MBA Admissions Q&A: Kelley School of Business, Indiana University

MBA admissions interview with Kelley School of Business

Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business is located in Bloomington, Indiana with a campus in Indianapolis and partnerships with schools and corporations around the world.

The Kelley School’s latest full-time MBA class consists of 186 students, of which 29% are female and 36% are defined as international students. Together, they hold an average of five years’ prior work experience and an average GMAT score of 668.

To find out more about the Kelley MBA admissions process, TopMBA.com sat down with James Holmen, the school’s director of admissions and financial aid…

The Kelley School's James HolmenWhat is the typical acceptance rate to the Kelley MBA program?

For the past few years our acceptance rate has been just over 30%.

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

There is no one factor we consider any more or any less important than another. We seek candidates who have given an MBA and their future career goals careful thought. We want applicants to be able to articulate their desired career goals, and how a Kelley MBA can help them achieve those goals.

It is also important for applicants to have qualities that suggest they will fit well within the Kelley culture. We value students with strong communication skills who demonstrate emotional intelligence and the potential to work well within a collaborative, team-based environment. We also appreciate candidates who are willing to accept and act on feedback, and who can demonstrate a track record of success – i.e. candidates who have made a positive impact through their work and other activities.

What is a common mistake you see applicants make?

Much of the application process is intuitive, but it is still important for applicants to read the application instructions carefully. Each year, I see applicants who appear to have rushed the process and as a result, submit incomplete applications. Applicants should give themselves plenty of time so that they can present their best self through the application process.

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

I would like to see all applicants trust themselves and their abilities enough to respond to each aspect of the application process honestly and authentically. Ultimately, we are simply trying to get to know each applicant—to assess their potential and fit. Presenting what they think an admissions committee wants to hear instead of presenting their true self does not help anyone in the long run.      

What does the Kelley application process look like?

We offer four application deadlines: October 15, January 5, March 1 and April 15. While it is best to apply when your application is at its strongest, our first two rounds are priority deadlines for the best financial aid consideration. International applicants are also encouraged to meet our first two deadlines to allow adequate time for visa processing, if offered admission. After an initial review, some applicants will be invited to interview.


The admissions process includes a careful review of each applicant’s academic history and test scores, work experience and accomplishments, as well as their goals and potential contributions to the Kelley community. Decisions are communicated via email six to eight weeks after each deadline.

How can a candidate overcome a lower GMAT score?

The MBA is a challenging academic experience. We assess an applicant’s potential to be academically successful through a careful review of GMAT (or GRE) scores along with their past academic record.  A strong academic record can balance a lower GMAT or GRE score. Showing sustained academic success through one’s undergraduate program can certainly alleviate the admissions committee’s concerns regarding academic potential.

Another strategy is to successfully complete, prior to application, a few post-undergraduate quant-related courses to both prepare for the MBA experience and to demonstrate current academic abilities. This strategy is also helpful if one’s undergraduate academic record is not as strong, or if their undergraduate curriculum did not include any quantitative courses.

MBA admissions tips

Essay(s): Make sure you have actually answered the question that was asked and remember: Spell-check does not substitute for careful proofreading!

Interview: If given the opportunity to interview, take it! Review your application and essays prior to your interview. Consistency between what you say in your application and what you say during your interview will be beneficial.

Letter(s) of recommendation: We appreciate a professional recommendation (as opposed to an academic recommendation) from someone who can speak to your management and leadership potential. It would be wise to sit down with your recommender to share your MBA goals and to remind them of your work and accomplishments. This should provide them with the context to pull together an even more compelling recommendation.

CV/résumé: Make sure you have accounted for all of your time in your résumé and/or the employment history recorded within your application. Some applicants mistakenly choose to exclude employment they think is not relevant, but this can leave unexplained gaps in your work history. When describing your employment, it’s valuable to focus on accomplishments instead of simply listing tasks and responsibilities.


School visit: A campus and school visit is worth the investment of time and resources. The opportunity to experience the program in action, to meet students and faculty, to sit in on a class and tour the facilities as well as to explore the local community can help you better understand the program’s culture and assess your fit.

Written by Mike Grill

Mike's remit covers content, SEO and blogger outreach. Outside of his work for TopMBA.com, he is an assistant coach for MLU outfit, the Portland Stags.

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