business

Meet Babson's Admissions Director

A talk with Kate Klepper, director of admissions at Babson College's MBA program

Our guest on Dec. 7, 2001, was Kate Klepper, director of admissions for the Babson College MBA program in Wellesley, Mass. -- one of BW's Top 50 B-schools. Klepper assumed that job last August, after managing marketing and admissions for MBA programs at Northeastern University for eight years. She was interviewed by BusinessWeek Online reporter Mica Schneider. Following is an edited transcript of their discussion:

Q: Kate, Babson has a loyal following in the Northeast. Its reputation is growing in the rest of the U.S. And abroad, people are starting to learn more about it. What message should they hear about the MBA program?

A:

Babson is helping people become leaders in situations involving change and innovation. Students get this message in class, and through their Management Consulting Field Experiences (MCFE), which range from researching how Gillette could improve supply-chain management to projects at EMC, New Balance, the Franklin Park Zoo, or the U.S. Secret Service.

Q: Still, Babson has a reputation as a regional B-school with strengths mainly in entrepreneurial studies. Some applicants may not see that as beneficial, especially if they're after corporate jobs in banking, consulting, or manufacturing.

A:

Our image as a regional school has been accurate in the past, but our global alumni base is helping change that. Last year, as we traveled [to recruit MBAs], interest in Babson ratcheted up. Our alums' experiences at Babson, and their rise to high positions in corporations, help improve the brand of the school. The education we provide helps MBAs bound for corporations to be entrepreneurial -- to think creatively about business problems.

Nearly 60% of our 2001 Babson MBA class was hired by corporations with more than 500 employees. These include A.T. Kearney, BMW of North America, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, EMC, Fidelity Investments, GE Capital, IBM, Nabisco, and Siemens. A comprehensive list of employers is available at our Web site.

Q: Babson has a large enrollment: Of the 1,646 people on campus this year, most are part-time MBA students. How much interaction do students from each of your MBA programs have?

A:

In the second year, the full-time students share electives with part-time students.

Q: You handle admissions for both the full- and part-time programs at Babson. Which is the more difficult to get into?

A:

The full-time program [Editor's note: Babson has both one-year and two-year full-time programs] has more applicants. Because it's a fast-paced program, we have to be extra careful who we take.

The one-year program is very competitive. For that, we want folks who have an undergraduate degree in business administration. Last year, we had more than 150 applications for 40 seats. And our applications are way up this year. The program begins in May, and the entire core is done over the summer months. In the fall, those 40 students mix with second-year MBA students.

Q: Mark Rice became Babson's dean in the fall of 2001. He came from Rensselaer Polytechic Institute's Lally School of Management and Technology, where he lead an initiative to merge engineering with entrepreneurship. He told BusinessWeek Online recently that he plans to merge the two at Olin, too [click here for a video interview with Mark Rice]. How does that affect the typical student you're hoping to attract to Babson?

A:

Our ideal student is someone who's going to be a leader of change in innovative industries. We want people who can work lead effectively in chaotic situations, if necessary.

Q: Which part of the application is most important at Babson?

A:

No one piece carries significantly more weight than another. We look at both quantitative and communication skills. We're very interested in applicants' work experience, undergraduate records, and professional recommendations.

Q: What's considered strong professional experience at Babson?

A:

We want someone who has held leadership roles -- positions of accountability and responsibility.

Q: Babson's GMAT range is 570 to 710. What's the lowest you've accepted, and why?

A:

An exception would be made for someone whose test score isn't in line with their undergraduate education. Their work experience is very important, and would show that they have the potential to be a leader. We might make an exception for someone who has been successful in the past, and who is able to work in teams. [Editor's note: To report your GMAT scores to Babson, use the following reporting code: 3075.]

Q: How does Babson evaluate the split between the quantitative and verbal sections of the GMAT?

A:

I like to see a high GMAT score, but if it lacks balance I'll be concerned. We're heavily analytical, but there's also a lot of writing at Babson. You can't come in with a 90% quantitative score, and a 10% verbal. It's not going to work.

Q: What GMAT scores raise red flags?

A:

We want people to be in the [middle] 80% range in both the quantitative and verbal sections. We also look at other indicators in the application: We'll review recommendations, essays, Analytical Writing Assessments, and other areas to bolster any GMAT deficit. We don't stop with the GMAT.

Q: Babson's second essay question asks applicants to discuss a change or improvement they've made to an organization they're affiliated with. What's an ideal example?

A:

We're looking to see how they managed through that change: How did they build consensus, what kind of surprises did they find along the way, how did they find the human resources to help them, what worked, what didn't? Part of it is self-awareness, part is the project itself. It's not all about, "Did your company make more money?" We've had some very successful candidates whose backgrounds were in the Peace Corps. They've had tremendous impacts on their communities.

[Editor's note: Here are Babson's essay questions:

(1) Please discuss your post-MBA short term and long term goals. How will your professional experience, when combined with an MBA degree, allow you to achieve these goals?

(2) What is the most significant change or improvement you have made to any organization with which you have recently been or are currently affiliated? Describe the process that you went through to identify the need for the change or improvement to the organization, how you managed the process of implementing the change, and describe the results.

(3) Because MBA students work closely together, we would like to understand what there is about your background and your experience that would make a contribution to the diversity of the entering class and enhance the educational experience of other students.

(4) (Optional) Is there anything else that you think we should know as we evaluate your application? If you believe your credentials and essays represent you fairly, you shouldn't feel obligated to answer this question.]

Q: When is it crucial for an applicant to write an optional essay?

A:

When there's something that we haven't asked that they think is important for us to know. For instance, something that may have affected their undergraduate GPA, or an unusual situation that may need further explanation. I've never seen anyone waste their time in the optional essay.

Q: What's the best recommendation?

A:

I'd rather see an honest one than a glowing one. It's hard to believe that every applicant to business school is the "best applicant I've ever seen." Tell us what a person has done, the indicators that this candidate is a good manager and that leadership is the next logical step in their career. In difficult situations did they learn, show initiative, and move on?

Q: Who's the ideal person to write a recommendation?

A:

We want professional recommendations. A supervisor, a former boss, is fine. Customers, people you have a formal business relationship with, who can speak to those same factors and issues, are good, too.

Q: Babson didn't admit any of its reapplicants in 2001. What does it take to get in as a reapplicant?

A:

When we ask someone to reapply, we'll give that person as much feedback as we can about what area of their application needs the most improvement -- for instance, a GMAT score, or a response to essay questions. If someone feels strongly about the school, and seems viable, we'll work to help them. We'll walk through their application and let them know what areas the admissions committee has questioned.

Q: How long does it take for Babson to process an application?

A:

All of our decision dates are published in our catalog. The first deadline was the beginning of November, and we'll mail those decisions by Feb. 15. All of our [full-time] day students are interviewed, and after the interview, their application is brought to committee and discussed by the readers. Each application is read by at least three individuals. We often e-mail or call applicants to let them know that the letter with the school's decision is on the way.

Q: What can an applicant expect during a Babson interview?

A:

We want to know about the applicants: Who they are, why they want to come to Babson, their career successes and failures. We want to know about their plans for the future. A red flag would be someone who's coming to business school without direction or a plan. Plans change, and that's okay. But to have no plan would be a concern for us. It's a relatively small program, so it's very important to have a sense of community. Have they had experience in a small organization? There are lots of opportunities to take leadership roles in our student organizations, so we're looking for good fit academically and in our community.

Q: Is a long interview better than a short one?

A:

Not always. Sometimes if we can't get what we're looking for, it takes longer.

Q: What happens when Babson places a candidate on its wait list?

A:

In the early decision rounds, we'll often defer a decision until a later round. We're not 100% ready to make an offer on such applicants, because we want to see what the fuller pool [of applicants] brings. We usually place about 25 to 35 people on the wait list. Traditionally, five to 10 of those people will be admitted.

We're more than happy to give advice to both deferred and wait-listed candidates. Someone from our office will be in touch with them, and we'll see if they can make improvements in a short time. That's why it can be good to apply in an early round.

Q: Any pet peeves when you review MBA applications?

A:

Applications that are too generic -- that could be for someone who is applying anywhere -- and don't display knowledge of our program.

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