Admissions Q&A: Georgetown McDonough School of Business |

Admissions Q&A: Georgetown McDonough School of Business

By Mike Grill

Updated February 16, 2021 Updated February 16, 2021

The full-time MBA class of 2016 at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business in Washington DC consists of 270 students. Among them, roughly three quarters hold either international work or academic experience and just over 40% hail from outside the US – with a total of 39 countries represented, from the very large (Brazil and China) to the very small (Saint Kitts and Nevis). These admitted students for a school ranked in this year’s top 30 for North America (and top 25 within the US) clocked in an average GMAT score of 691 and held a (mean) average of just under five years of prior work experience.

But, as is the case with any reputable business school, there’s a whole lot more to an MBA admissions process than mere statistics. In this interview, Katelyn Rosa Stephenson, assistant dean for MBA admissions at the McDonough School of Business, outlines the process step by step. Stephenson offers a number of insights into what Georgetown looks for in its MBA candidates - not trying too hard to give an admissions committee exactly what you think it is it wants, for instance.  If you think the last sentence contradicts itself, then it’s probably far better to simply read on and let Stephenson clarify:


Katelyn Rosa Stephenson, Georgetown McDonough School of Business

What is the typical acceptance rate to the McDonough MBA program?  

We do not typically publish this statistic as it varies between admissions rounds and across programs from year to year.  We advise applicants to review our class profiles as a way of self-assessing the strength of their candidacy.

What are the most important aspects of the McDonough MBA application process besides GMAT score, prior GPA, and current job position?

Beyond the obvious aspects of the MBA application (i.e.: GMAT/GRE, undergraduate GPA and work experience) we look for other ‘fit factors’ [i.e. measures of an individual’s suitability for the program].  This may include a clear statement of goals that shows professional focus and a demonstrated interest in attending the Georgetown MBA Program.  We are also interested in ‘fit’ from an interpersonal perspective and, as such, try to assess whether the candidate will thrive in the Georgetown community and contribute to it in a meaningful way.

What is one mistake you see applicants make?

Candidates don’t always allow enough time to personalize their application. They may attempt to complete the process quickly and without really thinking about the questions and their potential fit with the specific program to which they’re applying.  The result can be a generic application in which the candidate presents what they think the admissions committee wants to see, versus what they really want.  Applications like this usually do not come across as authentic and this makes it more difficult for the committee to assess fit and make a sound admissions decision.

What is something you would like to see applicants do more often?

Use the various aspects of the application strategically and address any glaring weaknesses or concerns the admissions committee might have.  There’s a lot of information to communicate about yourself through the application, so being thoughtful about what you are presenting is key.  For example, the essay shouldn’t just reiterate what can be gleaned from the résumé, recommendations and personal interview.  Additionally, if there’s a gap in your résumé or a low GPA, address it proactively and don’t leave the admissions committee guessing.  Each aspect of the application should present a different aspect of the candidate, so that the committee has the most complete picture possible when completing the evaluation process. 

What does the McDonough application process look like?

We offer three rounds in which candidates can apply (application deadlines are on: October 10th, January 5th and April 1st) and all complete applications are considered for scholarship funding at the time they are reviewed for admission.  Priority consideration for merit-based scholarships is given to round one and two applicants.  Detailed instructions about the requirements and how to submit the application online are available on our website

Once applicants submit their materials they are assigned to an admissions advisor who serves as a resource throughout the process.  We also use an online application module to provide status updates.  We communicate regularly with applicants because we know that it can be a stressful process and want to try to make it as personal and manageable as possible.  Evaluative interviews (by invitation only) are extended throughout the admissions process.  Final admissions and scholarship decisions are released on a pre-determined date for each round (notification dates for this year are: December 20th, March 20th and May 1st) and all admitted students are provided access to our ‘Welcome Website’ and invited to attend ‘Welcome Weekend’ on campus.  Once admitted, students make their final decision to attend, submit their deposit online and complete the admissions process accordingly.

How can a candidate overcome a lower GMAT score?

Standardized tests are one aspect of the application process and we consider an applicant’s performance on each section of the exam. The admissions committee needs to feel confident that the student can be academically successful in the program.  Therefore if, for example, an applicant’s quantitative score is below average, the committee will consider other aspects of the application that may show quantitative aptitude (i.e. the undergraduate transcript or quantitative skills they may use in their professional life) in order to assess potential for success.  We accept the GMAT and the GRE, and weigh them equally during the process.

Top tips on the MBA admissions process?

Essay: Be authentic and thoughtful about what you choose to share.  Proofread your final product and make sure that you answer the question being asked.

Interview: Prepare the same way that you would for a professional interview.  Come with thoughtful questions (that can’t necessarily be found on the website) and remember that you are being evaluated from several perspectives: academic, professional and personal.  Relax and enjoy the conversation.  It’s also your opportunity to learn more about the program and its suitability for you.

Letter of recommendation: Ask far in advance of the deadlines and allow plenty of time for your recommender to submit the letter.  Have a conversation with your recommender beforehand to discuss your motivation for pursuing the MBA and the particular programs to which you are applying, so that she/he has additional context when endorsing you.  Share a copy of your résumé and essay responses (if you have them) and highlight any areas that you’d like the person to address in her/his recommendation.  Remember to keep them posted and be sure to follow up and send them a thank you note.

CV/Résumé: Highlight, and quantify when possible, what you have accomplished professionally.  Don’t just regurgitate your job description.  Make sure that your résumé doesn’t include too much industry jargon and that a lay person could reasonably understand what you have done.  Be careful not to go too far back and include activities from your undergraduate studies (unless it’s relevant to your career and goals).  Lastly, résumés should be approximately one page unless you have been working for more than 10 years.

School visit: Prepare and research the visit activities beforehand so that you can take full advantage of any programming that is available.  Remember that you are ‘on’ from the moment you step onto campus.  You never know who has input into the process, so be sure to put your best foot forward with every interaction you have while you are there. 


This article was originally published in April 2015 . It was last updated in February 2021

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