Before becoming the director of MBA admissions at University of Wisconsin-Madison, Betsy Kacizak served as the director for the MBA program's career services office. She has spent a total of nine years at the Wisconsin School of Business, where previously she worked as a human resources coordinator.
Kacizak recently shared some admissions advice with BusinessWeek.com reporter Alina Dizik. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:
Are you seeing more applications now than in the recent past?
We actually have. We moved our first deadline up to Nov. 1 from Nov. 15, which we think caused an increase in the number of completed applications. A lot of times people will log in and won't submit until a later date. This time, there's a number that's ready for review.
What's the most unusual or difficult essay question on your application? What's your advice to students on how to answer it?
The two questions for career specialization are difficult. Candidates need to have focus and need to understand the area which they are pursuing. But overall, I don't think our essay questions are difficult. People need to be honest with themselves—self-reflection is important.
Do students apply in rounds? Are there any benefits to being in an earlier round?
We have four different deadlines: Nov. 1, Jan. 23, Mar. 26, and May 15. Mar. 26 is the last deadline for international applicants as well as the priority deadline for merit-based financial aid. The Nov. 1 deadline works well for candidates who want to hear a decision much earlier. A lot of the people applying are people who have been thinking about this and preparing for a number of years. The January deadline works well for people who usually have extra time off from work during the holidays.
What are some common mistakes that candidates make in their applications?
Follow directions. If there's a page limit or word limit, follow that. Update your résumé. And don't rush your application just to hit a deadline; some people try to hurry, thinking that it's better to hit an earlier deadline than to take your time.
What do you look for in applicants' essays?
I would recommend that you be genuine. Be honest with yourself, and actually be yourself. An applicant mistake you'll see is someone that tries to be something that they're not. It comes down to us being a career-specialized and focused program, and we just want to know you're a good fit...