Chat Transcript: Notre Dame Admissions

With the next deadline for MBA applications set for Jan. 18, 2009, admissions at Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business (Mendoza Full-Time MBA Profile) recently shared some insights into what the business school is looking for in MBA candidates. At a live chat event, MBA Admissions Director Brian Lohr (BrianLohr) and first-year student Carly DaCosta (NDCarlyDaCosta), who went to West Point and served as an active duty Army officer for five years before business school, answered questions from prospective B-school students. The chat, which was moderated by Bloomberg BusinessWeek reporter Francesca Di Meglio, covered everything from low undergrad GPAs to finding the business school with the right fit. Here are edited excerpts of the chat: Ellis: Given the current economic situation and increase in applications for MBA programs, is Notre Dame increasing its enrollment in 2010? BrianLohr: We are not increasing our enrollment even though our applications have increased in recent years. Our dean believes in the value of small class sizes and a sense of community. Ellis: Do you publish the mean GMAT score and/or GMAT range (middle 80%) for the one-year MBA program? On your Web site you have these statistics for the two-year program but not for the one-year program. Is there much difference between the two programs? BrianLohr: The middle 90% range for the one-year MBA was 530 to 730 last year. There isn't really much difference between the programs other than the internship. That's the biggest differentiator. If you have a clear career development plan and a business undergrad [degree], then the one year can make a lot of sense. We have a number of employers who have had a lot of success with one-year candidates, and they come here to recruit them, so it's a great program on a number of levels. Ellis: From your Web site I noticed financial companies, such as Citi (C), Barclays (BCS), UBS (UBS), ABN AMRO (ABN), and Lazard as some of your top recruiting companies. Can you please tell me the types of positions your graduates received in these companies (for example, investment banker, research analyst, trader)? BrianLohr: We placed students into investment banking, sales and trading, transaction services, and leveraged debt associate positions. Notre Dame has a strong relationship with the Wall Street community. Ellis: Notre Dame has noticeably increased the marketing of its MBA programs. Can you tell me the reason for this in the university's eyes? BrianLohr: We're in the process of rebranding the entire business college with the Ask More of Business brand positioning, and as part of that effort we've ramped up marketing for the MBA program and all our programs. We're excited about this new brand position and its relevance in today's business climate and connection to our core values. Ellis: Given the current economic state of our country and the amount of layoffs over the past couple years, how does Notre Dame view candidates who are unemployed? BrianLohr: We recognize the economic situation in the world today and we evaluate each candidate individually. We understand layoffs may have affected applicants, and we don't hold that against them. We do, however, want to have a clear understanding of their situation and what they have been doing in the meantime. On a related note, we do support those of our Notre Dame alumni who have been affected by the market downturn. Each MBA candidate currently in the program is assigned a functional career coach who helps him navigate the career development process during the MBA experience and also learn skills that set him up for success down the road through future economic cycles. bobcat: Many schools have their strongest concentration in one area. Is that true for Mendoza? What is that concentration? BrianLohr: If you look at placement as a barometer, our strongest concentrations are corporate finance and investments, followed by marketing and consulting. bobcat: It seems that there are many potential fellowships for applicants to the Mendoza program, yet those are on a first-come, first-serve basis. At this point in the process, are there still fellowships available? BrianLohr: We have fellowships throughout the cycle. It's important to note that all our fellowships are merit-based, but also keep in mind that last year more than 65% of our class received some form of fellowship, ranging from $5,000 to full tuition. Federal aid loans for U.S. citizens have some deadlines, however. Be sure to work on your FAFSA in early January before the February deadline. vietdevil3: Because I did not do well during my first year of college, I have a low overall GPA of 3.17. However, I tried harder the last two years of college and improved my grade substantially (3.94 for the last five semesters). Will the low grades from the first year of college prevent me from entering a top-notch MBA program such as Mendoza College of Business (assuming all other factors, such as GMAT, backgrounds, experiences, fit, etc., are equal)? BrianLohr: I like the trend. The admissions committee will look at your entire transcript and evaluate not only GPA but the rigor of courses and the overall trend in performance. cho1121: As a career-changer candidate with three different paths (all in business), would you recommend deferring admission until the path is chosen, or attempt to figure it out during the first year of school? BrianLohr: Career changes are very common in the two-year MBA program. Part of the MBA experience is learning about all the great opportunities afforded you as a Notre Dame MBA. Our student services and career development staffs work with you early (even before you arrive) to help you chart a path. We want you to be successful. NDCarlyDaCosta: I am certainly a career changer myself and did not know which direction I wanted to go when I applied to Notre Dame. After getting accepted, career development was an immediate help by providing resources that enabled me to look at careers that might interest me. They are very focused on mentoring students individually, and it is very important to them that students pursue a career that is the right fit. bobcat: The Web site suggests that students choose a concentration at the end of the first year. Yet, many recommend a strong focus when applying to business school. How important is it to apply with a predetermined concentration? BrianLohr: Despite my love for football, I'm never going to be an NFL linebacker. I just don't have the skill set. The same thing applies to MBA applicants. While you don't have to have your concentration totally nailed down, you should have a pretty clear idea of the general direction you want to go. As I said earlier, part of the experience is finding out all the options that are open to you as a Domer. vietdevil3: Do you focus on the undergraduate institution of candidates? For example, will the fact that I attended Augusta State University, a lesser-known school, weigh against me? BrianLohr: Absolutely not. In the two-year program we have nearly 120 undergraduate institutions represented, including my alma mater Westminster College in Pennsylvania. The most important thing is that you demonstrated a high level of academic achievement, regardless of where you went to school. bobcat: Carly, how is it that you chose Notre Dame over other schools, given that you must have had many options as a West Point graduate? NDCarlyDaCosta: While researching a number of schools, I kept being told that I need to look at "fit." I didn't know what the heck "fit" meant until I started to research Notre Dame. Given my undergrad's values, small-school feel, academic rigor, alumni network, and history, I was immediately attracted to Notre Dame, as it is a mirror image. Its class size of 150 is wonderful. I get to know my classmates. The alumni network is not just graduates but the entire school. Everyone is very willing to help you if you need it. bobcat: Average work experience for business school students seems to be around five years. Is it an advantage or disadvantage to have roughly 10 years of experience, including five in middle management? BrianLohr: There are really no magic numbers. What I can definitely say about candidates with more experience is that they add a great deal to the classroom environment. From a program perspective, that's a plus. On the career-development side, companies are looking for the best candidate, and selection criteria are based on a wide variety of factors. Amount of work experience is just one among many. vietdevil3: Do you think two years of work experience is sufficient? BrianLohr: It really depends on the quality of that work experience. Opportunities to manage people and budgets and exposure to senior leadership are important no matter how long you've worked. cho1121: Are students allowed to skip core classes based on previous academic experience (for example, accounting), and would you recommend skipping such core classes (with the risk of not getting to know your peers as well)? BrianLohr: Right now we don't allow students to waive core courses. However, the senior director and associate dean, in conjunction with the curriculum committee, are crafting a policy to address this issue. We should have something nailed down by next fall. cho1121: Going into fit, what type of students would appreciate the Notre Dame experience? BrianLohr: Students who enjoy small teams, personal attention from world-class professors, and individual career coaching, and who want to belong to the greatest alumni network in the world, would fit in well at Notre Dame. But I may be biased.

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