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Carlson School of Management Interview with MBA Admissions Director

Carlson School of Management MBAWhen it comes to post MBA salaries, it’s not just the absolute number that’s important, it’s the salary jump that matters too. The full-time MBA program offered by the Carlson School of Management is ranked 3rd for average salary increase.

Located in the twin cities of Minneapolis & St. Paul (ranked by Forbes as the best city for finding employment), the Carlson MBA program has had a spike in international applicants (including Indians). We thought it would be good to go behind the scenes to find out more about the program, the admissions team, the students and the opportunities.

Manish Gupta, from the MBA Crystal Ball team interviewed Linh Gilles, from the Carlson School of Management.

Read on to understand more about how the Carlson MBA admissions process works, how GMAT scores (and IR scores) are evaluated, and how many students get MBA scholarships & fellowships, the possibility of getting post MBA jobs and how you can be part of the student group that manages a $35 million investment fund.

Carlson School of Management Q&A

Linh Gilles, Director of Admissions and Recruiting, Carlson MBA


Careers @ Carlson School of Management

MBA Crystal Ball: Many candidates find it difficult to justify a shift to Consulting after MBA as the perception is the admissions committees feel that is not a focused career choice. But if we look at your recruitment reports, that is one of the biggest recruiter industry. How can candidates show their intent for a career in management consulting? What makes consulting a realistic post-MBA goal?

Linh: I don’t necessarily support the perception that management consulting is not a focused career choice. We have many candidates who have stated an interest in consulting and have been successful in the admissions process and in their career placement after graduation.

Rather, when reviewing applications, I am interested in understanding the motivations behind their interest for transitioning to career in consulting post MBA.

I will also expect the candidate to have an understanding of what it means to be in consulting, how past and current professional experiences are transferable or relate to consulting, and how they will leverage their MBA towards this transition.

Additionally, roles in consulting are extremely competitive. A realistic understanding of the consulting landscape is important.

Most successful candidates transitioning into consulting will have the combination of a strong and relevant professional background pre-MBA and solid academics.

It is not an uncommon expectation to have a 700+ GMAT for competitive post-MBA consulting roles.
MBA Crystal Ball: How many international students go back to their home countries after graduating? With the persistent economic downturn, has this been an increasing trend?

Linh: Over a 5 year time frame for our program, an average of 30-40% international students will return to their home countries after graduating.

This average includes sponsored candidates with the requirement to return to their sponsoring organization in their home countries.

However, this has been a declining trend for our program. Over the last couple of years, we’ve actually seen fewer students returning to their home countries after graduation.
MBA Crystal Ball: With the ongoing debate around OPT (Optional Practical Training) visa norms, do you see any adverse impact on the number of international applications that you get? How do you expect this to impact in future?

Linh: We have not experienced an adverse impact on the number of international applications.

In fact, international applications have been on the rise for our program over the last couple of years.

Given our small program size, we are able to offer high-touch and tailored career support to our international MBA students that help them more adequately face and understand the increasingly challenging career landscape for international students.

This is one of the many reasons international students are attracted to and applying for admission into our program.
MBA Crystal Ball: What sub-areas within Marketing and areas such as Media are open for international candidates, if any? How successful have Carlson MBA graduates from international locations (including India) been in these functions/industries?

Linh: While media is not an area of emphasis for our program, examples of sub-areas within marketing that are more commonly open to our international candidates include CPG marketing, marketing manager and product marketing; and for companies across representing a wide range of industries, such as General Mills, Ecolab and Cummins.

Carlson MBA Admissions Process

MBA Crystal Ball: Give us a few ‘put-offs’, ‘no-nos’ for the application essays. Maybe share a few stories that are just not-acceptable. It will be great if you can share some DOs and DONTs – especially for international applicants.

Linh: Truly, we want our applicants to be themselves when writing their personal statement. You should aim to find a program that wants you for who you are and not someone you’re trying to be.

The personal statement is a reflection of you, your goals, and how you will contribute to the program. There are some very simple rules to follow when writing your statement:

  • DO your research on the school/program. Connect the strengths of the program with your skills and career goals.
  • DO answer all questions being asked.
  • DO make sure to review/edit your personal statement. Grammatical errors and/or indicating the wrong school/program within your statement are preventable.
  • DON’T be vague; be specific with your answers.
  • DON’T write a novel; be concise and stay within the recommended word limit.

MBA Crystal Ball: Unlike many schools, you only ask for a personal statement without getting into specifics of leadership/managerial potential or express personal attributes/passions. How do you develop the view of applicants beyond the professional/academic contours?

Linh: We see the personal statement as an applicant’s first voice in the application process.

Should they be invited to interview, we go more in-depth getting to know our applicants – from learning more about their accomplishments, aspirations and leadership experience(s) to what they like to do for fun, hobbies, etc.

“Fit” is an important part of all applicants’ MBA journeys, and we feel assessing one’s fit goes beyond reading a personal statement – a conversation is needed.
MBA Crystal Ball: Give us some more insights into the application evaluation process. Who does it, what is the level of rigor etc.

Linh: The Carlson Full-Time MBA program is a small, rigorous program, and we’re looking for candidates who can “hit the ground running”.

When considering applicants for admission to our program, we conduct a holistic review; meaning, we do not base admissions decisions on one factor.

We conduct a thorough review of the application materials – GMAT/GRE scores, GPA, professional experiences and skill-set, career goals, etc. – before making a decision.

Applications are individually reviewed by members of the admissions committee: MBA admissions and recruiter representatives. Once an applicant has at least three unanimous decisions, the decision is reviewed and finalized.

If after a review an applicant does not have unanimous decisions, their application is pushed through for a second and final review by our secondary review committee: MBA recruiters, faculty and deans.
MBA Crystal Ball: The proportion of international candidates in your Full Time MBA increased from 21% to 30% in 2014. What steps have you taken/are taking to make this happen? What ethnic groups are predominant?

Linh: We see great value in our international student population, and support the recruitment and growth of international students through international travels (by recruiters), hosting coffee chats and lunches in various countries (by current MBA students and alumni), and facilitating connections between prospective MBA students with current MBA students.

We also believe our programming and resources developed for international students drive sustainability and growth: orientation activities, a designated career coach, and professional development and workshop opportunities.

Majority of our international students come from China and India; Asian would be the predominant ethnic gro99up.

MBA Scholarships & Financial Aid @ Carlson School of Management:

MBA Crystal Ball: There are a lot of MBA scholarships and fellowships listed on your website. Approximately what percentage of the incoming class gets some sort of scholarship?

Linh: We offer a nice variety of merit-based scholarships, which can range from $5,000 to a full tuition waiver plus living stipend.

Percentages will vary from year to year, but it is typical for roughly 50% of our incoming class to have received some type of scholarship.
MBA Crystal Ball: Are there separate scholarship/fellowship essays as part of the selection process? Are they assessed in conjunction with other parts of the application or are these evaluated on a standalone basis?

Linh: There is no separate essay for the scholarship selection process. All applicants are considered for a scholarship during the application process in conjunction with the application, and awards are given at the time of admission.

Carlson MBA GMAT / GRE Requirements

MBA Crystal Ball: How important is the breakup and percentiles in the GMAT score for you? Can a good overall score compensate for say a low score on the GMAT verbal section?

Linh: The composite score is the strongest consideration; however the percentiles are certainly considered to assess strengths and weaknesses in skill sets and can help to leverage other areas in the application.
MBA Crystal Ball: Have you started considering GMAT Integrated Reasoning (IR) scores? Any thoughts on its relevance, timelines etc?

Linh: Yes, while the Integrated Reasoning score is relatively new, there is a wealth of research out there indicating the importance of this skill set – particularity to employers.

IR scores will be assessed similarly to other sub-scores – no weighed processes or scoring is involved. It is simply one area of many on the application for candidates to showcase their strengths and weaknesses.
MBA Crystal Ball: Many candidates are considering the GRE these days instead of the GMAT. How do you compare an applicant with GMAT score with another who submits a GRE score? Do you have an internal mapping table/tool?

Linh: While the GMAT test remains the preferred test for business school, as it was created specifically for this skill set, we absolutely welcome applicants with GRE scores and do not have a firm preference.

No internal mapping tool is used to assess GRE scores, as our team is very familiar with the test and scores. However, GRE does provide a nice GRE to GMAT comparison tool on their website that can be helpful.

General Queries

MBA Crystal Ball: Apart from the online events, web search and blogs what can international students do to learn more about the program and interact on a more personalized basis with adcom/students? Do international candidates have an inherent disadvantage if they are not able to attend a class to show commitment and intent?

Linh: We have an engaged and supportive admissions team and we encourage international candidates to directly contact any of one our admissions team members to discuss their academic and post MBA career interests.

Before reaching out to the program, and to the benefit of the international candidate, we recommend reviewing our program information on-line first so that the conversation can focus more specifically on the candidate’s areas of interest beyond general program and admissions information.

Our admissions team will also facilitate introductions to current students and alumni to help candidates gain insight into the student experience and program culture.

While recommended, there is absolutely no disadvantage if candidates cannot attend a class visit.

However, we offer convenient and flexible ways to interact with our program virtually, through mediums such as online chats and webinars.
MBA Crystal Ball: You have a number of dual degree programs where you leverage being part of a renowned university. Are these popular amongst international candidates? Do companies look at a specialization more favorably compared to a full time MBA?

Linh: Enrollment in our dual degree programs is not common for our international students.

Though, these programs do offer a distinct advantage for both domestic and international students in that dual degree students will benefit from developing expertise through two prominent programs, and in less time than if the degrees were completed separately.

Students also benefit from a cross functional perspective and the ability to expand their career search options and have the unique support of two programs’ career offices.

The specific career and placement advantages for dual degrees are largely dependent on the hiring companies and roles students are seeking, however.
MBA Crystal Ball: Carlson MBA has placed an emphasis on Experiential Learning. What are some of the unique courses and learning methodologies adopted in Carlson Full-time MBA program?

Linh: The Carlson School of Management offers four Enterprise programs as part of the Full-Time MBA curriculum—Brands, Consulting, Ventures, and Funds—that provide an in-depth, transformational experience no other business schools offer.

In many ways, the Carlson School is the leader in experiential learning for business schools. We were arguably the first MBA program to offer a true experiential learning opportunity with our first consulting project for a real client in the late 60s.

The way the Enterprise program experience is designed currently is, each semester, for 2.5 semesters, Full-Time MBA students are a part of student-managed teams in the Brand, Consulting or Ventures enterprises.

Students work on high-profile, fee-based consulting projects with professionals at client organizations who expect real results.

Students in the Funds Enterprise are responsible for a small capitalization growth fund and a fixed income fund that combine for an asset total of more than $35 million.

That figure puts us in the top three student-managed investment funds in the world, based on assets under management.

Being part of an Enterprise gives our students intensive real world and the depth of professional experiences that allow them to hit the ground running faster and make them exceptionally more competitive in the MBA job placement landscape.

For more details about the Carlson MBA and other courses offered by the Carlson School of Management, check out the official website.

Also, read the interviews with the Admission Committee officers of many other top bschools.

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Manish Gupta
About Manish Gupta
Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Email. Or follow on Linkedin, Facebook.

3 thoughts on “Carlson School of Management Interview with MBA Admissions Director”

  1. Hey urgent guidance needed!!
    NIT Bhopal
    10TH – 70.5%
    12TH- 66.7%
    Work ex-
    Power sector – Reliance – 30 months
    E-commerce- startup – 26 months ( till date)
    Carlson i have as an option , but can skip … pls review now if possible….
    What are my chances??


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