Getting on the Team at A&M

The university's Mays Business School emphasizes group projects, which Associate MBA Director Wendy Flynn explains reflect the real world

is the associate director of the MBA program at Texas A&M University's Mays Business School (Ranked in the third tier of BusinessWeek's 2004 list of top MBA programs in College Station, where she has guided applicants through the MBA admissions process for seven years. An admissions veteran, Flynn worked at Baylor and West Virginia universities before arriving at Mays. Flynn holds a B.A. from Texas A&M and an M.A. from West Virginia.

She says she looks for students who fit into Texas A&M's "competitively collegial" environment through evidence of leadership and teamwork. Flynn recently talked with BusinessWeek Online reporter Jeffrey Gangemi. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Q: Have MBA applications gone up or down in the past few years?


Applications for fall, 2004 were consistent with the year before. We have about 144 students now, but we would like to increase that to around 180 in the near future. By fall, 2005, I think we will reach our goal of 90 students in the incoming class. We have some aggressive recruiting measures in place, as well as some appealing scholarship opportunities. We have already admitted high-quality students.

Q: How do GMAT scores weigh into your decision?


Our average for fall 2004 was 637, and we'd like to maintain that or go slightly higher. It's only a predictor of first-year performance in an MBA program, but it is important because it is the only consistent judge of every candidate. The first nine months [of the 16-month program] are extremely challenging, so students need to be able to perform well quantitatively.

Q: How important is work experience?


The general rule of thumb for us is about two years of work experience. We are open to considering applicants with less than that if they have other experiences that serve as substitutes, like a solid internship during their undergraduate study or a strong student leadership role. You can come to us from just about any industry. We're looking to develop a participatory environment by assembling a group of people who will bring their unique perspectives into the classroom.

Q: What is a successful application essay to you?


It needs to be well written and carefully crafted to be compelling. We read a lot of essays every day, and we really appreciate those students who do the work to make their essay stand out from the crowd. To do that, applicants should write about a unique experience or attribute that demonstrates what they can bring to a work or intellectual environment. The committee prefers to see professional and personal accomplishments.

Another important thing that we want to see is that the applicant has thought through this decision, and can connect previous experiences with what they hope to get out of an MBA program. We also look closely at the GMAT essays, because they are written in a controlled environment, where an applicant can't do any proofreading.

Q: How important are interviews?


We require interviews, but they are by invitation only. About 99% of the interviews are conducted by my colleagues or myself, and if the student is in Texas, we ask him or her to come to campus.

Come prepared to talk about yourself, and make the case for earning an MBA at Mays. We want to know what you can bring to the program, as well as what you hope to take away from it. I expect to be grilled as much as I expect to grill you, so bring lots of questions. We want to get to know our candidates well, and meeting them helps us immensely. We can usually provide an answer on admission within three to five days of the interview.

Q: What kind of student fits in well at your school?


We are looking for team players -- students who can be leaders, but can also follow when appropriate. When we interview candidates who demonstrate that they work best alone and don't want to be accountable for other people's performance, then that is a concern to us. We don't feel that it reflects the real-world business environment.

Q: What is tuition for an MBA at Texas A&M?


Resident tuition for the current year is $11,745 for tuition and fees, and for a nonresident, the tuition and fees are $24,345. In the second year, students can choose to attend the fall semester only, but they may also elect to stay for the spring semester to take additional courses or to attain a certificate in entrepreneurship, supply-chain management, international business, or business management.

The total cost for the second year is $9,093 for residents and $17,493 for nonresidents. Adding scholarship support to an already reasonably priced high-end MBA program is another ingredient. We have scholarships that range from $2,000 to about $45,000. However, most students who qualify for a scholarship will see about $3,000 to $6,000.

Q: Are there any special programs that attract students?


The weeklong Technology Transfer Competition has self-selected teams of four or five working on a project based on research done anywhere on the Texas A&M campus. The teams present their findings to 100 to 125 corporate judges on the last day of the competition, which is followed by a networking event. Shell provides $3,000 to the winning team, and Wells Fargo (WFC ) provides the second prize of $2,000. In their second year, students also participate in a business-consulting project, in which they work with a real company to achieve a positive solution to a problem.

Q: How are you attracting minorities, including women?


In the last year, we were able to bring minority enrollment from 1% to 14% and female enrollment from 18% to 28%. To achieve this, we reached out to these populations in nontraditional venues like the National Society of Black Engineers Conference or the Women for Hire career fairs.

Q: How do you serve international students?


As part of Texas A&M University, we have a comprehensive international student services department that serves all of the needs of every international student coming to the university. Between 20% and 25% of our full-time MBA program is comprised of international students.

Q: How do you view career changers?


We welcome career switchers, and many of the students who are coming into our program are just that. There are a lot of attributes from one career that can be used to transition into an MBA program and then into a new career. We want to know what about this new career is appealing to them, as well as how they plan to pursue and thrive in the future.