Admissions Q&A: UCI Paul Merage School of Business

Admissions Q&A: UCI Paul Merage School of Business main image

To find out about UCI Paul Merage School of Business’ admissions process, and what you should and shouldn’t do when applying to business school, we spoke to Lindsay Haberman, assistant director of recruitment for the full-time MBA program at University of California, Irvine -The Paul Merage School of Business.

What will stand out in an application?

One thing a person can do to stand out is to tell a cohesive story. All aspects of your application, resume, essays, and recommendations should be linked to your desired career outcome.

Your resume should highlight your experience pre-MBA and link those experiences to the abilities your recommenders address. Make sure to list specific achievements and how these examples help illustrate your strengths and build your story. Also make sure to address how these experiences will help you achieve your goals, and specifically how a Merage MBA will get you there.

What should I not worry about, or worry less about, in my application?

We understand so much goes into applicants completing the process, and I think the more time and effort you spend completing it the more prepared and focused you’ll be once you start your MBA.

What are some examples in an application that were impressive and individualized?

One way candidates can personalize their application is using the optional essay to share a piece of information we wouldn’t know.

Any way you can individualize and share a personal story about yourself will paint a better picture of who you are.  An example being why you want to pursue a specific industry. Growing up did you encounter a situation that made you reevaluate your career path? Or was there a person in your life at an early age that influenced you to follow in their footsteps?

What are some of the common mistakes you find in applications?

Most of them have to do with not addressing the prompts. We require two essays; one describes your short-term goals post MBA. We ask you to research roles and target companies, which should be in line with your work experience. For example, someone interested in tech consulting should have a background that highlights experience in the technology industry.

Our second essay is specific to our brand and makes you think outside the box. It speaks about how technology has disrupted every industry and asks how you think your Merage MBA will help you lead through the change.

How important are the extracurriculars?

We value extracurricular activities and think they add perspective to an applicant’s application. It shows willingness to get engaged which is very important for the ideal Merage candidate.

We have created a close tight knit community at the school and are looking for people that want to get involved in the overall MBA experience, whether through clubs or other activities.

How carefully do you examine the essays, recommendation letters, etc. over test scores and GPA?

We take a holistic approach when reviewing applications. The factors that go into our decision include GMAT, undergraduate GPA, work experience, strength of recommendation, essays connecting how a Merage MBA will help you reach your career outcome, and career highlights as noted on your resume.

What advice do you have for applicants who want to check the status of their application?

When your application is processed, you will receive email communication from our admissions coordinator. The email will contain a timeline for the next steps and list any outstanding items you need to provide.

I would recommend allowing a little time before reaching out with questions. You have access to a portal that will update you as things come in. It’s important to keep updated and if you have any further questions about the process please reach out via email.

What are the major components to gather when starting an application?

One piece of advice for people starting the application process is to start early. There are many components that go into applying, and the more prepared you are at the beginning; the smoother the process will go. That may include signing up for your GMAT/GRE test and taking prep courses to maximize your results, or making a list of possible recommenders and reaching out beforehand.

How do I secure recommendation letters and who are the best people to write these?

When choosing whom will write a letter of recommendation, it’s important to have someone who has worked closely with you. A past or current, direct supervisor should certainly be on your short list of references.

You want to keep in mind people who truly value your contributions to the organization and can illustrate your abilities with regards to the MBA. Make sure you reach out directly to your recommender prior to asking them. It’s helpful for the recommender if you provide some information as to why you are choosing a school so they can tailor their response accordingly.

When should I start the application process? How many schools should I apply to?

You are the best judge of how much time you need to prepare. That’s why it’s important to think about your MBA application timeline in advance. You should allow yourself enough time to submit a strong and competitive application. By starting early, you will make the process much more manageable and develop a stronger, more cohesive application, that will significantly increase your chances of getting admitted to your ideal program.

How do I prepare for my admissions’ interview and what can I expect?

During your interview we will look for your leadership and communications skills, your ability to articulate career ambitions within the context of the MBA, and whether you’re a good fit for the school. We want to get a better idea of your post-MBA goals and how a Merage MBA will help you achieve those. I would advise you research the school and reach out to a student ambassador to get perspective prior to your interview.

Lead image: Ariane Middel via Flickr

Written by Niamh Ollerton

Niamh is Assistant Editor of TopMBA.com, creating and editing content for an international MBA student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of the business world.  

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