Cracking Into the Kelley School

Most students apply to Indiana University's B-School at end of freshman year, admissions officials say

Most undergraduate students apply to the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University at the end of their freshman year. But the few who know what they want to do before arriving on campus can be directly admitted into the undergraduate program if they meet certain qualifications. Out of about 2,250 incoming freshmen who indicated business as their desired major in 2005, 340 were offered direct admission. The Kelley School admits between 1,200 and 1,400 undergraduate students in total each year.

JoAnne Namy is the director of certification at the Kelley School's undergraduate program, which means she tracks students through admissions and their semester of Integrated Core (I-Core), a third-year team project where students incorporate classroom concepts to help a local company solve a real business problem. But to earn a spot at the Kelley School, students must first impress Mary Ellen Anderson, who is director of admissions for the greater university.

Namy and Anderson recently spoke with BusinessWeek reporter Helena Oh. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

What are the requirements for direct admission?

Namy: Students admitted to IU with intended business majors need to have an ACT score of 29 or above or an SAT score of 1270 or above and a high school GPA of 3.5 or higher to be offered direct admission to the Kelley School. Since class ranking is used by fewer and fewer schools, the GPA has become the important academic performance factor in this mix.

For admission after the first year, we look for consistent academic performance. The mean GPA is a 3.3 or 3.4. Students come in with lower GPAs, but they demonstrate a really solid work ethic.

Anderson: Relatively few students are offered direct admission.

What's the acceptance rate for students who apply at the end of their freshman year?

Namy: Typically 72% to 78%. They're pretty well screened, because those who didn't do well in the beginning won't apply. We typically get around 1,200 to 1,500 applications a year.

What does the application entail for second-year admits, and what are you looking for?

Namy: It involves a number of questions about their background and work, volunteer, and leadership experience. There's also a 250-word essay. The essays always concern critical issues facing the business world and ethics or global communications.

There's a comment section, where they can tell us about the experience they've had that makes them a strong candidate. We're looking for how well they manage their time, because time management makes them successful. You have to be committed on a big campus with lots of partying going on to keep focused

What tips do you have for avoiding common mistakes when answering the essay question?

Namy: A common mistakes is that sometimes applicants will only loosely support their thesis. They will say what they think is the most pressing concern but provide little documentation. Students certainly learned in high school how to present an argument, so we're looking for that kind of writing. You need to organize your thoughts.

What are the essay questions like for direct admits?

Anderson: Actually, Indiana doesn't require essays. However, they become important for students who want to apply for scholarships. Many students will send essays and letters of recommendation even though they aren't required. Students can send a personal statement if something isn't explained in the transcript.

Are there interviews?

Anderson: Unless a student has specific questions, we suggest they come for an information session instead. We really prefer they come for a campus visit, interact with current students, and get an idea of who we are. Our office will also be in other parts of the country. For instance, we'll be doing a series of receptions in New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., and Dallas for admitted students and families.

Namy: No. Our fundamental decision is based not on what you tell us but what you show us in your academic performance. We look at the individual courses applicants take, the pattern of courses they've taken, and how well they've managed them. We don't recommend the pass/no pass option [vs. getting a letter grade].

Can students take the same classes as direct admits?

Namy: Yes. Students take fundamental courses during their first two years here, and anyone can take the basic courses regardless of their major.

Is the program conducive to double majoring?

Namy: Since 50% of our requirements are arts and sciences courses, a dual major is very do-able. We also have a good number of students who pick up more than one major in the Kelley school. Kelley also offers two secondary majors that don't stand alone: international studies and computer information systems (CIS).

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