A Chat with Columbia's Assistant Dean for Admissions

Linda Meehan discusses the attraction to applicants of the New York City B-school's proximity to the heart of the finance industry

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Even as the financial-services community sharply curtailed MBA hiring in response to the economic slowdown, Columbia Business School was able to exploit its New York City location to help land its graduates jobs with Wall Street firms. In 2002, almost three-quarters of its grads had offers in hand at graduation. The B-school's combination of stellar finance scholars and proximity to the financial markets' heartbeat has made it an increasingly alluring destination for MBAs, says Linda Meehan, assistant dean for admissions at Columbia, which placed No. 7 in BusinessWeek's latest MBA rankings.

Meehan recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Brian Hindo about application trends. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Q: Do applicants consistently make mistakes on it that result in a less than stellar essay?


One of the glaring mistakes is that they try to answer our question with an essay written for another school. They just cut and paste. That's a real mistake.

Also, a lot of people are unsure of where they're headed, or their goals are unrealistic given their background. They don't think it through. And that's a huge mistake, because we know that, at least before the economy weakened, most people going to business school were going to change careers.

We're evaluating people not just on an answer, but on their thinking, their thought processes, their analysis of their own skills and strengths. There are people who can do almost anything because of who they are. The emotional quotient kicks in, and they can just do it. What people really need to understand is that there isn't a right answer. Just think through what we're asking, and let us have some insight into how you're going to accomplish this.

The other obvious mistake is when they've done no research on the school, and they haven't a clue. That's a huge mistake.

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