Relative importance of the various factors in an app : The B-School Application
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# Relative importance of the various factors in an app

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Relative importance of the various factors in an app [#permalink]

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10 Aug 2007, 06:48
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Moving it to a separate thread to discuss this for all schools.

I am trying to get an idea of the importance of the various factors in an app. My guess:

GPA: 20%
Essays: 35% (Career progression, leadership, teamwork etc)
Reco's: 20%
GMAT: 10%
Interview: 5%
Diversity: 10% (The diversity that you bring to the table)

Can anyone else take a guess on these?
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10 Aug 2007, 07:01
I don't think you can really put weight to various factors in an application. If your GMAT truly sucks, then Columbia is not going to take you. Similarly, if your diversity angle plays amazingly well (You are the first person who was born and brought up in the moon), then diversity alone might have your one foot in.

What I am trying to say is, "Start believing in the schools when they say that the application evaluation is a holistic process". They want to feel good about the applicant after going through all aspects of the application. That "feel good" can come from two very very strong points about the applicant, or can come from the over-all strength of his application.

You have no control over your GPA. You have not-so-significant control over the reco and diversity angle. And if you've already taken GMAT, then you have no control there too. That leaves essays and interviews (If you are called for them). So, at this stage of the application process, I would say that essays have all the importance. Not because that's what the adcoms feel. But because that's one area where you have all the control.
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10 Aug 2007, 07:42
Schools all like the buzzwords "holistic approach" go to any event and someone will mention it. Read any chat transcript and it is used. Schools don't weigh each individual piece and give it a value so much as they look at the whole package. Yes certain things can keep you out but no one thing is going to get you in (unless that one thing is your dad gave 100million to the school or you are going to inherit billions).

Diversity I think can play a big factor though. If you are a very unique person it is going to be much easier to get in because your competition isn't the same as it is for an Indian from IIT who works in IT or a white male who works at a bank. Certain groups apply in very large numbers and thus the schools can pick the best of the best...where as if you bring something totally different to the table you are measured on your own and not compared to a thousand other people with similar backgrounds.

GPA and GMAT are combined to a degree...schools just want to know if you can handle the work of their school. GMAT also matters because it plays a role in rankings...and also its a broad measure that can be compared to everyone since schools grade differently and while some might have a great name they hand out A's like candy. GPA is a much more difficult factor due to the fact that most large programs have 100+ different UG schools represented so they can't really value every schools grading system...though schools that routinely send people there give them a much better picture what that 3.0 or 3.8 means.

I think the interview can also be a make or break for people. Either you do well enough that you don't kill your chances or you do something horrible during it that sinks any shot. An event I recently attended the admin officer from HBS actually said that people who would be accepted can shoot themselves in the foot during interviews and it does happen.

The schools care more about the whole package than individual parts. The essays and recs definitely are a HUGE part in it and they even will tell you that since thats what makes the people evaluating applications connect with you. Any top school could fill their program with a bunch of 750+, 3.7+, worker robots but they don't, instead they want interesting people who bring value to the program and also will get enough out of it to do something afterwards. I would say since you have no control over your diversity since you are either going to stand apart or you aren't, your GPA isn't going to change unless you are in school still or plan on taking some courses...if you are applying for R1 this year then your most important factors at the moment are your essays since thats pretty much all you have control over.
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10 Aug 2007, 10:14
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It's impossible to weight the factors like you did, but I'll share some thoughts. Generally speaking, I'm taking about the top schools.

1. A low GPA can be overcome. A GPA in the 2.5-3.0 range (below the middle 80% for most schools) will not prevent you from being considered, though you will have to show you can handle the work in other parts of your application. Quality and difficulty of your school(s) factor in as well. If your school was really difficult to get into, and was highly competitive, they will take that into account.

2. A low GMAT cannot be overcome, for the most part. A GMAT below 650 (about the middle 80% range for most schools) will keep you out, unless you have something very, very substantial in your profile. If your family is a huge donor, or if you are an underrepresented minority, you might be considered with a sub-650 GMAT, but if not, then you're wasting your time. A GMAT over 750 is nice, but it won't get you in. The higher the better on the GMAT, but it will only go so far in addressing other weaknesses; and primairly a very high GMAT is most useful in offsetting a low GPA.

3. You weight Recs at 20% and GMAT at 10%. There is no way on God's green earth that Recs are worth more than GMAT. Recs have very little upside value. I heard again and again last year that schools expect virtually all admitted students to have stellar recs. The reason is that applicants choose who writes for them, so the only thing that can really happen is that they get a lukewarm or poor Rec that torpedoes their application. I think Montauk states in his book that maybe 10% of applicants get poor recs without even knowing it. The bottom line is that if your recs are anything but stellar, it will hurt you; but it's hard to imagine what it would take for a rec to really help you, when compared to other applicants.

4. The interview means nothing unless you are invited. Of course, some schools (very few now) interview all-comers. Once you are asked to interview, the value can vary a whole lot. At Duke and UCLA, for example, you interview with alums and students, they work off a script and the entire process feels very sterile. It's hard to imagine the interview having much weight. At Columbia, you interview with an alum, and experiences will vary, but my recommender disclosed that even when he turns in stellar reports, Columbia doesn't really follow. The rumor is that at Harvard, if you are asked to interview your chances are probably at least 50-50. At Stanford, the rumor is that the interview is more or less fluff. So, interview weight depends on the school, but for most places it is a good indicator that your application has made it to the next step.

5. Diversity can make a huge difference. Depending on how under- or over-represented your group is, diversity could mean as much as 100+ points on the GMAT, a full point of GPA, and a whole boatload of work and extracurricular experiences. We'll just leave it at that.

7. Your work experience and activities will be key elements of your application. In order to have great application essays, you'll need good writing skills and great content. It doesn't matter how well you write if you have nothing to talk about. On the other hand, if you have great experiences but only average writing ability, schools will probably give you the benefit of the doubt. If someone works at a blue-chipper like Goldman or Google and has been promoted ahead of schedule, etc., then average essays will be fine. An assistant manager at 7-11 could write something worthy of a pulitzer, but that's not going to change the fact that his experience comes up short. You need content to have great essays, and that includes all the stuff you've done in your life. Of course, it doesn't hurt if you're a great writer and can spin great stories about your experiences.

Last edited by pelihu on 10 Aug 2007, 17:00, edited 1 time in total.
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10 Aug 2007, 11:17
great post pelihu! Thank you for the insights!
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10 Aug 2007, 12:16
Nice Dissection of the admissions process
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10 Aug 2007, 13:00
Great post Pelihu! I think you captured the entire application well.

The question I have is how do they compare lesser known schools with the larger ones. I graduated from a small private local college with a 3.9 and took investment, corporate finance and intermediate accounting classes as my electives. How with they compare my gpa with an engineer from a top undergrad?
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10 Aug 2007, 17:10
gixxer1000 wrote:
Great post Pelihu! I think you captured the entire application well.

The question I have is how do they compare lesser known schools with the larger ones. I graduated from a small private local college with a 3.9 and took investment, corporate finance and intermediate accounting classes as my electives. How with they compare my gpa with an engineer from a top undergrad?

I have heard a lot of applicants talking about how important a brand-name school is and how top grades from State U still doesn't compare to top grades from Harvard. While you may not get the "ooh, aah" points that Harvard grads get, I don't think you need to worry. At any rate, my experience didn't lead me to believe that my undergrad education was a liability.

I went to a small private college, a regional school that always gets mention in "Schools that Change Lives" and stuff like that, but nothing that would ever impress people. No name recognition really, especially outside the Midwest.

However, I NEVER heard anyone doubt my brains. I had a 3.94 (that .04 is important to me ), and received compliments from my interviewers. You took business classes, which is even relevant. (Russian lit, in my experience, was less relevant.) I wouldn't worry about it. You've shown you can learn, you've shown you're committed. Sweet.

Now nail your GMAT and write some spankin-hot essays. There's nothing you can do about undergrad anyway, and you have no need for the little tricks that some people use to compensate for a weak GPA, a low GMAT, or lack of quantitative background. You've got the GPA and GMAT down.
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10 Aug 2007, 17:11
gixxer1000 wrote:
Great post Pelihu! I think you captured the entire application well.

The question I have is how do they compare lesser known schools with the larger ones. I graduated from a small private local college with a 3.9 and took investment, corporate finance and intermediate accounting classes as my electives. How with they compare my gpa with an engineer from a top undergrad?

My sense is that with a really high GPA like yours from a school they might not have a lot of data on, they will probably look at your grades and say "fine, this person can probably handle the work" and look at the rest of your application. I think it's unlikely that they will view it as a strength, and I have no idea how they would compare it to someone from a big-name school, but I think they'll go ahead and see what you've done in the rest of your application.

As a follow-up, I think that a low GPA from a a small local college could more or less end someone's candidacy; perhaps a super high GMAT could get them back into the game. I think that it takes both a brand-name school and a very high GPA for that to really help your application. A 3.8 from MIT or Princeton is a big plus. The same GPA from a big state college (non-public-elite) is nice, but probably won't be a huge plus.

I don't have any insider information; these opinions are based on observations over the last year. You can glean some interesting information by looking over some of the resume bundles that are available. You'll also see lots and lots of people from all the usual suspects (Ivys, public and private elite). People from smaller, lesser-known schools almost always list Greek honors (Magna, Summa, etc.). I think that they understand that some people have money and location consderations when selecting a college, but those that aren't at the big-name schools must really do well to keep pace.
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10 Aug 2007, 17:43
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10 Aug 2007, 18:16
pelihu, so if you *do* have a stellar GPA from a very big name school *and* very high GPA, how does that help you? Does it really affect your application or will you still be considered just like everyone else based on your essay and how well you can tell a story? Does anything change?
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10 Aug 2007, 20:29
Yeah, I think so. If you are summa at Princeton or have a 4.0 from MIT, I think you'll have a leg up on everyone else. I still think that if you have a low 600s GMAT you might be in trouble.
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10 Aug 2007, 23:27
is there any way to "quantify" that "leg up?" I know the process is holistic as you described, but how much more favorably are they going to look at someone who has a 4.0 from MIT and a 780 GMAT? Will they be allowed to be a little more vague in their goals statement? A little less enthusiastic recommendations? things like that...
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11 Aug 2007, 15:19
pelihu wrote:
It's impossible to weight the factors like you did, but I'll share some thoughts. Generally speaking, I'm taking about the top schools.

1. A low GPA can be overcome. A GPA in the 2.5-3.0 range (below the middle 80% for most schools) will not prevent you from being considered, though you will have to show you can handle the work in other parts of your application. Quality and difficulty of your school(s) factor in as well. If your school was really difficult to get into, and was highly competitive, they will take that into account.

2. A low GMAT cannot be overcome, for the most part. A GMAT below 650 (about the middle 80% range for most schools) will keep you out, unless you have something very, very substantial in your profile. If your family is a huge donor, or if you are an underrepresented minority, you might be considered with a sub-650 GMAT, but if not, then you're wasting your time. A GMAT over 750 is nice, but it won't get you in. The higher the better on the GMAT, but it will only go so far in addressing other weaknesses; and primairly a very high GMAT is most useful in offsetting a low GPA.

3. You weight Recs at 20% and GMAT at 10%. There is no way on God's green earth that Recs are worth more than GMAT. Recs have very little upside value. I heard again and again last year that schools expect virtually all admitted students to have stellar recs. The reason is that applicants choose who writes for them, so the only thing that can really happen is that they get a lukewarm or poor Rec that torpedoes their application. I think Montauk states in his book that maybe 10% of applicants get poor recs without even knowing it. The bottom line is that if your recs are anything but stellar, it will hurt you; but it's hard to imagine what it would take for a rec to really help you, when compared to other applicants.

4. The interview means nothing unless you are invited. Of course, some schools (very few now) interview all-comers. Once you are asked to interview, the value can vary a whole lot. At Duke and UCLA, for example, you interview with alums and students, they work off a script and the entire process feels very sterile. It's hard to imagine the interview having much weight. At Columbia, you interview with an alum, and experiences will vary, but my recommender disclosed that even when he turns in stellar reports, Columbia doesn't really follow. The rumor is that at Harvard, if you are asked to interview your chances are probably at least 50-50. At Stanford, the rumor is that the interview is more or less fluff. So, interview weight depends on the school, but for most places it is a good indicator that your application has made it to the next step.

5. Diversity can make a huge difference. Depending on how under- or over-represented your group is, diversity could mean as much as 100+ points on the GMAT, a full point of GPA, and a whole boatload of work and extracurricular experiences. We'll just leave it at that.

7. Your work experience and activities will be key elements of your application. In order to have great application essays, you'll need good writing skills and great content. It doesn't matter how well you write if you have nothing to talk about. On the other hand, if you have great experiences but only average writing ability, schools will probably give you the benefit of the doubt. If someone works at a blue-chipper like Goldman or Google and has been promoted ahead of schedule, etc., then average essays will be fine. An assistant manager at 7-11 could write something worthy of a pulitzer, but that's not going to change the fact that his experience comes up short. You need content to have great essays, and that includes all the stuff you've done in your life. Of course, it doesn't hurt if you're a great writer and can spin great stories about your experiences.

U r starrrrr mate, not a CEO but a president of a university
thanks
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11 Aug 2007, 18:33
kryzak wrote:
is there any way to "quantify" that "leg up?" I know the process is holistic as you described, but how much more favorably are they going to look at someone who has a 4.0 from MIT and a 780 GMAT? Will they be allowed to be a little more vague in their goals statement? A little less enthusiastic recommendations? things like that...

If you bomb the essays then no matter what you wont have a chance. Essays are really the most important factor of the application. I talked with the one admissions people for Stanford at an event and he said that some people with 800 gmats and near 4.0 GPAs feel like thats going to get them in...its not law school it doesnt work that way. He actually stated that he would rather have someone with much worse numbers but really engaging essays that have a great story and show passion for what they want to do in the future than someone who thinks that they are a genious and has the stats to back it up.

Amazingly high stats would get you into law school or med school but not an b-school. Even a great resume isn't going to mean much if you can't get your experiences across to the evaluators. If you can connect with the readers of your essays it's going to do more for you than some numbers on a page will.
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11 Aug 2007, 23:25
I understand riverripper, but I'm just wondering on the different "level" of engaging essays. It's all hypothetical and we're just speculating, but it would be interesting to see how engaging of an essay a 3.0 from no-name schoo with 700 GMAT person would have to write compared to a 4.0 from MIT 780 GMAT person. I guess there's no way to know because you're comparing subjective things.
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15 Aug 2007, 06:59
During a panel discussion, the adcom lady from Stanford had an interesting point to say about the "importance of various factors in an application". She said that 95% recommendations are quite positive. But among the remaining 5%, sometimes a negative recommendation is enough for us to ding the student (Specially if there are more than one recommendations hinting the same negative aspect).

5% is not a negligible number. So, you guys, choose your recommenders wisely.
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15 Aug 2007, 07:36
well, the problem with having to choose a current supervisor is you never know what he's going to say. I mean, I got good reviews last year, but since you need to choose the supervisor unless there's very good reason not to, I'm pretty much at his mercy.
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15 Aug 2007, 19:30
mNeo wrote:
During a panel discussion, the adcom lady from Stanford had an interesting point to say about the "importance of various factors in an application". She said that 95% recommendations are quite positive. But among the remaining 5%, sometimes a negative recommendation is enough for us to ding the student (Specially if there are more than one recommendations hinting the same negative aspect).

5% is not a negligible number. So, you guys, choose your recommenders wisely.

When you really think about it, recommendations are basically a test of whether you can find two people to say some nice things about you. Considering that the applicant chooses his/her recommenders, it really is quite negative if recommendations are negative, or even lukewarm. It calls into question whether the applicant is a good judge of character, they really suck at work (and therefore cannot find anyone to write positive reviews), they are socially challenged (and can't supervisors to help them out), or they are tough to deal with (supervisors don't like them, but won't tell them to their face).

But yeah, sometimes it's hard to tell what someone will write about you.
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15 Aug 2007, 20:07
that's the problem. if your supervisor is the type of person who lies to your face, even if it's not your fault, you're screwed... I think both my recommenders will write me good recs, but I never know if they decide to be "strict" or "brutally honest" and the recs end up to be lukewarm and mess up my application chances. You really never know...

Anyone have ideas to help with this, other than using a lie detector test on your supervisor?
15 Aug 2007, 20:07

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