The Rice MBA program offered by Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business accepted only 105 students in the current class. The average GMAT is 676 and the average work experience is 5.1 years. Students have come from 17 different countries and 37% are women. With a studentto-faculty ratio of 9:1, you can be assured of getting personalised attention and mentoring. Students from the last graduating class took home an average base salary of around $100,000 and an additional signing bonus of over $16,000.
Manish Gupta, from the MBA Crystal Ball team caught up with Katie Radcliffe, Associate Director of Admissions to learn more about the Rice University MBA program.
MBA Crystal Ball: Your program has a really wide variety of concentrations. What are some of the most popular amongst the 10 odd concentrations that you have?
Katie: Concentrations help Rice MBA students to demonstrate specialized knowledge of a particular business function or industry, based on their career direction. Students in our Full Time MBA program have the option of completing one, or two, of ten available concentrations.
Many students choose to pursue dual concentrations by pairing an industry-specific concentration with a functional concentration, like Health Care and Entrepreneurship, or Energy and Finance. Statistically, our most popular concentrations are Energy, Finance, Entrepreneurship, and Management Consulting.
The first year of classes is comprised entirely of core curriculum (every students takes the same classes, with small variations), while the second year is comprised entirely of elective courses. Students can utilize their second year to complete their concentration(s), or simply take whatever classes are most interesting and relevant to them.
Not surprisingly, we often find that students end up successfully completing a concentration even if they did not formally declare one.
This is because the classes they found most interesting to them often fell within a certain industry or function and, before they knew it, they had completed 9-12 credit hours of coursework in that area, therefore earning a concentration.
MBA Crystal Ball: Tell us a bit more about the Action Learning Project (ALP). Is this in lieu of individual internship or is it in addition to it? Is it on-site or do teams work out of the school itself? Wouldn’t the team based setting hamper some of the individual aspects of ownership and exposure?
Katie: The Action Learning Project (ALP) is a thirteen-week team consultation in which first-year Full Time students enable Houston-based companies to develop or improve business processes. ALP is part of the first-year course curriculum and takes place during the spring semester, which students are simultaneously taking core business classes.
It is an opportunity for students to put into practice the business concepts, frameworks, and approaches they have learned during their first semester at Rice, and to help them prepare for their individual internship which they will complete over the summer between years one and two of the program.
As a team, students will examine a selected company’s processes and provide in-depth recommendations for necessary improvements. With guidance from faculty and a company liaison, teams will present their findings to senior management.
A typical ALP might be the development or distribution of a new product; how to streamline a purchasing process; creating an annual sales forecast procedure; or exploring the capital appropriation process. Established companies chosen for Action Learning Projects span numerous types of industries, sizes, and functions.
We have found that ALP is a mutually beneficial opportunity for both our students and the Houston-based companies that participate. Our students are excited to have a chance to demonstrate practical knowledge of the business concepts they have learned over the first four months of their MBA experience, and the sponsor companies are thrilled to be receiving thirteen weeks of free Rice MBA consulting work!
MBA Crystal Ball: Finance jobs usually attract the highest salaries. At Jones, it appears though that Consulting is a more sought after career choice. Is this conception correct? What kind of consulting areas are usually offered?
Katie: While Finance has been, and continues to be, one of the strongest areas for Rice, Management Consulting has proven to be an increasingly popular career path for our students.
Within the consulting industry, students pursue a variety of post-MBA careers ranging from traditional management consulting, strategy consulting, technology consulting, internal consulting (for companies in other industries), to industry-specific consulting (e.g. Energy consulting or Health Care consulting).
The Full Time Rice MBA program is customized to cater to career changers, so we have seen students pursue literally every career path imaginable. Students from any background can truly pursue any job they desire, by collaborating with our Career Management Center to build the connections they need and learn to communicate their unique value proposition.
MBA Crystal Ball: What roles are offered in the Technology domain?
Katie: Similar to our discussion on opportunities in management consulting, we have seen students pursue every career path imaginable. Students from any background can pursue any job they desire, by collaborating with our Career Management Center.
With the technology domain, the more common positions we see students interviewing for are Technical Managers, Technical Consultants, and Entrepreneurs (many Rice MBAs have started their own businesses in biotechnology and other industry segments within the technology domain).
While these positions are more common, this is certainly nowhere near a comprehensive list of available opportunities for prospective students interested in technology.
MBA Crystal Ball: How does the school help prospective students really understand the career opportunities? What avenues can they tap into to understand if there is a good fit between their aspirations and the school’s resources?
Katie: Our Career Management Center (CMC) is best in class and will help students find the optimal way to tell their unique story to companies they are targeting for internship and full time employment opportunities.
They will also help students optimize their resume, practice interviewing techniques, and most importantly, work with students to create a detailed, customized plan for achieving their post-MBA career goals. This plan will include things like assuming leadership positions in various student clubs and associations, taking part in networking events on and off campus, reaching out to alumni and recruiters who can help in their specific career search, and much more.
MBA Crystal Ball: As part of the application, you have an optional essay question. Do you expect candidates to use this only to highlight gaps in their career or extenuating circumstance? Or they can use this space to highlight a noteworthy achievement that hasn’t been covered in other essays?
Katie: The optional essay space should really be used to clear up any potential questions or assumptions for the Admissions Committee. For example, if an applicant has a nine-month gap in work experience on their resume because they were tending to a family emergency during that time, the optional essay would be an appropriate place to explain the situation.
Applicants who use the optional essay space for purposes other than to explain potential questions or wrong assumptions may actually be negatively impacted. So, unless they feel that an essay they wrote for any other purpose explains a part of their application about which the Admissions Committee might make an incorrect assumption, my advice is not to submit it in the optional essay space.
A common mistake applicants make is submitting an essay they wrote for another school’s application in the optional essay space. This is typically very obvious to the Admissions Committee, and my recommendation would be not to do so.
Unless, of course, the applicant feels that it explains a portion of their application that is “out of the ordinary.” More words are not necessarily better—if you do not have a compelling reason for utilizing the optional essay space, it is better to leave it blank.
MBA Crystal Ball: Do you interview all candidates? What are the modes of communication you use commonly for conducting interviews for international candidates?
Katie: We offer interviews to as many candidates as we can, but due to our high application volume, we are unable to interview everyone who applies. Interviews are by invitation only, and are required for admission to our Full Time, Professional, and Executive MBA programs.
Our preference is to conduct all admissions interviews on campus, but for applicants who are unable to travel to Houston, we will make other arrangements such as conducting the interview over Skype.
MBA Crystal Ball: How can candidates overcome some drawbacks of not having the opportunity for in-person interviews?
Katie: Roughly half of the admissions interviews we conduct are done virtually, as the Rice MBA student body is quite culturally diverse. Therefore, applicants who are interviewed over Skype are certainly not at a disadvantage.
However, here are some tips to help applicants prepare for their interview, virtual or in person:
Do: Be aware of your time and the length of your answers. You will have 30 minutes to relay your story to a complete stranger, so think about the experiences you want to highlight prior to your interview.
Don’t: Wear jeans, even if it is casual Friday. The dress code for interviews is Business Professional, regardless of whether you are here in person or on a computer screen (on a case by case basis, we will schedule interviews over Skype if travel to the Jones School is not an option).
Do: Be aware of your body language. Your interviewer is trying to predict how you will act around your future classmates and how you will represent the Jones School as an alumnus, so be cognizant of the nonverbal message you are sending.
Don’t: Forget to review your resume (that’s right—your own resume!). We conduct blind interviews, meaning that your interview has not seen your application; they have only seen your resume. So, they may ask you questions pertaining to anything you have written in your resume.
Do: Bring your own paper, pen, and folder. You can never be too prepared.
Don’t: Ask your interviewer questions that can be answered by Google or the Rice MBA website. Most of our admissions interviews are conducted by second-year Rice MBA students, so consider your time with your interviewer a valuable opportunity to ask insightful questions about their experience.
MBA Crystal Ball: Approximately what percentage of the incoming class gets some sort of scholarship? Given that this can be a significant aspect of choosing a program, how can candidates improve their chances of getting a scholarship?
Katie: Scholarship opportunities at the Jones School are abundant, with over 80% of the class of 2015 receiving MBA scholarships, of which the average amount was roughly 65% of tuition. Scholarships are all merit-based and the application process is one in the same with the application for admission.
This means that there are no additional steps that applicants need to take to be considered for a scholarship—every applicant who is accepted to the Full Time program will be evaluated on a merit basis.
This makes it even more important for prospective students to apply early, take their time with their application materials, and “put their best foot forward” when applying for admission into the program.
MBA Crystal Ball: What are some of the avenues available for those without a scholarship, especially the international candidates, to fund the education?
For the portions of tuition that are not covered by a merit-based scholarship, we have a full time, dedicated team of Financial Aid Specialists, who will work with prospective students one-on-one upon their admittance and subsequent decision to attend the Rice MBA program.
MBA Crystal Ball: What is the range of GMAT score that your incoming class have typically? What has been the lower GMAT candidates you have admitted and what in their profile helped them make the cut?
Katie: We do not have a minimum required GMAT score, however, my recommendation is for prospective students to familiarize themselves with last year’s Full Time class profile (Rice MBA Full Time Class of 2015 average GMAT score was 676).
I commonly get the question, “My GMAT is ‘x’ and my undergraduate GPA is ‘y’. What are my chances of getting in?”
We take a holistic approach to evaluating applicants’ fit with the Rice MBA class, so there is no real answer to that question. However, if prospective students want to get a feel for the scores we use as a benchmark, they may view last year’s class profile and take necessary steps to meet or exceed the averages.
My recommendation for applicants who scored below our average on the GMAT or with their GPA is to strive to exceed the average in other areas of your application (essays, letters of recommendation, etc.).
Applicants should also keep in mind that, if they decide to retake the GMAT, the admissions committee will only consider your highest score. Though, we will see their scores from each time they have taken the exam within the previous five years, so even if their scores are below our average, upward trending score reports will certainly help their application.
MBA Crystal Ball: How important is the score distribution? For instance, can a low verbal score be overcome by a really high quant score or vice versa?
As with all components of a strong application, we look for a well-balanced score report. We strive for all future Rice MBAs to be analytically-driven thinkers, but also to have strong written and verbal communication skills. Applicants who can demonstrate strength in both their quantitative and qualitative abilities will ultimately be more successful in the classroom and as alumni, so those are the more attractive applicants to the Admissions Committee.
MBA Crystal Ball: Any interesting facts or lesser known things you’d like our readers to be aware of about the program or the location?
Katie: Rice is located in Houston, Texas, which is an attractive place to live and work for countless reasons. It is the fourth largest city in the U.S., with a warm climate, strong culture, and even stronger economy. Plus, Houston recently surpassed NYC as the most culturally diverse city in the U.S., making international students feel right at home. Forbes magazine summarized Houston’s attractiveness very well in a recent article:
“Houston is known for many things: Oil, NASA, urban sprawl and business-friendly policies. But the Texas city deserves to be known for something else: coolness.
The Bayou City may not be the first place you associate with being hip or trendy. But Houston has something many other major cities don’t: jobs. With the local economy humming through the recession, Houston enjoyed 2.6% job growth last year and nearly 50,000 Americans flocked there in response — particularly young professionals. In fact, the median age of a Houston resident is a youthful 33.
The result? Over the past decade, the dreary corporate cityscape has been quietly transforming. Stylish housing developments have popped up downtown, restaurants have taken up residence in former factories and art galleries like the Station Museum have been inhabiting warehouses.
Combine that with a strong theater scene, world-class museums and a multicultural, zoning-free mashup of a streetscape and you have the recipe for the No. 1 spot on Forbes’ list of America’s Coolest Cities To Live.”
Check out the Rice MBA website for more details on the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business and Rice University.
Read the interviews with the Admission Committee officers of many other top bschools.