USC Casts a Wider Net

Admissions Director Keith Vaughn says the Marshall School has beefed up its scholarship pool and will boost its admit rate

Since 1997, Keith Vaughn has been director of full-time MBA admissions at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business in Los Angeles. Before joining USC, he was a commercial banker in the San Francisco Bay Area and an entrepreneur in Washington. He also worked in the Career Resource Center at Marshall.

Vaughn is about to wrap up a three-year stint on the board of the Graduate Management Admissions Council and has been a board member of the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management since 1997. He earned his bachelor's degree in economics at Amherst College and an MBA from USC in 1994. Recently, Vaughn spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Mica Schneider. Here's an edited transcript of their conversation:

Q: In 2003, some 1,962 people applied to Marshall's full-time MBA program, vs. 2,540 people in 2002. What's the final tally of applications for 2004?


Last year, we were down 20%. This year, we're down 15%, vs. 2003. That's relatively good, given what I'm hearing from some of our counterparts, who are down anywhere from 20% to 30%.

Q: In 2003, the school accepted 28% of its applicants, vs. 21% the year before. Will you admit a higher percentage of applicants once again in 2004?


Yes. The admit rate will be somewhere in the 28% to 30% range. It will be a competitive year [among schools], since most schools are experiencing significant declines in their applicant pools. That's going to affect some [schools'] yields more than others. One of the things that protects us is that California is still attractive because of the job market in entertainment and for entrepreneurship, as well as being in a metropolitan center.

Q: What tactics will Marshall employ to keep its yields high this year?


The admitted student weekends will be especially important for yields. Our event is in April each year, and we get about 150 admitted students to attend, mostly from the domestic pool. This year, candidates in our third round have been notified in time to make plans to attend our event, whereas typically they would still be waiting to learn of their application status.

We also hope to have more fun with this year's event. In addition to giving everyone a personal introduction to the Marshall MBA, we're hosting a social event at a popular Hollywood location where applicants can mingle with students and alumni in a relaxed atmosphere with bowling, food, and drinks. In the past, the weekend was much more centered around campus.

Q: Has your office received a bigger budget to run such an event?


No. We're using our funds differently, compressing our weekend to just Friday and Saturday to maximize everyone's attendance and enjoyment.

Q: How has the community reacted to news that the University of Washington's B-school dean, Yash Gupta, will be Marshall's new dean this summer?


We're all feeling optimistic.

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