At UW-Madison, Focus Is Key

Says Admissions Director Betsy Kacizak: The Wisconsin MBA is designed for candidates who have clear career goals

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Betsy Kacizak is director of MBA admissions and financial aid at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business, which is on BusinessWeek's list of second-tier full-time MBA programs. Kacizak has held this post for 18 months, having spent the prior four years as director of career services for the MBA program. She received her undergraduate degree in communications from the University of Wisconsin at Platteville, and her masters in human-resources management from DeVry University's Keller Graduate School.

Kacizak recently spoke by e-mail and phone with BusinessWeek Online reporter Mica Schneider. Here's an edited transcript of their conversation:

Q: Should more applicants to your school expect to make the cut this season?


We're looking to enroll an MBA class of about 110 for the fall of 2004. We've made a strategic decision to reduce the class size as we move to a new program format. For the first time this fall, we're going to separate the students into three cohorts as they take their first-year core courses.

Q: Applicant volume is down this year. Your office expects to field 600 applications in 2004, vs. more than 850 last year.


Yes, but the quality of the applicant pool is stronger. Candidates have solid professional experience, transferable skills, a proven academic record, and we have seen an increase in the average GMAT scores.

Q: How are Wisconsin's second-year MBAs doing with their job hunts this season?


Quite well. The days of getting your job offer in September and sitting back for a year are gone. But students are getting offers. Some, multiple offers.

Q: Wisconsin's admissions office used to take an applicant's GPA, GMAT score, and undergraduate record and assign a weight and formula to them. How is an application evaluated when it reaches the admissions office in 2004?


No formula is used anymore. The process is holistic. We look at the applicant's career focus, their need for the MBA, academic ability, and leadership potential. We look at professional experiences -- working, volunteering, and others -- and at their experiences and responsibilities. We look at who they selected as references and what those references said. We still review their undergraduate courses, academic performance, and GMAT [scores].

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


All of it is important. However, if there's one thing that can make a candidate stand out, it's the career focus they communicate in their essays. Essays can have a huge impact.

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