Carlson's Personal Touch

At the University of Minnesota, You won't be a number, says MBA Admissions Director Dustin Cornwell

Since August, 2003, Dustin Cornwell has been the director of admissions and recruiting at the University of Minnesota/Twin Cities' Carlson School of Management. Prior to working at the Carlson School, he spent five years as an undergraduate admissions officer at George Washington University.

Cornwell earned a bachelor's degree in international business from George Washington and received his MBA with a concentration in marketing from Carlson. Cornwell recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Mica Schneider via phone and e-mail. Here's an edited transcript of their conversation.

Q: What changes have you made to the admissions office since you arrived in August, 2003?


We really want to focus on ensuring that our campus visit program, Carlson Up Close, is outstanding (for admitted applicants). Because we're a small MBA program, you really feel the personal touch at these events. A lot of our admitted students who had been on other admit weekends said they enjoyed getting their questions answered and meeting people. This is a place where you won't be a number, you'll get to know everyone in your class, and you're able to accomplish more.

We also help our top out-of-state students defray the costs of traveling to Carlson Up Close and defray their program costs.

Q: What changes do you plan over the reasonably near term in your admissions office?


We're continuing our commitment to interview as many applicants as possible and to expand our global alumni network to recruit prospective students. We'll also increase the number of off-campus admissions events we hold. This year, we'll go to India (in July and August). We plan on recruiting in Europe, which is something we haven't done in the past few years. And we're looking at areas of the U.S. where we haven't recruited much.

Q: In 2003, the school received 703 applications for its MBA program, vs. 750-plus applicants the previous year, and about the same in 2001. Is the school concerned about the volume of applicants to its full-time MBA program?


We're concerned, but you'd be hard pressed to find any MBA admissions office that isn't. We know we're battling a nationwide trend of fewer MBA applications overall, and we're actively investigating ways to recruit interested students more effectively.

Q: Why do you think the number of applications you've received this year is lower than in the past?


There are a few reasons, but one is that applicants are doing a better job of researching MBA programs, and they now apply to only three or four programs on average, instead of five or six.

Q: How competitive will MBA admissions be at Carlson this year? Presumably, fewer applicants would mean that a higher percentage of MBA applicants would be admitted.


It's likely that our admit rate will be about the same as it was last year, when we accepted 42% of applicants.

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