What’s New in MBA Admissions? A Report from the 6th Annual AIGAC Conference [Part 1]

Georgetown McDonough

Speakers at Georgetown inclue the President of the United States.

Change and innovation are vital in nearly every industry today, including in graduate school admissions consulting. Five Accepted.com editors, including company president and founder Linda Abraham, attended the 6th annual conference of Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants in Philadelphia June 12-15. We were graciously hosted by Wharton on day two, and on day one, we met with admissions directors from a dozen top MBA programs who told us about the latest changes in their own programs, from the applications process to career services. We were treated to these updates by admissions directors from Yale, Columbia, UNC, NYU, UT-Austin, Georgetown University, Tuck, Cornell, Rotman, and CEIBS (China Europe International Business School.) A subsequent post will cover our day at Wharton.

Here are highlights of the day:

Innovations in MBA Curriculum

• At Georgetown’s McDonough Business School, Senior Associate Dean of Marketing Strategy & New Program Development Elizabeth Griffith said the program has strengthened its quant courses, added intensive three-week sessions during year one on economics, ethics, and policies, as well as an accounting “boot camp” option. McDonough is also bringing in professors from a variety of disciplines for a more multi-disciplinary approach to subjects, such as analytical problem solving, firm analysis and strategy, leadership, and social intelligence.

Georgetown’s international consulting project also ensures that any student who arrives without international business experience will have some to put on their resumes by graduation. The school’s Washington, D.C. location is extremely appealing to students interested in government and international business: Speakers at the school include the President of the United States, prime ministers, ambassadors, and other top government officials, who address topical issues.

• Meanwhile, Columbia’s MBA program is offering more integrated courses in law and business, technology, optional tutorials on math and accounting, and emotional intelligence self-assessments to build awareness. The school continues to see a “strong appetite” for social entrepreneurship among students.

• University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School is adapting to students’ requests to become more efficient. Director of Admissions Sherry Wallace said the school is responding by allowing students to “attend” some lectures online in response to their request for more class time devoted to questions and discussions. (Attendance tracking is part of system, she noted.) UNC also has a new healthcare concentration, developed in conjunction with the Schools of Medicine, Public Health, and Law. Students can also now assess themselves on leadership abilities and map their growth, based on a customized program.

The Growth of Part-Time and Virtual MBA Programs

• Part-time, evening and online programs continue to gain in popularity. Georgetown’s new, three-year evening program enrolls 130 students per class and has the same curriculum as the FT program. Sixty percent of the students in this program are career switchers, with experience in government, consulting, and government contracting. McDonough’s Associate Dean, Shari Hubert, said these students enjoy the same support in the career counseling department, and are a “very disciplined” bunch, juggling FT work and school. The school is also offering a variety of customized Executive MBA programs.

• At Cornell, applicants can apply to a one-year accelerated program or a 16-month virtual program that has “board rooms” in many cities. As one example, the school has partnered with both New York City and the Technion for an engineering program that will meet on a new campus on Roosevelt Island (the campus is expected to be ready in 2017). In May 2014, Cornell will also launch a one-year innovation program at Google’s campus in New York City. Ann Richards, Cornell’s Associate Dean of Admissions, said this will be “completely different” than the current one-year program: it will be technically focused, not finance-focused, feature modules, and offer credits for experiential work. It’s geared for students between 25-30 who want to focus on the tech-based entrepreneurship.

• Beth Flye, director of admissions at MBA@UNC, UNC’s online program, announced that Kenan-Flaglar has new, exclusive partnerships with 2U.com to provide an MBA program in the virtual space. Geared for FT workers, including those with more than 20 years’ work experience, the first cohort of 17 students has just graduated; the next cohort will have more than 550 students. (For more information on MBA@UNC, please check out this week’s podcast, Are Online MBAs the Real Thing? A Conversation with MBA@UNC’s Beth Flye )

Despite the virtual nature of the program, Flye said it remains “very high touch,” with lots of interaction among the students and between students and instructors. 2U.com has created what Flye calls a very sophisticated, very customized Learning Management System in which students can learn together, work on group projects, and even run clubs.

• All the schools emphasized the considerable career support offered in these alternate MBA programs. In some cases, they interview applicants before the programs begin and based on what they foresee are their strengths and hiring viability, they may steer them from one type of program to another. Many schools offer virtual counseling, large networking events in major cities, and mini career fairs. Adcom directors also noted that recruiters are often particularly interested in graduates of accelerated programs, knowing these candidates have proven themselves able to successfully manage both a rigorous school workload and FT job.

Keep your eyes peeled for my next post which will cover some of the other topics discussed at the conference:

• Career Services – More Involved than Ever

• The Admissions Process: Still Evolving

• Letters of Recommendation – Surprisingly Controversial










Judy Gruen

By , MBA admissions consultant since 1996 and author (with Linda Abraham) of MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

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