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How to Get Accepted to Cornell Johnson MBA [Podcast Episode] 0
How to Get Accepted to Cornell Johnson MBA Eddie Asbie 488 Sept 22

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Tune in to hear all that Cornell Johnson’s dynamic MBA program has to offer [Show Summary]

Eddie Asbie, Executive Director of Admissions and Scholarship at Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management, dives into this dynamic program that equips students for careers in finance, tech, healthcare, and more

Interview with Eddie Asbie, Executive Director of Admissions and Scholarship at Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management [Show Notes]

Welcome to the 488th episode of Admissions Straight Talk. Thanks for tuning in. Before we speak with our wonderful guest, I want to invite you to take advantage of a fantastic tool at Accepted, the MBA Admissions Quiz. Are you ready to apply to your dream MBA programs? Are you competitive at those programs? Accepted’s MBA Admissions Quiz can not only give you a quick reality check, but also tips on how to improve your qualifications. Plus, it’s all free. Use the calculator at

It gives me great pleasure to have, for the first time on Admissions Straight Talk, Eddie Asbie, Executive Director of Admissions and Scholarship at Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management. Eddie earned his bachelor’s in communications from the University at Buffalo and a masters from SUNY Buffalo in Student Personnel Administration. Between his undergraduate and graduate degrees, he worked at SUNY Buffalo and while in grad school, he served as an Admissions Advisor at the University of Buffalo. He joined the Johnson School in 2012 as an Assistant Director of Admissions and Financial Aid and became the Executive Director of Admissions and Scholarship in June 2021. 

Can you give an overview of the Cornell Johnson full-time MBA program, focusing on its more distinctive elements? [2:16]

We’re located in Ithaca, New York, which is in central New York. Our MBA program is a general management MBA program that allows our students to really get the basic business fundamentals while also expanding personally and professionally throughout their career goals. We are known for elements of our program, such as our immersion learning program, which gives our students the opportunity to immerse themselves in their particular career paths. This happens in the spring semester of their first year. It gives students that hands-on experience while taking advanced level courses in their particular immersions so they can ultimately be able to hit the ground running with the internship itself.

We also have Cornell Tech, MBA program located in New York City. If you are looking for a residential two-year program, there are opportunities for our program to collaborate with the Cornell Tech campus in New York City. 

There are a lot of other great features like flexibility in the program to work with other departments. Our program really gives you the opportunity to customize the program the way you best see fit. We understand it’s a business school, but we also understand the direction that our students are going into spans so many different industries, whether it is hospitality, healthcare, tech, or anything else. We have some great programs here at Cornell that allow students to be able to tap into other areas.

Is there anything new at Cornell Johnson that you’d like to highlight? [4:49]

I will say that within my time here at Johnson, we’ve done a pretty good job of making sure that we stay relevant with what’s happening and changes to our curriculum. One of the new exciting things that I would like to share is the opportunity to do a 1+1 program, which is a full year here in Ithaca, along with a full year at Cornell Tech.

This program gives our students, who are applying to the two-year residential MBA program, the opportunity of going through the standard core in the first semester and during a tech-focused immersion experience in the second semester. Then in the second year, you would join the Cornell Tech students, focusing on their startup curriculum where you’re spending that entire second year at Cornell Tech. That’s in Manhattan on Roosevelt Island. 

The type of student that we’re looking for is someone who is looking to bridge the gap between business as well as the digital economy and someone with technical experience under their belt as well. You’ll start hearing more about this program in our publications and presentations. We have a group of about 15 or so second-years who are piloting this program right now. We look forward to continuing this as an option moving forward. It’s a great opportunity for students to have the best of both worlds between both campuses.

Is the 1+1 program something that an applicant would apply to before being accepted to Cornell? Or is that something they decide upon while at Cornell? [6:58]

Great question. For our students who started this week, it’s going to be an internal application. Once we launch the application in the summer of 2023, this will be a question on the application. Anyone who’s applying this year won’t see that in the application.

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Can you touch on immersions, intensives, and performance learning? [8:22]

We believe it’s really important for students to have hands-on experience and the opportunity to learn from business practitioners. We want you to be actually working on projects in your career path and getting feedback. That experience is a semester-long immersion. There’s an immersion in digital technology, investment banking, operations, and the list goes on. It’s a customized immersion. If you’re taking advantage of the investment banking immersion, that entire semester is focused on advanced-level courses in investment banking and a week on Wall Street, working with business practitioners so that once you get to the summer internship, you’re able to hit the ground running and capitalize on that experience. Hopefully, you’re walking away with a full-time offer. 

So the immersions are geared towards a particular career path and not so much an area of study? [9:52]

Typically, yes. A lot of our students are very intentional when it comes to their immersion, especially if they know where they want to end up. This is really helpful for someone who’s making a career switch.

Moving on to the intensives. We have three intensives: sustainable global enterprise intensive, FinTech intensive, and digital marketing intensive. The digital marketing and the FinTech intensives run for seven weeks on the Cornell Tech campus. They’re offered in the spring semester of your second year.

Of course, there are a couple of required courses along with elective courses that you’re taking in these particular areas as well over those seven weeks. Once you’re done with the seven weeks of these two intensives, you have the choice to stay on the Cornell Tech campus and finish out the rest of the semester before graduating or spend the remaining seven weeks in Ithaca. 

When it comes to the SGE intensive, this is delivered here in Ithaca. One of the benefits of this intensive is that you have the opportunity to take this intensive either in your first year or your second year. You can actually do it twice. It really gives you the opportunity to work on various projects and take advanced-level courses. 

The performance learning piece is that hands-on piece. We have great world-renowned faculty members students will learn from, but we also want them out there. Students get this through the immersion, the intensive, even the experience with Cornell Tech, working on these actual projects and spending time on Wall Street, connecting with our alums and working on various projects. Having that experience provides that performance learning and that hands-on piece for our students.

What do students do for the rest of the second semester after completing their seven-week intensives? [13:39]

This is where students have the opportunity to customize their program. There are students who are taking courses over at the law school, the hotel school, or somewhere else. There are students who take advantage of global opportunities and will study abroad for a semester with some of our partner schools internationally. There are students who are taking advantage of the Cornell Tech campus. 

Where do Johnson MBA graduates get jobs both geographically and in terms of industry? [15:37]

As much as we would love to keep them here in Ithaca, there are many great options for them. Our alums are going all over the world. If you go onto our website, there are career management stats on there and you will see that a lot of our students are going within the financial sector. When we talk about finance, it can be income investment banking, asset management, consulting, general management, marketing, and tech. Tech is, of course, the hot thing right now, but there are so many students who are also going into the healthcare sector and real estate. They’re entrepreneurs. Yes, there’s finance and consulting, but there are many other outcomes as well. 

As far as location-wise, I think our largest alumni base is located in New York City. It’s because that’s where a lot of students want to go afterward. San Francisco is a great location with alums, Boston, D.C., Minneapolis, Texas, then, of course, internationally. They’re all over the world. You’re not restricted to just one location. I have full confidence in our program and our career management center to really prepare you for whatever industry, function, or location you want to pursue. I will encourage candidates that as they go throughout this journey, to make sure they stay in touch with our students about what their recruiting path looked like and how Johnson prepared them. 

What don’t people know about Cornell Johnson that you would like them to know? [17:51]

That’s a loaded question there. One of the myths I’ll start with is our location. I think that everyone knows Cornell the brand. It’s a global brand. But the location piece is something that some people may say, “I just don’t know about a smaller town versus a larger metropolitan city. What is there to do? The recruiters come there.” You have to keep in mind that we have some of the best of the best here between our students, faculty, administration, and, of course, our alumni base. We have such an amazing program here. I believe that recruiters know that. They know the quality of a Cornell student and what our brand brings. We always get asked, “Do companies come there?” Absolutely. Also, our alums want to give back, and this is a way for them to give back by representing their company and bringing in Johnson students. 

It’s also a beautiful place. It has so much to offer. I’ve already talked about what our program offers from a curriculum standpoint, but when I think about the social side, this is a true community. Ithaca and Cornell support each other from the local businesses to the location on the lake and in wine country. If you haven’t come to visit, definitely come. 

Another thing is there’s flexibility in the program, but I don’t think candidates know the strength of our entrepreneurial opportunities. We have strong entrepreneurial suites here, whether it is our Big Red Ventures, which is a student-run opportunity for students who are looking to further their entrepreneurial side or just connecting with some faculty members who have strengths on the entrepreneurial side of things. Keep in mind that it’s also a partnership with Cornell as a whole. I’ve seen students who have taken on opportunities and partnered with engineers here or even from the legal side.

Is the school supportive of MBA students starting a business while doing their MBA? [21:01]

Absolutely. Yes. It’s a good feeling knowing I work for an institution that truly supports and values the students but also will give them the tools necessary to be able to pursue their passions. 

Do you see Cornell Johnson accepting the Executive Assessment in the future? Who in your opinion should take the test, and who should seek a waiver? [22:23]

We are not currently accepting the Executive Assessment. We may potentially in the future. Every year before the application launch, we go back and really evaluate what our processes look like and what elements in the application have been helpful versus things that we should take out. I’m sure that next year during this time, we’ll go back and reevaluate. 

The waiver is not for everyone. We want to have full confidence that you’re going to come into our program and that you’re going to succeed. I know that there are a lot of students who may not have a quantitative background or come from a business background or maybe they’ve been out of school for some time. When it comes to the waiver, you should be someone who’s confident in your ability. What we will look at is, of course, your academic performance. We’ll look at the type of institution that you came from, what your major was, the consistency of your grades, but also the challenging courses, especially from the quantitative side that you’ve taken that hopefully gives the admissions committee confidence that you’re going to come into the program and really succeed. We will also look at your work experience and will want to dig deeper into that experience. Hopefully, your recommenders speak on your abilities from the quantitative side, but those are some of the things that we are looking at when making a decision on granting a waiver or not.

If you’re someone who struggled academically, I’m going to encourage you to take the test. It’s much more than just taking the easy way out. I actually had a conversation with a candidate the other day who was trying to tell me that they were so busy and just couldn’t take the test because of work. I told the candidate when I see that there are candidates in the military, or single parents who are working full time and taking care of their kids who are studying for the test, personally, I have no sympathy for the one saying they don’t have the time to take it. That’s just me being very transparent. If you are questioning where you are when it comes to your preparation for business school or even just the next steps, I welcome the conversation to discuss if the waiver is for you or not.

We’re rooting for all of our applicants and of course, our students. We have a very competitive applicant pool for this incoming class. We enrolled a class of about 300 in this class. When you have thousands of applications for 300 spots, there are certain things and certain elements within an application that can really eliminate someone. I’m proud that we take a holistic approach, but still, that test can make or break a decision, especially if there are concerns already. If you’re an average candidate and are deciding between the test or not, I would encourage you to definitely take the test.

What do you hope to learn from the essays and written materials in the application that the test and the transcript don’t tell you? [27:59]

We have one required essay. That’s our impact essay. Impact and the sense of community is very big here within the Johnson community. We want to make sure that you’ve done your due diligence throughout the process to get to know who we are. Our question really focuses on how you see yourself making an impact within an elite program like ours. A great way of answering that is showing where you see yourself contributing or making an impact. For example, if you are a marketer and are interested in Battle of the Brands and being a part of that committee or making that overall experience a great experience for your classmates and yourself, that’s something very specific that you have learned about our curriculum. That impact essay is something that means a lot to us. It shows that you’ve done your due diligence on getting to know who we are as a community, but also that you’ve had the opportunity of touching base with students and alums or even faculty and staff along the journey. 

We also have a Park Fellowship Essay. This is an optional essay open to those who are US citizens to be considered for a two-year full tuition fellowship, which also has a leadership component to it. We try to identify about 25 students in each cohort. It really focuses on the leadership component and how you’ve developed as a leader and how you see yourself being a leader while in business school. I will encourage everyone who qualifies for the fellowship to at least take the time out to fill out that additional essay. 

The last piece is the optional essay. If there are any red flags in your application or anything that you believe the admissions committee really needs to know, whether it’s gaps in your work experience, academic concerns, or reasons why you didn’t use your supervisor as your recommender, briefly use that optional essay.

Do you still require a goals statement? [31:19]

Yes. Our goal statement is pretty much fill-in-the-blank. There’s a fill-in-the-blank portion that allows you to write in brief paragraph form what your short-term and long-term goals are. I can’t stress enough that you really should take that time to really be able to articulate what your goals are. In reality, we know that candidates are going to get to business school and still explore options, but you should have a sense of what you want to do and how you’re going to get there. 

If you’re making a career switch, I’d recommend you start doing some networking and research towards your goals. Whether it is connecting with members of our communities or connecting with our career management center to think about ways to prepare for that path.

What happens to applications after applicants hit submit? How are they processed and evaluated to determine who gets an interview invitation? [32:53]

Once an applicant hits submit, it then goes to one of our admissions and application coordinators, who will make sure that everything that we were asking in the application has been submitted. If something is missing, we will reach out to the applicant to let them know that it is missing. Once an application is complete, it is split up between one of our assistant directors, associate directors, and a member of our admissions committee who will do an initial read on your application. We will do a thorough review on every aspect of what we’ve required in the application. The person who has read your application will do a thorough write-up on your goals, academics, strengths, and weaknesses. Ultimately, once that read is completed, they have the option of making one of three decisions: invite you to interview, waitlist without an interview, or flat-out deny.

If they decide to move you for an interview, you are automatically receiving that notification from us. If it is a waitlist or a denial, it then comes back to members of our team, where we take a second look to confirm if we agree with that decision or not. Of course, if you move forward with an interview, you will go through an interview. Your interview will either be conducted by an admissions representative or one of our trained second-year students who go through an intense training process. Once that interview is completed, there is a full write up that is completed by the interviewer regarding your overall candidacy along with their recommendation. Once the interview write-up is done, it then comes back to the committee, and there are multiple members of the admissions committee who meet every Wednesday, who will do a full review of your application and make a final decision. 

Is the interview blind? [35:27]

For our process, the interviewer will have a copy of the resume along with some brief notes from the application. As I had mentioned before, the person who does the initial read will take down notes, but then there may also be some questions that we want the interviewer to ask. The person conducting the interview will have these two documents in front of them as they are having these conversations with the applicant.

When the interviewer completes the interview and makes the recommendation, is that based only on the interview or do they look at the fuller application as well? [36:04]

That is all based off the interview.

What is the interview like? [36:21]

We make our interview process very conversational and ultimately a fun process. We want to know why an MBA, why Johnson, and why this is the right time for you to apply to business school. We also really want to know who you are and what makes you unique. Of course you’re going to have those opportunities to talk about what your goals are, but there are a lot of things in the interview that I find to be fascinating about candidates, whether it is their background or their love for sports or music. I’ve had some of the best conversations after seeing what someone’s passionate about.

I used to be big for the Big Brother Big Sister program. It means a lot to me. When I see that on a resume, it’s a great conversation starter. I’m also a diehard sports fan. I love the Buffalo Bills. If I see someone’s love for sports, it sparks different conversations. 

At the end of the day, we want to know that you’re a good fit for our community and that you’ve done your due diligence to understand why an MBA makes sense for your goals. It’s conversational and we want people to have fun.

What advice would you have for re-applicants to Cornell Johnson? [38:48]

I would say do some self-reflecting. Go back and look at your application and do a thorough review of your overall candidacy and make sure that your goals are clear. Are you that candidate that should have taken the test? Is there more outreach that you could have done throughout that process? Doing some self-reflecting and being honest with yourself is key for a re-applicant. Get in touch with our team. Your desire to be here says a lot. It shows that you’re committed to our program. It shows that you’re serious about this. 

What I will say about a reapplication is you want to be able to show what has changed since you’ve last applied. I firmly believe if you submit the exact same application, you’ll probably get the exact same results. As a re-applicant, just take your time, do your due diligence, and get to know us on another level.

What would you say to an applicant who’s interested in applying to Cornell Johnson this year but is also concerned about the possibility of a recession? [40:03]

I think the timing is definitely important. You have to really go back and think about where you’re at. What’s most important to you? Is it getting more experience? Is it the financial side of taking two years off? Is it thinking about where you are in your career and whether it’s the lack of movement? Maybe it is opportunities that you have that will present themselves within this year or even in future years? 

You have to really think about if this is the right time for you and trust your instinct. Continue to attend various sessions. Learn about what’s changing within the MBA itself. You know what’s best for yourself when it comes to what you need for professional growth, whether it’s happiness, the financial side, or something else.

What candidates do you not get enough of? [41:24]

I would probably say it has to be specific industries. We get a lot from the financial sector. I always say that I would love to see more in the healthcare sector or even hospitality in the program. Of course, there are some coming from that area or looking to transition into that area. But from an applicant standpoint, there’s so much that’s happening in healthcare right now. There are a lot of great opportunities out there. 

Let’s pretend I’m an applicant thinking ahead to 2023-2024. What is the one thing you would advise me to do to prepare myself to apply? [42:21]

I would say stay connected. This is a great time for you to do some self-reflecting and explore and maybe even travel to get to know different schools. I’ve heard a lot of applicants talk about friendships that they’ve made with Johnson students along the way doing their research. Of course, you can start thinking about taking the test. You can start thinking about growth within your career and taking on new initiatives, which, of course, I would encourage you all to do. Take on new leadership opportunities. 

But I will say just stay connected. There’s so much that changes in our program every year, whether it is the curriculum or new initiatives, and we want to make sure that when you get ready to apply or even think of applying, you’re confident that we’re a good fit for you. 

What would you have liked me to ask you? [43:47]

Linda, you asked great questions. Something I would like to close with is I love the work that I do. I love this admissions team. I love this community. We have a community, especially within our leadership, that truly supports our students. An MBA is very expensive, and I know it’s tough to think about taking two years off, but it is worth the investment. I’ve seen many students and alums who have really been able to progress in their careers and take on new opportunities and also continue to have the support of their classmates and leadership even after they graduate. That is what I would say to any applicant thinking about Johnson. 

Where can listeners and potential applicants learn more about Cornell Johnson’s full-time MBA program? [45:33]


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