Minnesota Plays Up Its Strengths

Access to several local blue chip companies, plus strong brand management, marketing, and management information system programs are selling points

As an undergraduate alumnus of the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, Jeff Bieganek has an insider's view of the Twin Cities business school. It's a perspective that has come in handy for Bieganek, who now serves as the school's director of admission and business development for MBA programs and executive education. He describes himself as "quite the champion" for his alma mater, which he said is ideally situated among a cluster of blue chip companies in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

Bieganek received an MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business and worked in the entertainment and arts industry in New York before joining Carlson's admissions office in 2000. He has overseen the school's part-time and executive MBA programs since 2001 and began overseeing the full-time MBA program this March. Bieganek recently spoke with BusinessWeek.com reporter Alison Damast to share some insider tips on Carlson and the admissions process.

Are there any major changes to the application process this year?

One thing has changed. We've made the interview process match with the marketplace by making it invitation-only. This is something that you see at a lot of schools now. We want to do that even at the early stage of the application process because it allows us to get a look at a student first before we interview them.

What are some of the challenges students confront when writing application essays?

I don't think the students find the questions themselves difficult. I think they find meeting the word limits always challenging, as well as getting their point across clearly and concisely. Answering the question of why do you want to get an MBA means you really need to know yourself and have a good self-awareness, and that's hard and takes some time. It's important for them to understand themselves and understand their strengths and be able to write about them in a short and succinct fashion.

I know Carlson has three rounds of application deadlines, the first of which is Dec. 15. What are the benefits to applying in the first round?

It's great to be in that first round because obviously we start making scholarship decisions on that first round. And certainly, the committee gets the first look at you.

What do you look for in an applicant?

We are really looking for somebody who knows themselves and knows...

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