Admissions Q&A: What UCI Paul Merage School of Business is Looking For |

Admissions Q&A: What UCI Paul Merage School of Business is Looking For

By Niamh O

Updated June 4, 2019 Updated June 4, 2019

To find out about UCI Paul Merage School of Business’ admissions process, and what the business school is really looking for, we spoke to Eric Duarte, associate director of recruitment and admissions for the full-time MBA and assists with Admissions and Recruitment for the Masters of Biotechnology Management and Engineering Management programs  at University of California, Irvine -The Paul Merage School of Business.

Duarte joined Merage School in March 2017 to help with the launch of the Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) and Master of Finance (MFin).

What are the key developments on the MBA program for 2020?

The Merage MBA program has revamped the curriculum to focus on Leadership for a Digitally Driven World. The curriculum ensures students are equipped with the knowledge and skills to succeed as adept and agile leaders in today’s digital landscape. Woven throughout the program are the key components of business growth such as strategic innovation, information technology, analytic decision-making, and collaborative execution, taught through the latest research insights, experiential learning projects and industry case studies. The Merage MBA program has also increased the number of international residential opportunities it offers each academic year, giving students the opportunity to study abroad in several different countries.

Eric Duarte, Merage Business SchoolWhat are the key drivers of these changes and directions?

Our program is continuously looking to improve the student experience so our key drivers for change have been student demand and feedback as well as employment opportunities and partnerships. Our goal is to have a great student experience while equipping students with the tools they will need to be successful in today’s digitally driven world.

Any new courses for the incoming class of 2020?

An example of a new course in our revamped curriculum is Analytical Decision-Making Models in a Digital World, which introduces students to prescriptive analytics and its application to management problems. Prescriptive analytics is a collection of skillsets and methodologies which are strategically important to today’s digital world businesses. Students will learn how to identify the key aspects of real-world logistical problems, build models to quantify the effects of anticipated outcomes and suggested courses of action, use software to find optimal or near-optimal solutions, and simulate the performance of suggested policies to estimate how our decisions may unfold. 

Are you planning to further emphasize your part-time or online programs?

Our part-time MBA program has a hybrid option and is adding additional courses each year. As we add more courses, more online components are added. However, we believe there is tremendous value with our on-campus residential experiences allowing students to collaborate with their cohort as well as Full-Time and Executive MBA students.

What does your ideal 2020 MBA Applicant look like?

The Merage MBA program takes a holistic approach to the application process. Each year we strive to bring in a diverse group of students who represent different industries, job functions, countries and cultural backgrounds. We’re looking for an applicant who can connect their background and work experience with the MBA program and how that fits into their career goals.

What are some of the new things you’re looking for in the application?

We’ve added a new essay question to the application. We crafted our new question around the current digital environment and how that has directly impacted the applicant. We’re interested in our applicants’ experiences and what being “digitally driven” means to them.

Do you look for a different portfolio in your full-time vs part-time vs online 2020 applicants?

Merage full-time, fully employed and executive MBA programs each have a different portfolio. Students in the Full-Time MBA program have an average of 5 years’ professional work experience, demonstrate strong leadership potential, represent diverse academic, professional and cultural backgrounds and are attracted to a program that develops critical leadership skills for management positions. Students in the Fully Employed MBA have an average of 5.7 years’ work experience and are interested in a program designed for early-to-mid career working professionals seeking an MBA delivered in a flexible, work-friendly schedule. Finally, our Executive MBA students have an average of 16 years’ professional work experience and are looking for a program that is uniquely designed for managers, directors and executives who want to develop agility, think creatively, and anticipate strategic opportunities arising from emerging technologies.

If you're in need of financial assistance - going down the scholarship route is feasible at Merage Business School according to Duarte:

What scholarships do you offer?

The MBA Admissions Committee awards merit-based scholarships based on a holistic evaluation of your potential, taking into consideration your overall application including academic achievement, quality of work experience, demonstrated leadership and extracurricular activities.

What is the scholarship cycle and when should I apply for scholarships?

All completed applications are automatically considered for scholarship, no additional application is needed. If selected as a scholarship recipient, you will be notified upon admission.

Does Merage offer additional financial aid in terms of grants/loans outside federal help?  

US citizens and permanent residents may apply for federal need-based financial aid through student loans to cover all educational expenses including tuition, fees, room, board, books, travel and miscellaneous expenses up to the cost of attendance. In order to be considered for federal financial aid as a graduate student, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and request that your information be sent to the University of California, Irvine, school code 001314. Once you have received your Financial Aid Award Notification, you need to go to the UCI financial aid website and choose “Log on to My Aid” to complete the process.

There are a number of lenders who provide private loans. UCI has developed a system-wide private loan lender list that is based solely on factors related to the borrower’s best interest. To begin your search, enter "University of California, Irvine" in the school field and select "Graduate Business" from the drop-down menu.

What are some insider tips on better positioning yourself for scholarships?

Since the MBA Admissions Committee takes into consideration your overall application when determining merit-based scholarships, I highly encourage applicants submit their applications when it’s as strong as they can make it. For example, maximize your GMAT/GRE score by re-taking the exam even if you’re already satisfied with your score because most MBA programs, including ours, will only take your highest score.

Get good letters of recommendation, vet your writers, and give them sufficient time to write a strong recommendation. Ensure your resume is up to date and includes any of your awards, community service participation or unique skills. Finally, prepare for your interview because this is an opportunity for us to get to know you personally and it could have a direct impact not only on your admission status, but scholarship considerations as well.

Beyond scholarships, what other sources of funding are available?

Aside from scholarships, the Merage MBA program offers Teaching Assistantships. Teaching Assistantships are available to students in their second year of the program and could account for up to a $7,000 salary per quarter and a $5,500 tuition fee remission. 

This article was originally published in June 2019 .

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Written by

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (;, creating and editing content for an international 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 students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  


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