Making the Cut at Katz

Kelly Wilson, MBA admissions director at the University of Pittsburgh's B-school, talks about what she's looking for in applicants

Kelly Wilson is assistant dean and director of the MBA admissions office at University of Pittsburgh's Katz Graduate School of Business (listed among BusinessWeek's second tier of full-time MBA programs in 2002). She has worked at the Katz school since 1999 and has been in her current role since January, 2000. Wilson is responsible for recruiting applicants to the full- and part-time MBA programs at Katz and determining which applicants fit the bill.

She earned her MBA in 1998 from George Mason University and then worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers as a senior associate in strategic change. Before her MBA, she was an account executive in the property department with Johnson & Higgins in Washington. Wilson recently spoke by e-mail and phone with BusinessWeek Online reporter, Mica Schneider. Here's an edited transcript of their discussion:

Q: What changes have been made at the Katz school in the past few years that readers may not be aware of?


We now have a two-year MBA program, started in 2003, to complement the one-year MBA program that has been our flagship since the school's inception in the 1960s. In addition, we have various dual-degree programs, allowing students to obtain two master's degrees in two years. Our two most popular dual-degrees are the MBA/MS in management of information systems and the MBA/JD (juris doctor/doctor of jurisprudence).

Q: Last year, your office received 590 applicants to its full-time MBA program. How many are you expecting in 2004?


Five hundred.

Q: Why has the number of applications fallen from previous years?


The Graduate Management Admissions Council [the nonprofit organization that runs the GMAT exam] conducted a survey of admissions directors regarding mid-cycle application trends. Three-quarters of the schools responding noted a drop in applications. The reasons ranged from "effects of a prolonged weak economy" to "negative media coverage (corporate scandals/value of the MBA)." We're feeling the same effects that other schools are.

Q: How competitive will MBA admissions be at Katz? Presumably, fewer applicants allow for a higher percentage of MBA applicants to be admitted...


It's our goal to maintain the quality of the class. The fact that applications are down...may be a signal that our classes in the one-year, two-year, and dual-degree programs will be a little smaller.

Q: When is the best time to apply to the Katz school?


Early is better. Our first deadline is Dec. 1. However, this doesn't mean that a strong application coming across my desk much later in the admission cycle would be considered differently for admission than it would earlier in the process. Put together the strongest application possible. This may mean that you cannot submit your application until a later deadline.

We'll continue to review applications on a space-available basis after the April deadline, but no later than mid-July.

Q: In general, what makes an applicant a good match for Katz's full-time MBA program?


A good match is someone who has a well thought-out plan for the future. Being able to articulate your goals and how the MBA at Katz will help you bridge your past experience to your new career is critical. The Katz student must be willing to work at a rigorous pace in a diverse environment, working in teams with people from all over the world.

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