From Music to MBA: IV with a Notre Dame Mendoza Student

Check out our 2014 Notre Dame application essay tips!

I was a total Type-A hiding out in the world of fine arts.

Here’s a talk with Notre Dame Mendoza student, Jessica Bonanno, a second-year student with lots of advice to share about life at Mendoza – competitions, courses, and culture. Of particular interest to ND applicants will be Jessica’s application tips and her definition of the ideal Mendoza student. Thank you Jessica and best of luck to you!

This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. We hope to offer you a candid picture of student life, and what you should consider as you prepare your MBA application.

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergraduate? What’s your favorite non-school book?

Jessica: I grew up in Central Florida and got my degree from a small liberal arts school called Rollins College, where I studied classical piano and music education. During my senior year, I started a small music program for kids which became very successful in its mission and was my full time job for about eleven years, until I decided to apply to b-schools.

Accepted: Can you talk more about your involvement with music? Is there a connection between your work as a musician and an educator and your MBA?

Jessica: I always think it’s funny when folks ask me how I went from music to business because it’s much more typical, indeed clichéd, for folks working in the corporate world to feel mismatched and dream of being an artist or a musician. But I am the opposite: I was a total Type-A hiding out in the world of fine arts.

Yes, I majored in music and went on to found an after-school music program. Yes, I ran a non-profit trade association for music teachers and I even managed a rock band. But, all along, I knew deep down that I wasn’t truly a musician on the inside. Music was just something I knew, which became a conduit for me to serve others and express my creativity. The reason my initiatives succeeded was less about my musical knowledge and much more about my entrepreneurial nature and inclination toward designing efficient systems to support innovative ideas or worthy missions.

It took me many years to realize this but, when I finally did, I knew getting an MBA would help me take my natural organizational development talent to the next level and give me some hard skills to back up my leadership ability.

Accepted: Why did you choose Notre Dame Mendoza? How would you say you’re a good fit with the program?

Jessica: Notre Dame was the very first program I ever looked at, after deciding to apply to business school. Coming from mission-driven organizations, I had a lot of apprehension about applying to business school. I knew my interest in social enterprise would not be the norm in any b-school but, at a minimum, I wanted to find a program that supported a critical examination of the role of business in society and promoted discussions about the intersection of business and ethics.

Notre Dame was that program.

This doesn’t mean that everyone here is interested in social business, like me. To the contrary – only about a fifth of my class plans to pursue this type of a career. But even if everyone isn’t interested in an expressly social career, nearly everyone in the program is interested in expressing their own personal values in their career choices. And though this means different things for different people and we sometimes disagree among ourselves, you’ll never find anyone here who would argue that it’s ok to succeed in business at the expense of others. I expected to find an overemphasis on profit at any cost at b-school but, instead I have found that nearly every MBA topic at ND is examined through an ethical lens. The curriculum is refreshingly holistic.

Accepted: What have been some of your favorite classes so far at ND?

Jessica: I set two personal goals for my MBA experience: First, I wanted to become really, really knowledgeable and skilled in the areas that I already knew something about, such as organizational leadership and social business. Second, I wanted to learn a brand new area that I knew absolutely nothing about, so I selected finance and investments.

On the social side, I’ve been privileged to take courses like Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries, which is coordinated through our Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship (a fantastic resource for aspiring entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs alike). This spring, I’ll be participating in one of our program’s signature courses called Business on the Frontlines, in which students work as real-world consultants for businesses in post-conflict regions or developing economies. My team will be traveling to Guatemala to work with an agricultural cooperative.

On the finance side, I’ve been able to study topics like M&A and International Finance under expert practitioners and, this spring, am looking forward to participating in the elite Applied Investment Management (AIM) program, in which my team and I will be responsible for managing a portion of our school’s endowment.

Other highlights of my time at Mendoza include studying for 8 weeks in Santiago, Chile, writing an original case study (pending publication) for the Fanning Center for Business Communications, and competing for thousands of dollars in start-up capital in the McKloskey Business Plan competition.

But none of this compares to the sense of community. The people are what make Notre Dame special. Here’s a blog post I wrote about what it’s like to be a student in such a close-knit and amazing community.

Accepted: Can you tell us about your competition experience – both with the ND Deloitte Interterm Case Competition and the BYU Social Innovation Case Competition?

Jessica: You’ve probably heard that case competitions are considered the varsity sport of b-school. They’re a chance to consolidate the sum of your professional experience and business training to solve a real business problem in a short time, while competing against other very talented people to create the best solution.

I’ve had the pleasure of competing in three case comps and they’ve been some of the most fun I’ve had during my MBA. Most case comps are time constrained, requiring a full solution to a challenging case in under 5 days. The process is extremely intense and involves a lot of all-nighters and last-minute preparation, which can stress out a team that doesn’t have a commitment to humility, cooperation and kindness. But the amount that can be accomplished in this time is astounding, when you have a group of diverse, brilliant students with a do-or-die work ethic and an attitude of good sportsmanship, the signature trait of a Notre Dame MBA.

My teams took first place in two of the three case comps I’ve participated in, which made the fun of competition all the more rewarding. The Deloitte Interterm Case Competition is actually a part of the first-year curriculum – all students participate and we compete among other Notre Dame MBAs. The BYU Social Innovation Case Comp is an annual competition sponsored by BYU’s Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance. Notre Dame actually sponsored our team and flew us out to Utah, where we had the privilege of meeting some amazing MBAs from other schools. As part of the festivities, we even got to participate in an all-day TED-X event.

Accepted: What has your involvement with the Forte Foundation been like? Would you recommend the program to other b-school-bound women?

Jessica: I’m very supportive of Forte’s mission to bring more women into business leadership. However, the companies that they work with, many of which are large banks, aren’t necessarily a match for my own interests so I haven’t become too involved with the foundation. Regardless, I think they’ve created an amazing resource for women who are seeking more traditional business careers, which is a positive thing for women as well as for society, in general. Research shows that women business leaders tend to take less unnecessary risks and are much more concerned with the role of business in society…And the world needs more of that.

Accepted: Where do you see yourself in five years from now?

Jessica: My professional interests include a variety of social business topics including cooperatives, social enterprise, and impact investing. But I’m seeking a career in the socially responsible investment space because my background in non-profit and education taught me that that’s where the greatest need is. There are plenty of brilliant people with brilliant ideas in the social space but there is a shortage of socially-oriented professionals who understand how to raise capital, create sustainable revenue models, or maximize a shoestring budget. That’s the value I hope to provide, perhaps as the manager of an impact fund.

Accepted: What are your three top tips for ND Mendoza applicants?

Jessica:  1. In my observations, Notre Dame is looking for mature, honest candidates who have a record of accomplishment, a strong work ethic, and a balanced lifestyle. This community encourages excellence not only in academics and professional background, but also excellence of body, mind, spirit, and citizenship. Make sure that your essays and interview answers reflect the things about you that demonstrate this. Talk about your accomplishments and your values. Talk about your ambition and your family or community. Most importantly, don’t act entitled. Humility is the hallmark of the type of servant-leader that Notre Dame is looking for.

2. Notre Dame wants you to want them. Our program has chosen to remain small to preserve the type of close-knit community that makes us unique. For that reason, admissions officers will be impressed by candidates who can clearly articulate why they think they are a match for ND. So, find out by reaching out to current students or scheduling a campus visit. Most people don’t truly understand and can’t explain what makes Notre Dame so special until they’ve been there or interacted with the people. Once they have, they can craft a much more convincing argument for why they belong at ND.

3. Take advantage of all application rounds. Unlike some top schools, who fill most of their class in rounds one and two and have few seats left open in spring, Notre Dame admits a good number of candidates in every round. So, if it’s late in the year and you’re trying to decide whether to apply or wait for fall, go ahead and do it! As long as you have a strong application, your chances will still be good even late in the year.

Accepted: Last but not least, who would you say is the ideal ND student?

Jessica: I would suggest that Notre Dame’s MBA program is a good fit for anyone who has good qualifications but who is also interested in:

• a traditional business career (finance, consulting, etc) but who wishes to express either personal or religious values in their career; or

• social enterprise or an impact career; or

• entrepreneurship generally; or

• the emerging field of business analytics (we just developed a concentration in this field); or

• Business Communications (our Fanning Center for Communications is very well-known).

ND is also very military friendly and is good for anyone who is married or has a family (the grad school is extremely supportive of young families and couples and has many resources, activities, and housing options available).

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages. For specific advice on how to create the best application for Notre Dame Mendoza, see Notre Dame Mendoza 2014 MBA Application Questions, Deadlines, Tips.

Download Free: MBA Admissions A-Z: 26 Great Tips

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Looking for MBA Application Essay Tips?

B-school applicants: Are you looking for advice to help you answer specific essay questions on top MBA applications? Are you looking for a resource that offers up-to-date advice for the questions found on THIS YEAR’S apps?

We’d like to introduce you to our updated special report, Top MBA Program Essay Questions: How to Answer Them Right! In this report, you’ll receive school-by-school, question-by-question advice on how to answer the questions on this year’s MBA applications.

Download your copy of "Top MBA Program Essay Questions: How to Answer Them Right"

If you want the most detailed advice available for creating the best MBA application possible, then you’ll want to download Top MBA Program Essay Questions: How to Answer Them Right! now!

Download your free MBA application essay tips now!

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Round 2 Applicants: Looking for Tips for Specific MBA Application Questions?

Round 2 (and 3) applicants: Are you looking for advice to help you answer specific essay questions on top MBA applications? Are you looking for a resource that offers up-to-date advice for the questions found on THIS YEAR’S apps?

We’d like to introduce you to our updated special report, Top MBA Program Essay Questions: How to Answer Them Right! In this report, you’ll receive school-by-school, question-by-question advice on how to answer the questions on this year’s MBA applications…and just in time to submit those R2 apps!

Download your copy of "Top MBA Program Essay Questions: How to Answer Them Right"

If you want the most detailed advice available for creating the best MBA application possible, then you’ll want to download Top MBA Program Essay Questions: How to Answer Them Right! now!








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Notre Dame Mendoza 2014 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

Notre Dame Mendoza

You need to clearly convey to the Mendoza adcom that you have what it takes to be an effective leader—an integrated mind, a broad perspective, tenacity, and heart. Use your career experiences, your career goals, and your personal values to help you demonstrate these key elements.

Essays:

Your response to the essay questions is extremely important in the selection process. Create a file for your essay and include your name on each page. Your essay should be typed, double-spaced, and no longer than 2 pages.

1. What are your career plans immediately after graduation? Explain how your past experiences have prepared you for your desired position. What are your long-term career aspirations?

Translation: What are you short-term and long-term goals? How have your past experiences prepared you for your short-term, post-MBA goal? Note: This question does not ask “Why Notre Dame?” You do not need to explicitly answer that question, but the excellent response to this question will reflect Notre Dame’s values, specifically its focus on ethical leadership. In addition, the long-term objective will be much more plausible if it flows naturally from the short-term one.

2. Slideshow Presentation

• Effective business communication is a central skill for managers and visual presentations are an important and frequent method of communication. Demonstrate your ability to clearly, concisely and persuasively communicate important information by telling us about yourself using a short slide presentation.

• Please consider the following guidelines when creating your presentation.

• You are free to cover any material about yourself that you think would be of value to the Admissions Committee.

• Please use whatever software programs you like to develop your presentation but note that the only acceptable formats for upload in the online application system is Adobe PDF.

• There is a strict maximum of four slides, though you can provide fewer than four if you choose.

• The slides that you submit will be printed and added to your application file for review by the Admissions Committee. As a result, only text and static images will be seen. Videos, music, hyperlinks, etc will not be conveyed and should not be included. Color may be used.

• Your goal is to clearly, concisely and persuasively convey key information. Slides will be evaluated on these dimensions and not on graphic or presentation elements.

• Notes pages will not be accepted. You should plan to convey your entire message on the actual slides themselves.

• To assist MBA Applicants with the development of their slide presentation, please consult this PowerPoint Guide. http://webapp.business.nd.edu/pdfs/PowerPoint_Guide_for_ND-MBA_Application.pdf

Think strategically here. What do you want the admissions reader to know about you that isn’t found elsewhere in the application and could be presented well visually. Usually hobbies and non-professional experiences are good topics for this kind of question, but the key is that the experience or achievement can be presented graphically in four slides.

3. Supplemental Essay Instructions

The Notre Dame MBA Admissions Committee will accept supplemental essays from applicants who wish to provide additional information that has not been captured within other areas of the application.

For example, applicants with low undergraduate GPA’s may address any circumstances surrounding their performance or applicants who have been dismissed from school may want to consider addressing that issue. Also, if you want to explain your work history in greater detail, please use the Supplemental Essay to provide us with a chronology of your work history. Chronologies should include months and years worked – it is not a resume.

If you are a re-applicant, you must complete a Supplemental Essay outlining your activities since you last applied.

Ultimately, we will accept supplemental essays on any topic that you feel is important to the Committee and not contained or explained fully within other portions of the application.

Please keep all submissions to one page, typed and double-spaced.

Again, the response to this MBA essay should complement the other essays and information found in your application. In my view, this essay is optional in name only. If you are impressive enough to get into Notre Dame, you should have more to say than can be captured in the required goals essay and the slide presentation.

If you are a reapplicant, the key question to address: How has your candidacy improved since you last applied?  An improved GMAT is easy to point to, if you have it, but don’t limit it to that. Be sure to discuss increases in responsibility on and off the job, a sharpened career goal, a community service initiative, or anything else that reflects well on you and hasn’t been discussed in the other essays.

If you would like professional guidance with your Notre Dame Mendoza MBA application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our  MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the Notre Dame Mendoza MBA application.

Notre Dame Mendoza 2014 MBA Application Deadlines:

Application Deadline Decision Notification
Early Admission September 9, 2013 October 25, 2013
Round 1 November 4, 2014 December 20, 2013
Round 2 January 6, 2014 February 28, 2014
Round 3 March 3, 2014 April 25, 2014








Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

Best Undergraduate Business Programs – 2013 Businessweek Rankings

Notre Dame Mendoza: The Winner. Once Again.

The Winner. Once Again.

Businessweek released their 2013 rankings of the best undergraduate business programs. And here are the results…

2013 Top 20 Undergraduate Business Programs (2012 rank in parentheses)

1. Notre Dame Mendoza (1)
2. UVA McIntire (2)
3. Cornell Dyson (3)
4. Washington Olin (8)
5. UPenn Wharton (4)
6. Boston College Carroll (9)
7. Emory Goizueta (5)
8. Michigan Ross (7)
9. Texas McCombs (17)
10. UNC Kenan-Flagler (10)
11. UC Berkeley Haas (11)
12. Brigham Young Marriott (21)
13. Indiana Kelley (16)
14. NYU Stern (12)
15. Villanova (13)
16. Georgetown McDonough (14)
17. U. of Richmond Robins (15)
18. Wake Forest (19)
19. MIT Sloan (6)
20. Bentley (29)

As you can see, while the top three remained unchanged, there were also quite a few big jumpers this year. Texas McCombs jumped from 17th place to 9th; Brigham Young Marriott from 21st to 12th; Bentley from 29th to 20th; and MIT Sloan from 6th place to 19th – the biggest drop on the list.

For more info on the BW rankings (and on rankings in general), please see:

•   FAQ: How We Ranked the Schools
•   Notre Dame’s Mendoza Takes No. 1 Ranking, Again (ranking lead article)
•   MBA Rankings: What You Need to Know (free Accepted.com special report)




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Notre Dame Mendoza 2013 MBA Application Questions, Deadlines, Tips

Notre Dame MendozaThe 2014 Notre Dame Mendoza tips are now available. Click here to check them out!

You need to clearly convey to the Mendoza adcom that you have what it takes to be an effective leader—an integrated mind, a broad perspective, tenacity, and heart. Use your career experiences, your career goals, and your personal values to help you demonstrate these key elements.

Notre Dame Mendoza Essay Questions:

1. Essay Question

Your response to the essay questions is extremely important in the selection process. Create a file for your essay and include your name on each page. Your essay should be typed, double-spaced, and no longer than 2 pages.

What are your career plans immediately after graduation? Explain how your past experiences have prepared you for your desired position. What are your long-term career aspirations?

Translation: What are you short-term and long-term goals? How have your past experiences prepared you for your short-term, post-MBA goal?

Note: This question does not ask “Why Notre Dame?” You do not need to explicitly answer that question, but the excellent response to this question will reflect Notre Dame’s values, specifically its focus on ethical leadership. In addition, the long-term objective will be much more plausible if it flows naturally from the short-term one.

 2. Slide Presentation

Effective business communication is a central skill for managers and visual presentations are an important and frequent method of communication. Demonstrate your ability to clearly, concisely and persuasively communicate important information by telling us about yourself using a short slide presentation.

Please consider the following guidelines when creating your presentation.

  • You are free to cover any material about yourself that you think would be of value to the Admissions Committee. Please use whatever software programs you like to develop your presentation but note that the only acceptable formats for upload in the online application system is Adobe PDF.
  • There is a strict maximum of four slides, though you can provide fewer than four if you choose.
  • The slides that you submit will be printed and added to your application file for review by the Admissions Committee. As a result, only text and static images will be seen. Videos, music, hyperlinks, etc will not be conveyed and should not be included. Color may be used.
  • Your goal is to clearly, concisely and persuasively convey key information. Slides will be evaluated on these dimensions and not on graphic or presentation elements.
  • Notes pages will not be accepted. You should plan to convey your entire message on the actual slides themselves.

To assist MBA Applicants with the development of their slide presentation, please consult this PowerPoint Guide.

Think strategically here. What do you want the admissions reader to know about you that isn’t found elsewhere in the application and could be presented well visually. Usually hobbies and non-professional experiences are good topics for this kind of question, but the key is that the experience or achievement can be presented graphically in four slides.

3. Supplemental Essay Instructions

The Notre Dame MBA Admissions Committee will accept supplemental essays from applicants who wish to provide additional information that has not been captured within other areas of the application.

For example, applicants with low undergraduate GPA’s may address any circumstances surrounding their performance or applicants who have been dismissed from school may want to consider addressing that issue. Also, if you want to explain your work history in greater detail, please use the Supplemental Essay to provide us with a chronology of your work history. Chronologies should include months and years worked – it is not a resume.

If you are a re-applicant, you must complete a Supplemental Essay outlining your activities since you last applied.

Ultimately, we will accept supplemental essays on any topic that you feel is important to the Committee and not contained or explained fully within other portions of the application.

Please keep all submissions to one page, typed and double-spaced.

Again, the response to this MBA essay should complement the other essays and information found in your application. In my view, this essay is optional in name only. If you are impressive enough to get into Notre Dame, you should have more to say than can be captured in the required goals essay and the slide presentation.

If you are a reapplicant, the key question to address: How has your candidacy improved since you last applied?  An improved GMAT is easy to point to, if you have it, but don’t limit it to that. Be sure to discuss increases in responsibility on and off the job, a sharpened career goal, a community service initiative, or anything else that reflects well on you and hasn’t been discussed in the other essays.

Deadlines:

Completed Application By: Decisions Released On or Before:
Early Decision September 10, 2012 October 26, 2012
Round 1 October 29, 2012 December 21, 2012
Round 2 January 7, 2013 March 1, 2013
Round 3 February 25, 2013 April 12, 2013
Round 4 April 1, 2013 May 17, 2013

If you would like help with your Notre Dame MBA application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our Notre Dame Mendoza School Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the Mendoza MBA application.

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

mba-essay-tips-from-the-pros

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Get Your MBA Admission Smarts ON!

Are you looking for ways to boost your MBA admissions IQ? Interested in acquiring wisdom that will send you to the head of the class? Want advice that covers every aspect of the MBA admissions process that’s all wrapped up nicely in a single, coherent, and succinct BOOK?

Look no further – the MBA book of all books is here, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top BusinessMBA Admission for Smarties Schools, written by Accepted.com founder, Linda Abraham, and editor Judy Gruen. And now, for a very limited time only (Monday, Dec. 5 – Tuesday, Dec. 6) you can purchase this must-have book for $10 OFF the cover price by using coupon code SMARTIES at checkout. That’s almost 2/3 off the list price!

In MBA Admission for Smarties you will learn how to:

  • Determine “fit” with a program.
  • Establish your post-MBA goals and present them in a compelling goals essay.
  • Write dazzling, memorable application essays.
  • Secure winning letters of recommendation.
  • Optimize your MBA application resume.

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So what are you waiting for?

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(Non-U.S. residents should buy MBA Admission for Smarties from Amazon.com where international shipping is available. Sorry – no coupon available to ship outside the U.S.)

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Business Majors Need to Step Up their Studying, Most Agree

  

Business undergrad majors are not working as hard as they used to, reports a New York Times and Chronicle of Higher Education collaborative article titled “The Default Major: Skating Through B-School.” The article cites the most recent National Survey of Student Engagement which reveals that business majors spend less time preparing for class than do students in other fields. Most seniors majoring in business spend less than 11 hours studying per week.

And not only do they study less, but they score lower on tests as well suggests another report that states that business majors don’t do as well on the GMAT as do students from other majors.

The article points to three reasons for what can be described as academic apathy. The first is the fact that many undergraduate business students choose their majors “by default.” They are seeking a means to an end, a degree that will get them a job; they are not pursuing the field of business because they are genuinely interested in it.

The second source for this trouble is that there are is no defined undergraduate business curriculum. There is no consensus among professors and among undergraduate business programs as to what these students should learn and how they should learn it.

And finally, most undergraduate business programs have large student-to-faculty ratios and not enough funding to accommodate fully-stocked, functional labs.

Later in the article, Jerry M. Kopf, a management professor at Radford, points to yet another reason for the decline in student commitment. “There are too many other things competing for their time,” he says. “The frequency and quantity of drinking keeps getting higher. We have issues with depression. Getting students alert and motivated—even getting them to class, to be honest with you—it’s a challenge.”

A student at Radford admits to rarely going to class and says, “It just seems kind of pointless to go when (a) you’re probably not going to be paying much attention anyway and (b) it would probably be worth more of your time just to sit with your book and read it.” This student further admits to spending only 10 hours a week studying from his books if he has a test that week, and zero hours if he has no test. And for take-home exams, he says, there’s always Google.

Some professors argue that the problem is in the “fetishizing” of job preparation—that 18-year-olds shouldn’t be taught to specialize in vocational fields like marketing or finance, but should instead be taught the “humanistic, multidisciplinary models of management education.” According to Henry Mintzberg, a professor at Montreal’s McGill University, “The object of undergraduate business education is to educate people, not to give them a lot of functional business stuff.”

Leonard A. Schlesinger, president of Babson College in Massachusetts, agrees: “Concrete business skills tend to expire in five years or so as technology and organizations change. History and philosophy, on the other hand, provide the kind of contextual knowledge and reasoning skills that are indispensable for business students,” he says. “If we didn’t provide that kind of timeless knowledge to our students, we would be providing a seriously inadequate education.”

The article continues to explain that this academic apathy is not as apparent for students who end up at top business schools like Wharton, UVA, or Notre Dame Mendoza, but is seen more in the lower ranked programs.

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2011 Rankings: BW’s Best Undergraduate Business Schools

  

BusinessWeek‘s 2011 ranking report reveals that more than ever, college applicants are seeking a global experience, especially those who plan on pursuing an undergraduate degree in business. Undergraduate business programs are responding by creating more immersion options, overseas internships, and business-related study abroad opportunities. Some schools are even offering business courses that require students to go abroad. Many schools are implementing international experience requirements, maintaining that global exposure is essential in today’s market.

For example, Notre Dame Mendoza, BW‘s top pick for the second year in a row, offers study abroad options in Haiti, Egypt, and South Africa, among many other places, and encourages students to pursue business research projects abroad as well.

Below we have posted BW‘s top 20 undergraduate business schools.

Top 20 Best Undergraduate Business Schools 2011 (Last year’s position is in parentheses.)

1.      Notre Dame Mendoza (1)

2.      UVA McIntire (2)

3.      Emory Goizueta (7)

4.      UPenn Wharton (4)

5.      Cornell (5)

6.      Michigan Ross (8)

7.      Villanova (20)

8.      UNC Kenan-Flagler (14)

9.      MIT Sloan (3)

10.  Georgetown McDonough (23)

11.  Brigham Young Marriott (11)

12.  Richmond Robins (15)

13.  UC Berkeley Haas (6)

14.  Washington Olin (13)

15.  NYU Stern (12)

16.  Boston College Carroll (9)

17.  Texas McCombs (10)

18.  Indiana Kelley (19)

19.  Wake Forest (18)

20.  Babson (17)

You’ll notice there were quite a few significant shifts this year. Three new schools made it into the top 10—Villanova, UNC Kenan-Flagler, and Georgetown McDonough—ousting UC Berkeley Haas, Boston College, and Texas McCombs from their top 10 positions of last year. The only school new to the top 20 list this year is Georgetown, taking a slot away from Miami Farmer.

For more information on methodology, please see BW‘s article, “How We Ranked the Schools.”

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Getting to Know the Personal Potential Index

There’s been a whole lot of buzz about the new ETS Personal Potential Index (PPI). We decided to do some investigating of our own to learn more about the innovative applicant evaluation system.

We spoke with Kate Kazin, ETS’ executive director for strategic initiatives in higher education, and got the scoop on PPI—the benefits, the way it works, and why schools, recommenders, and students are raving about it. Thank you, Kate, for the PPI refresher course!

What is the Personal Potential Index?

The Personal Potential Index, or PPI, is a new web-based tool that allows recommenders to provide information about an applicant in the areas, or dimensions, of knowledge and creativity, resilience, communication skills, planning and organization, teamwork, and ethics and integrity. Evaluators fill out an overall evaluation and then rate applicants on their performance in these six dimensions. At the end of each section is a space where recommenders can provide examples or comments to supplement or explain their ratings.

How does the PPI differ from traditional letters of recommendation?

The PPI is a standard form that recommenders fill out to provide a qualitative and quantitative picture of applicants. The idea behind the PPI is that you can’t tell the whole story with test scores alone, and so the PPI rating system allows recommenders to go beyond the scope of grades and scores…in just about 11 minutes.

According to Ms. Kazin, “What makes the PPI unusual is that it combines the feedback of multiple evaluators. Each evaluator fills out the evaluation form and provides comments, and then ETS takes the ratings and comments from the multiple evaluators and produces a single PPI Evaluation Report for that applicant. An evaluator can fill out the PPI just once for an individual applicant, regardless of how many schools the applicant is applying to, but what the school gets is the Evaluation Report from the multiple evaluators, not the evaluation itself.”

How, why, and when was the PPI developed?

The PPI has been in the making since about ten years ago when the GRE board found that there were two major problems that were bedeviling graduate education: Students were beginning programs and never finishing them, or they were taking forever to complete them. The GRE board consulted with ETS about what could be done to address these issues. The board asked ETS to come up with a tool that would help identify which students would be more likely to succeed.

ETS researchers interviewed business school and graduate school deans and concluded that more than technical mastery of the field it is important to have non-cognitive skills like resilience, integrity, etc.

After a decade of research and development, the PPI was launched in the summer of 2009. It is the brainchild of the Center for New Constructs, a division at ETS that works to develop ways of measuring intuitive, hard to measure dimensions and attributes of applicants.  

ETS will be doing a validity study next year to provide evidence about the system’s incremental validity.

How widely has the PPI been adopted?

So far 12,000 students have accounts and 2,000 reports have been sent to different schools. All graduate schools will accept the PPI as a supplement to the required letters of recommendation, and some business schools (like Notre Dame Mendoza) are already requiring it instead of traditional LORs. There are a number of medical schools and dental schools that are also accepting the PPI, and the interest among top b-schools is on the rise.

The PPI is available free for GRE test-takers (for them to send reports to up to four schools), and is available to all other applicants for a fee.

How is PPI better for applicants? How is it better for the schools? For recommenders?

With the PPI, applicants get a chance to show more of themselves, to put their best foot forward and highlight strengths that may not be apparent from standardized test scores. The PPI adds, in a meaningful way, more about an applicant than does a number or a set of numbers. Another advantage of the PPI is that applicants can mix and match—they can have one person fill out the form for one program or school and another person for a different program or school.

For schools, the PPI provides the benefit of easy to use comparable ratings. It provides an important dimension to the application process in a way that’s convenient, doesn’t cost schools anything, and is easy to use.

Evaluators appreciate the PPI because it helps them advance the case of the students they are recommending. It’s true that many evaluators are filling out traditional LORs in addition to the PPI, but most feel that spending an additional 11 minutes on an easy form does more help than harm—plus, it’s web-based and can filled out anytime and anyplace. Resistance has been minimal and comes mostly from people who haven’t actually tried it.

In short, it’s really a win-win for everyone. As it becomes more widely known, we should begin to see the number of users increase quickly.

Doesn’t an applicant’s personal statement reflect his or her non-cognitive side? Shouldn’t that be enough for the adcom in receiving a broad picture of the applicant?

It’s true that the personal statement provides those things, but the benefit the PPI brings to the application is the non-biased perspective of an outsider.

Is there any encouragement in the instructions to recommenders to provide examples and specifics in their comments, as opposed to “Johnny is great”? If not, will there be a loss of qualitative information, which good recommendations used to provide?

Most people fill out some of the comment fields, especially if an applicant is weak in a particular area or requires more explanation. Evaluators are encouraged to include comments, and since the whole process is so short anyways, most feel like they can spare the time to write additional information.

Are there security features to prevent forged PPIs—a problem with traditional LORs?

It is a problem with traditional LORs. We provide all the information about the evaluator so if a school wants to investigate further they can. Many times applicants fill out their own recommendations because they don’t want to burden their recommenders or because of a language barrier (like if their recommender doesn’t read or write English fluently). The hope is that the PPI is so easy to fill out that applicants won’t feel like they need to fill it out themselves. Also, the PPI has been translated into Spanish and Chinese to help with the language problem.  

Has the PPI received any criticisms?

In general business schools have been much more open to the PPI. In grad schools, however, which are considered more traditional, it’s harder to ask people to change the way they’ve been doing admissions for years. A resistance to change forces intelligent people at prominent schools to ask questions like, “But where would we put it in the folder?”

Can you talk more about how the PPI will contribute to diversity if graduate admissions?

When adcoms look just at standardized test scores, they may miss very good candidates that have other qualities that can contribute to their success at school. By taking a student’s non-cognitive skills into account, the PPI helps create a more level playing field. As part of the rigorous research process, the PPI was tested in conjunction with Project 1000, an initiative to increase historically underrepresented students in stem fields, and was proven successful.

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