MBA Admissions Interview with Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business
The following is an interview with Shari Hubert, Associate Dean of Admissions for Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business. She shares behind-the-scenes tips on what business school admissions officers are looking for, how the GMAT factors into scholarship possibilities, what you should be doing now to prepare yourself for the admissions process, and more. With additional questions, you can click here to contact the Georgetown McDonough admissions team directly. Enjoy!
1. Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into business school admissions.
2. What do you like most about the McDonough School of Business and what in your mind separates it from other business schools?
3. It’s almost September and we’re heading into the heart of MBA admissions time. What should a candidate be doing right now to get ready for applying to business school?
4. What qualities do you most look for in a candidate applying to the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown?
5. What in your mind would most disqualify someone from being admitted to your (or any) business school?
6. How much weight do you place on a candidate’s GMAT score when evaluating his/her application?
7. What advice would you give to a student whose GMAT score falls below the 80% range of the school he/she is applying to?
8. Is the traditional full-time MBA still the business degree to get, or are you seeing increasing acceptance of other types of business degrees by the business community and recruiters?
9. Which aspects of the business school application do you view as most important and what can an applicant do to truly differentiate himself/herself from other applicants?
10. What types of things should candidates be thinking about in terms of which business schools to apply to?
11. What’s a memorable or funny story that stands out when you think about your time in business school admissions?
Q1: Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into business school admissions.
I received my MBA from Harvard Business School, so know firsthand the return on investment this degree offers. After my MBA, I was a traditional career switcher, working in consulting then running an executive leadership program for a non-profit organization and then moving to NBC as its Director of Community Programs. I eventually settled into corporate recruiting at GE and then CitiGroup before landing a job with the Peace Corps, which is what ultimately brought me to Washington, D.C. I lead their volunteer recruitment efforts for a few years before the opportunity at Georgetown opened up. I feel that my current job in admissions at Georgetown has really brought my career full circle — I always have helped students figure out what they want to do with their careers, and now it’s really nice to be on the front end, showing them the value of an MBA and how it can help them achieve their career goals and aspirations.
Q2: What do you like most about the McDonough School of Business and what in your mind separates it from other business schools?
I have been impressed with the values and traditions that we live on a day-to-day basis. As you know, Georgetown is founded on the Jesuit traditions of service to men and women, caring for the whole person, and principled leadership. In addition to being smart and talented, our students have conviction and really want to make an impact on both business and society. Our Washington, D.C., location also is important –- it is an international city with a high concentration of Fortune 500 companies, and it is #2 on Forbes’ “America’s Coolest Cities” list. Also, interestingly, it’s one of America’s top cities for technology start-ups and other entrepreneurial ventures, which is a lot of fun because we have a great Entrepreneurship Initiative here at Georgetown.
Q3: It’s almost September and we’re heading into the heart of MBA admissions time. What should a candidate be doing right now to get ready for applying to business school?
It is a phased process, so hopefully you have given yourself enough time to attend events, to participate in MBA fairs, and to visit the campuses of the schools that interest you because there really is no better way to get a feel for if a school is right for you until you are in the environment meeting students and faculty members. I also would say that candidates really need to take an assessment of themselves. What’s the value of an MBA for you in terms of your own life and your goals? How will you use the MBA? What career trajectory do you want and how will that MBA help you get there? I think those are the hard assessments you need to do now to ensure this is really the right degree for you. In addition, I recommend starting to round up your recommenders and give them as much time as possible to think about what they would say on your behalf. It also goes without saying that you need to give yourself enough time to prepare for the GMAT. If you take it once and you are not comfortable with the outcome, you will have enough time to take it again. At Georgetown, we look at the highest score you submit.
Q4: What qualities do you most look for in a candidate applying to the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown?
We are interested in students who care about what they do and how they get it done. So we look at the ethical decisions they have made and the integrity they exhibit because it is really important to Georgetown, our environment, and culture. What kind of steward will this particular student be as an alumnus? Will they be dedicated to continuing to make our community even better? We also want people who have a strong executive presence, people who have conviction in what they want to do in their lives. We want critical thinkers — a skill that we both seek out and hone throughout our full-time and part-time programs. We want students who are going to be prepared and disciplined. Our classes are a mix of case studies and lectures, so we look for students who exhibit strong communications skills and who come to class ready to engage and participate. Our program is extremely global, so we also want students who are culturally sensitive and aware.
Q5: What in your mind would most disqualify someone from being admitted to your (or any) business school?
Not being honest is probably the greatest mistake an applicant can make in his or her application or throughout the process. We look at every legal and academic incident reported in a candidate’s undergraduate record. It is not an automatic disqualifier, but we want to see if there is a pattern of unethical behavior or some sort of legal matter that would put our students or culture in danger as we think about our brand image. If someone was on academic probation at their college for example, why were they on academic probation? If someone disclosed that they had an incident with the law, what were the circumstances, was there a pattern, did the incident result in an actual charge? We would want to know the context and then decide how egregious the matter.
There’s no numerical weight, as most of the top business schools look at the holistic picture of the candidate. However, I recommend that students look at the 80% GMAT range of each school, because that will give you a good idea of where students who do well in that school’s program fall. Students who want to be considered for merit-based scholarships really need to fall on the higher end of that range, but overall you need to try to fall at least within the range. It becomes problematic when a candidate is on the lower end or below that 80% range. In those cases, a candidate’s resume must compensate for the lower score. We utilize the GMAT score as an indicator that an applicant can handle the quantitative rigors of an MBA program like ours.
Q7: What advice would you give to a student whose GMAT score falls below the 80% range of the school he/she is applying to?
Take it again. If a candidate still does not have the score they are seeking after three tries, they may need to re-assess of the schools they are applying to or provide supplemental information to bolster the application, like taking a statistics or accounting or another quantitative course at a local community college. Or, if the candidate is in a work environment with a lot of quantitative or analytical work, they should be sure to highlight that in the application and essays.
Q8: Is the traditional full-time MBA still the business degree to get, or are you seeing increasing acceptance of other types of business degrees by the business community and recruiters?
We offer the traditional two-year, full-time MBA and a part-time, three-year MBA, as well as a number of executive MBA, international business, and leadership degrees. We also are planning to offer a Master of Science in Finance online degree program out of our executive suite. I sense from talking to some of my peers that the 2-year full-time recruitment process is still the most traditional, especially for career switchers. Those seeking to switch both industry and function or completely shift to a new career, the internship is essential, and that most often happens in the two-year MBA. For people who are going to be staying with the same company or same career, the 1-year program is an option.
Q9: Which aspects of the business school application do you view as most important and what can an applicant do to truly differentiate himself/herself from other applicants?
If being considered for scholarships is important, a student should apply in the first or second round. Students also should try to find schools where their characteristics align as closely as possible with the general profile of the school in terms of the kind of student they usually admit. Every school has a student profile that they make public. Beyond that, talk to people. This is a relationship-based process, so talk to the students, talk to the professors, talk to the admissions officers that you may be in contact with. You want to look for consistency in the school just like we want to look for consistency in the applicant.
Q10: What types of things should candidates be thinking about in terms of which business schools to apply to?
Students should look at the types of companies that recruit on the campus. Ask for statistics on recruiting and hiring because that will give you a sense for the potential return on investment. What’s the internship placement like? What about starting average salaries? These are all things worth looking at. Students also should be looking at the structure and rigor of the curriculum (ours is a truly global curriculum that prepares students well for their internships and future careers, for example), the level of access to and interaction with faculty, and the strength of the alumni network. At Georgetown McDonough, students have access to the 20,000 McDonough alumni, as well as the entire global Georgetown University alumni base, which is 165,000 strong.
Q11: What’s a memorable or funny story that stands out when you think about your time in business school admissions?
I have a story that I think illustrates the Millennial applicant. I was in India doing interviews and I met the first student of the day in the hotel lobby where the interviews were taking place. To my surprise, the student brought his father with him to the interview. The father wanted to meet me in advance, to talk to me about his son, to tell me all about the father’s company and the family ties they had in the Washington, D.C., area. The father stayed and waited throughout the entire interview as well. In fact, they actually continued to sit there throughout a couple more of my interviews, hoping to get another chance to speak with me. I understood their level of excitement, and have to admit that it knocked me off my guard, but it definitely highlighted the new role of family and parents in the decisions that even MBA applicants make today. The Millennial generation is maturing, which brings new perspectives into the admissions process.
Thank you, Shari, for your time and valuable insights!