, but we don't want our applicants to rush the process and come off unprepared. Approximately 50% of next year's class had [put down a deposit] by the end of April. Since then, another 30% or so have made their deposits.

Q: In general, what makes an applicant a good match for Olin?

A: Leadership experience, involvement in the community, strong communication skills, and academic talent. We also like to see someone who has a sincere passion for the program. They should have a passion for being involved in the program and in clubs, and remain involved as an alumnus.

Q: By your standards, what kinds of professional experience make MBA hopefuls stand apart from the competition?

A: Progression within their company, leadership, substantive experiences, and achievement.

Q: Which piece of the MBA application carries the most weight?

A: We don't look for reasons to deny applicants, [but] rather, for reasons to accept them. The entire application is important. It's about a lot more than just the numbers. We really try to assess the personal characteristics and passion that predict fit and impact.

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