Pamela Black-Colton is the assistant dean of MBA admissions at the University of Rochester's Simon Graduate School of Business (No. 27 in BusinessWeek's 2002 Rankings). A Simon grad (class of 1988), Black-Colton returned in 1997 after serving as the director of research services for Manning & Napier Advisors, an investment-management firm.
Since then, she has seen all sorts of admissions trends, but nothing like the 13% drop in applications this year that led the school to reduce the size of its incoming class to just 125 students, vs. 165 in 2003. Black-Colton recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Mica Schneider about the past year and what applicants can do to ensure that they'll make the cut at Simon in 2005. Here's an edited transcript of their conversation:
Q: Why is this year's incoming class so much smaller than last year's?
A: Decreasing the class size is best way to keep the class quality very high.
Q: Rochester also enrolls a cohort of MBAs in January. Will you enroll the same number of MBAs in 2005?
A: We're targeting around 50 students, which is what it has been.
Q: Are you worried about applications to that program?
A: I'm worried about applications to everything.
Q: Which cohort is harder to gain admission to, September or January?
A: If you wouldn't make it in September, you wouldn't make it in January.
Q: Which applicants aren't making the cut, despite the reduced competition?
A: People who don't have the strong academic preparation necessary to be successful in our program. People who have unreasonable expectations. For example, a student could have a profile that suggests they'll do well in the program, but perhaps they're intent on being an investment banker, and my experience suggests that won't happen [given their background].
Q: How should an applicant go about creating plausible career goals?
A: It's interesting the amount of time that applicants spend investigating schools. I'm not sure a lot of applicants think as much about their own personal skill sets and what are good goals and targets for them. I would recommend going back to your undergraduate career-services center to get advice. Find alumni from your undergraduate institution in the [career] areas you're interested in, and do some informational interviewing.
See Full Version