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Admissions Q&A: Brigham Young

Admissions Q&A: Brigham Young

Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Management (Marriott Full-Time MBA Profile) offers students more than a rigorous business education. Students at the school, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are required to abide by a strict honor code, based on the tenets of the Mormon religion. The code includes rules against academic dishonesty and requires students to "live a chaste and virtuous life." It also prohibits drugs, alcohol, and coffee—even at home. "It's a code of ethics in the classroom and in their lifestyle," explains Yvette Anderson, the school's admissions coordinator.

For students who are willing to follow the school's rules, BYU has a lot to offer. Marriott's top-notch business education combined with a close-knit alumni network means graduates tend to be successful in finding jobs upon graduation. And the school's location in Provo, Utah, is near ski resorts, meaning that MBAs can relax after class by hitting the slopes.

Anderson recently discussed admissions at the Marriott School with Bloomberg Businessweek's Zachary Tracer. To learn more about the school, read the edited transcript of their conversation here.

What makes someone a good fit for a BYU MBA?

I think one of the things that students need to think about when considering BYU and the fit, is the mission of the university. BYU's mission is to develop students of faith, intellect, and character who are interested in continuing to learn and serving others throughout their lives. And one of our program goals is to teach students to learn to contribute quickly and apply what they have learned quickly both in a corporate setting and in their communities. So students who have a desire to give back are a good fit for the program.

Can you tell me more about the school's affiliation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and how someone should evaluate that when considering whether to apply?

BYU is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And so significant portions of university operating costs are paid with the tithes of church members. As a result of that support, church members are assessed lower tuition fees than those who are not members. This is really similar to state universities charging higher tuition to nonresidents. Something else that they should keep in mind when considering BYU is if they're willing to live [by] the honor code, which is a lifestyle guide that our students are required to live by.

Could you tell me more about the honor code? Every school prohibits cheating and academic dishonesty. Beyond that, are you asking students to refrain from drinking in their homes as well as on campus?

It's a standard of living that our students are required to maintain. It involves upholding church standards, which means that there's no alcohol, no drugs. It's a code of ethics in the classroom and in their lifestyle, so it encompasses their daily living on and off campus.

Why should a student who's not Mormon consider coming to BYU? What does BYU have to offer them?

We have found that there are a number of applicants who come from a variety of religious backgrounds who find the environment conducive to their lifestyle and value system as well. We do welcome applicants from any religious affiliation and currently we have 16 non-LDS students enrolled.

The Marriott School has a reputation for being family-friendly. Can you tell me about how the school supports married couples?

What we have here is an association for those who are married that provides a support structure for spouses and families of students in the program. Our families find that extremely helpful in providing a network of support while their spouses are involved in an academically rigorous program.

When individuals apply to the school, how do you evaluate them? What are you looking for?

What we're looking for are people who are prepared to succeed in the program. So, in addition to the quantitative aspects of an application—which include GPA, the GMAT, and years of work experience—we consider the qualitative aspects very carefully. Placement is a significant concern for us right now in [this] economy, as it is for most schools, so we're looking at the type of experience [applicants] have had and how well their pre-MBA experience supports the goals they've indicated.

Is there a minimum GMAT score, GPA, number of years of work experience, or anything like that, that students should be aware of?

We do not have a minimum as far as GMAT score is concerned. The average GMAT score for our incoming class is 674. We're particularly interested in a quantitative score at the 50th percentile or above. Of course, we're looking for academic preparation. The university does have a minimum GPA requirement of 3.0 to be admitted for graduate studies. We don't really have a minimum [work experience]; however, we have discovered that in order to get the attention of our recruiters, the students need to have a minimum of two years of work.

When you're looking at the application as a whole, are there any areas where you commonly see mistakes?

People should spend more time on their résumé—doing a little research into how to prepare a résumé that is clear, succinct, [and] shows results in their organization. It should be professionally written and formatted, and kept to one page. The common mistake that we see is résumés that are poorly constructed and it's very hard for us to determine how [the applicants] have contributed to [their] organization.

Do you have any tips for candidates working on your essays?

Learn to tell a good story, learn to be very clear and very succinct. We see essays that sometimes drag on for several pages and we don't need essays that are four or five pages long. Two pages is all that we're really looking for.

What makes a good recommendation letter and how should applicants go about finding people to write those?

Students should find recommenders who know them well. Oftentimes I'm asked if a recommender with name recognition will be more influential. But what we're looking for are recommenders who can speak to an applicant's leadership potential, their interpersonal skills, how an applicant has contributed to an organization they've worked for, and can be specific in citing those details. Our recommendation is that [applicants] look for a supervisor or a manager.

The Marriott School conducts admissions in four rounds. Is there an advantage to applying earlier?

There is. Doing admissions on a rolling basis means that we begin to offer positions in the program soon after the first deadline and so the class begins to fill at that time. Those who apply early with a well-prepared application are in a better position to know what their future plans are. The later it gets in the application process, the more competitive it becomes for those remaining seats.

Admissions to the school are competitive. About half of the students who apply get in—do you have any advice for individuals who don't get in? What should they do?

There may be a number of factors involved as to why someone did not get in. If it's a weak GMAT score, I would suggest that they put in the time necessary to strengthen that area and reapply. If they need additional work experience, that's just going to take time. If it's not clear to them why they did not get in, they're always welcome to visit with someone here in the program, to get some additional direction, but I think fairly often it is clear.

Are there any changes to the curriculum recently or upcoming?

We have introduced a new minor this year that has to do with social innovation that we think students will find interesting. This minor helps prepare students to work effectively with organizations that are not-for-profit, government entities, [or] corporations that are involved in working on social problems.

In 2009, 83 percent of your graduating MBAs received a job offer within three months of graduation. How are you working with students to prepare them for this tough job market?

We've got a really great program in place here that has proved to be incredibly effective. It's a peer-led mentoring program, known here as a Sherpa program. We currently have 37 second-year students who have taken initiative in a way that you would most likely see paid staff take at a university, and these "sherpas" mentor first-year students through the recruiting process. They assist students with setting focus, understanding opportunities, helping them master their story, managing a network, and interview skills. This Sherpa program also institutionalizes the idea of giving back, and so it consequently creates some really great alums. Our director of the MBA program sent out an e-mail to our alums explaining that we had these great students who were looking for placement in a difficult economy and asking for any leads or assistance that they might have, and the response to that was incredible.

Can you tell me about what it's like to live in the Provo area?

Provo is the third-largest city in the state of Utah. It's a large college town but it also has a lot of high-tech companies. Provo is located 43 miles south of Salt Lake [City] and students enjoy close proximity to the mountains, the water, to national parks—and Utah is known for its great skiing, so it's not unusual for our students to escape for an afternoon of skiing. Salt Lake City also offers access to cultural events, including national Broadway tours and a full-time symphony.

Is it challenging to do a job search for students located in Provo?

Only 25 percent of our graduating class stayed in the state of Utah for full-time placement. A large number of our students come from out of state, and so they're either interested in returning to their home state for employment or going off to look for other new and interesting places. Our students [also] place very well in the financial markets on either coast.

Are there any little-known facts about the Marriott School that you'd like to share?

I believe that one of the little-known facts is the diversity that is here, especially with language ability. Seventy-four percent of the incoming class speaks a second language, and this represents 27 different languages. I think the other thing that is often overlooked is that 60 percent of our students have lived abroad, and this is attributed to their mission experience, but they bring back to the program those cultural experiences of having lived among different people.