All you need to know about UW’s Foster MBA program [Show Summary]
Amber Janke, Director of MBA Recruitment and Admissions at Foster School of Business shares everything potential applicants should know about the collaborative MBA program.
Amber Janke, Director of MBA Recruitment and Admissions at Foster School of Business talks about how to get accepted [Show Notes]
Welcome to the 461st episode of Admissions Straight Talk. Thanks for listening. You’ve seen the stats that most people have a great return on their MBA investment, but what about you individually? Are you going to see that return? How much is it likely to be? We created a tool that will help you assess whether the MBA is likely to be a good investment for you individually. Just go to www.accepted.com/mbaroicalc, complete the brief questionnaire, and you’ll not only get an assessment but also the opportunity to calculate different scenarios.
It gives me great pleasure to have for the first time on Admissions Straight Talk, Amber Janke. Amber earned her BA at Chapman University and then went to NYU, where she earned her MA in Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs. She also started her career in higher ed as the Assistant Director of Admissions at NYU. She moved to Foster as Associate Director of MBA Recruitment and Admissions in 2016, and became the Director of MBA Recruitment and Admissions for Foster School of Business in 2019.
Can you give a basic overview of the Full-time MBA Program at Foster for listeners who may not be that familiar with it? [2:24]
Absolutely. We have your classic two-year Full-time MBA Program here at the Foster School. The first year is very focused on a strong MBA foundation. It’s focused on leadership, teamwork, and we’re very big on hands-on experiential learning here at Foster. You get that in the first-year curriculum. In the second year, our students get to choose the elective courses that best suit their career goals. We don’t have specific concentrations or areas of studies that students are required to choose. Instead, they really get to customize their degree in a way that makes sense for their career goals.
Do students graduate with a concentration? [3:09]
They don’t graduate with a concentration, they graduate with an MBA, but we really encourage them to share the things that they’ve learned and worked on, on their resumes.
Is the first year lockstep, where students are with the same cohort? [3:27]
Yes, we are a lockstep program. We’re a pretty small cohort. We typically have no more than about 125-130 students. We’re very focused on community and culture here at Foster. Our students are very big on helping each other achieve their goals. Our students are very driven and want to make a positive impact on the world, but they also want to help others do the same and it’s something that I think is pretty special here at the Foster School.
What don’t people know about Foster that you would want them to know? Is there a myth out there about Foster that you would like to dispel? [4:04]
I think there is an impression, and there is some truth to it, that there is a lot of interest and placement in technology, post-MBA here at Foster. We certainly have the benefit of having many technology companies right in our backyard. Our students are interested in that, but we also have really strong placement in marketing, consulting, and finance as well. That’s one thing that I think sometimes people are a little bit surprised about. While we have a lot of students who pursue careers at those companies post-MBA here in Washington, we also have students that are working across the US as well. We have an expansion across the US.
Where do most of your grads go outside of Seattle? [4:59]
California, Chicago, New York City. We’ve seen more placement in other areas in the country as well.
Does Foster have any plans to consider the Executive Assessment Exam? [5:37]
That’s a good question. I know I’m here to talk about the Full-time MBA Program today, but we also have an evening MBA program, which is based on our Full-time MBA Program. It’s a very similar experience, they also get access to the same career resources as our Full-time MBA Program. We are currently accepting the Executive Assessment for our evening program. We are going to see how that goes and we might consider it for full-time in the future but right now the Full-time MBA Program doesn’t accept the Executive Assessment.
Who would you advise to apply without a test score? [6:12]
We have a long FAQ on our website, which I encourage people to go take a look at but I’ll try to summarize a bit of it today. We think there is some value in the GRE and the GMAT, and that’s why we still encourage people to take it. We also understand that people may come from experiences or backgrounds that already show that proficiency and the exam might not be as helpful to them. Or that people may have had trouble accessing the exam, especially with COVID these past two years.
We wanted to create a pathway and an opportunity for people to show quantitative and analytical readiness outside of an exam. We ask our applicants to answer two questions in the application if they’re choosing to apply Test-Optional. One is, “How have you shown readiness through your prior academic experience?” The second is, “How have you shown quantum analytical readiness through your professional experience?”
Then we review the application based on the information that is provided to us. It really is a personal decision. It’s different than a waiver because I know a lot of schools are doing waivers. Instead of the school making the decision for the applicant, the applicant is making the decision on how they can best present their application. We felt like that was important. They know their background and their skills and their candidacy best, and so we want them to be able to have the opportunity to provide that information to us.
We also have admissions counselors who are happy to meet one-on-one if applicants are trying to decide, “Am I a good fit to apply Test-Optional?” You can absolutely schedule a time to meet one-on-one with us as well. This is our first year doing Test-Optional so we are definitely learning, and we are committed to doing this for at least two years here at Foster. We’ll see how that goes in the future.
If this is the first year, then you don’t have any stats in terms of how many were accepted from last year or anything like that? [8:15]
That is correct. Unfortunately, I’m not able to share much yet, but we’ll know more in the fall. Certainly, we have seen applicants effectively use the Test-Optional option as part of their application so far, but we’ve only released decisions for our Round 1 so far.
What else do you look for in an application outside of good academic stats? [9:13]
This is a really good question because I think when people look at our profile, they start to think, “Oh, I have to fit these particular criteria,” but that is definitely not the only thing we are considering about the application. I will say we look at applications holistically so we are not looking at just one element of the application. We’re looking at everything.
We are looking for students who are curious, who want to learn from others, who want to make a positive impact on the world. As I mentioned, that’s something really important to us with our culture and our community. We want students who are innovative, who are problem solvers, and who really want to be part of a close-knit community and make a greater impact. Those are things that are really important to us. We want students to be able to walk into the classroom and know that they have a true member of their team, not just in the team they’ve been assigned to, but somebody that’s really rooting for them to get over the finish line and they’re going to do the same for their classmates.
Can you give us some insight into what happens to an application after the applicant hits submit? How are the applications processed and evaluated to determine who actually receives an interview invitation? [10:45]
I will add, just to back up for a moment and share a little bit more about what we’re looking for. We are also looking for our students to learn from one another. We expect students to come in with some level of expertise or knowledge or experience that they’re going to contribute to the cohort certainly. That is something that we consider when we’re looking at applications.
As I mentioned, we have that holistic review. Once people hit Submit, there are a couple of things that happen. One is, once they hit submit, they’ll receive a follow-up from us and they’ll be invited to do the video admissions interview. Everyone is invited to do that video interview. People are asked two questions as part of that. It is really meant to get to know applicants a little bit more to see how they think on their feet. Once we receive that video interview submission, our admissions committee sits down and starts to review applications holistically. We’re looking at every aspect of their application and determining who is competitive to move forward to interview.
It’s tough because we receive a lot of applications, and we cannot move everyone forward to an admissions interview. It just isn’t possible with the number of hours in the day. It is a competitive pool, and so we are really looking for people who demonstrate academic readiness, who show readiness in terms of their career, you don’t have to be a leader yet, but you want to show leadership potential. Looking at other aspects, have you done your research into the program? What can you share with us about it? Not just why you want an MBA, but why you want an MBA from Foster. Once you’re invited to interview, there are some other steps in the process as well.
What’s the purpose of the video essay? [12:46]
It’s really just to allow the admissions committee to see how people think on their feet and allows people to share a little bit about themselves personally. There are no trick questions as part of the video interviews. There are questions about people’s experiences, but just so that we can get a sense of the applicant outside of their written application. It’s a chance for us to learn a little bit more about how they communicate and who they are.
What can applicants expect if they’re lucky enough to get invited for an interview? [13:32]
I will say our admissions team loves doing interviews. We do something that’s a little different than some other programs, in that it is the core full-time admissions team that is doing the interviews. We don’t have students doing interviews. We don’t have alumni doing interviews. We have the admissions committee doing the interviews.
It’s one-on-one, though some of our other programs at Foster have more of a team aspect, which is fun, but for the Full-time MBA Program, it is a one-on-one interview really meant to learn more about you. Candidates should approach it as a job interview, but expect some questions that are going to be a little bit different than you might receive in a job interview. Of course, we’re wanting to learn more about their MBA goals, what they’re looking for in an MBA Program, etc.
There are no trick questions. I always tell applicants when they’re nervous that this is about them. They’re an expert in themselves. They should already be ready to answer the questions. And really, we’re looking for that potential to join the program in the admissions interview.
What’s the most common mistake you see applicants make in the application process? [15:21]
I have a couple that I want to share. One is not being authentic in your application. I think sometimes people believe that the admissions committee wants to hear just one thing or a certain thing. Really what we’re trying to do is get to know each individual applicant authentically. We want to know who you are. We want to know what your goals and dreams are, we want to know who you truly are and what your experiences have been. Time and time again, I’ll talk with an applicant for an info interview and they say, “Well, my friends are telling me I shouldn’t share this very lofty goal.” And I tell them, “Well, you should think about what you really want to achieve. Certainly have a Plan B, but if that’s really what you want to achieve, you’re going to want to share that as part of your application.” That is one thing, people feeling as though they can’t be authentic in their application and I would encourage you to do so because if you aren’t authentic, we’ll be able to see that in an interview. So that’s really important.
The second is just not doing research on the program ahead of time. We know you want an MBA, but why do you want a Foster MBA? We’re a small program. We can help you achieve certain things. We want to know that people really want to be part of this type of program, but you’ve got to do the research on your end as well. It’s not just about the MBA. It’s about what you are looking for in an MBA experience, and doing some of the research ahead of time to learn if you think a program might be a right fit for you. You don’t have to have it all figured it out yet, that’s part of the MBA application process. But start to do some of the work on your end to really understand not just why you want an MBA, but why you want an MBA from Foster or maybe another program.
I sometimes talk to applicants who will say they want to work for Microsoft or Amazon or some other company. Does that lead you to believe why they want it? Would your response be that’s a good reason or would you be looking for more details? [17:30]
Certainly, those are part of people’s goals and they might have certain companies or roles in mind, but an MBA program is not just about what you do immediately post-MBA. It’s about what the experience is for the two years that you’re here. It’s about what you want to gain, how you want to learn, want to grow for five years, 10 years down the line. You might not have a sense of exactly where that journey is going to take you, but I think having that sense of understanding what a program can help you achieve and what you’re going to be able to contribute and learn from a program is really helpful too. My piece of advice that I always give applicants, and I definitely have borrowed this from one of our assistant deans who has since retired, is that you want to find a program where you can thrive.
That’s what I really see for our students here at Foster. We want students who are going to come here to make an impact, and really be able to take advantage of all those opportunities now and later, because that’s something that we see as a true benefit to our community. It’s not just about what’s happening with our students now. It’s our alums who come back, it’s what’s happening in the greater Seattle community, or the greater business community, where we see our students making an impact. I think that’s really important.
What surprises your students most when they start at Foster? [19:32]
We really are trying to do our best to make sure that people have all the information as they prepare for the program, and really understand everything before they come to Foster.
I think something that may be surprising is that the collaboration is not just lip service. We truly are a very collaborative community here at Foster. I actually received a note from one of our current first-year students who said, “I knew that Foster was a place where I wanted to be, and I knew that the community was really important, but I didn’t anticipate how my classmates would be so helpful.” I think people understand it in theory and in concept, but when you see it in practice in the classroom that may be a little bit of a surprise. I don’t know if that’s unique to Foster as much as how instrumental an MBA experience can be, but certainly, it’s something that we are very focused on here at Foster.
This question is from an international student: How do you consider international students who apply to universities and cannot pay at least 5% to 10% of the fees? Do you get irritated? [21:07]
No, not at all. We’re not irritated. Seattle is a global city. Our MBA program is a global program. We want international students. We want different voices, different experiences in our classroom. We know that people are coming from all different sorts of backgrounds. Everyone who applies to the Foster MBA Program is automatically considered for scholarship. That is something that we consider. We have been fortunate to receive some more scholarship funding in recent years so while not every single student receives a scholarship, a significant amount of students do, and if we’re able to offer in-state tuition, we do try to do that as part of a scholarship package.
What advice do you have for applicants applying this cycle, and who are denied and they want to reapply? [22:06]
We always encourage reapplicants to reach out to us over the summer. We say this in our email as well, but you can set up a time to meet with an admissions counselor one-on-one. We’re not going to be able to give you specific feedback on your application, but we can talk to you about what you think you can do better, how to address reapplying and how you can really show your best self in the application.
Every year we admit somebody who’s a reapplicant. I just want to encourage people that just because this year didn’t work out, doesn’t mean next year won’t work out. It can be dependent on the applicant pool. Maybe an additional year of work experience is really going to give you some valuable experiences that you didn’t even realize were going to be helpful for your application the next year. I encourage you to reapply and to reach out to us if you plan to do so.
Should wait-listed applicants provide you with updates when they have something to say? [23:38]
Yes. We actually tried to demystify this a couple of years ago because we realized we weren’t explicitly telling people, “Yes, you can follow up with us with the updates.” So now it is stated in our waitlist notification that they can absolutely reach out to us.
What advice would you give to someone thinking ahead to a fall 2022 or later application? [24:14]
I would say it’s never too early to reach out and start getting to know the Foster School. We are just starting to open up to in-person events on campus, which we’re very excited about. Washington state is starting to open up some restrictions so we’re hopeful that in the spring, we’ll start to offer a couple of in-person events. Then as we roll into summer and the fall, we hope to bring back more of the events that we’ve had in person.
Though of course, I think you’ve probably heard this from other schools as well, virtual has given a lot of access. Our virtual events have given a lot of access to folks, but we would like to be able to bring people back on campus. Our students are on campus, but we just haven’t been able to open it up to guests yet. I hope that we’re going to be able to do so shortly. We have an event for our part-time MBA program coming up next week so we’re super excited to see how that goes and then moving forward, we hope to open up more.
Is there anything you would’ve liked me to ask you? [25:30]
That’s a good question. I think one thing that I didn’t touch upon is just about how amazing our faculty here at Foster is. Our faculty are doing really amazing research in their fields, but they’re also amazing teachers, they know our students on a first-name basis, and they’re invested in their success. When I talk about that student community that is invested in one another, the faculty and the staff are a part of that too. I think that being part of a small community like that – where faculty knows your name or they invite you over to dinner – that’s a pretty amazing experience for students.
Where can listeners and potential applicants learn more about UW Foster’s Full-time MBA Program? [26:22]
They can go to foster.uw.edu, and you can visit us on our Full-time MBA site.
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