MBA Admissions Q&A: UC Irvine Paul Merage School of Business |

MBA Admissions Q&A: UC Irvine Paul Merage School of Business

By Mike Grill

Updated April 10, 2021 Updated April 10, 2021

Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California at Irvine (UCI Merage) made a considerable leap of 18 places to take up a position just outside North America’s top 30, in the 2014/15 edition of QS’s regional MBA rankings.

UCI’s business school took on the name of Paul Merage in 2005 following a pledge of US$30 million from the cofounder of the company responsible for creating the popular microwavable snack, Hot Pockets - a company which was sold to Nestlé for US$2.6 billion in 2002. The MBA at the Merage School was established in 1981 and who better to talk us through some of the finer details of its MBA admissions process than a recent alumnus of the program? Here then, is Taylor Martini, who since graduating from the MBA has become the school’s associate director for recruitment and admissions.

MBA admission interview with UC Irvine
What is the typical acceptance rate to the Merage MBA program?

The typical acceptance rate over the last several years has been in the low-20% range.  For the past three years, we’ve received roughly 900 applications and offered acceptance to about 200 candidates each time.

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

The admissions essay and interview gives us a great opportunity to dig deeper and learn more about each applicant. We are looking to see if a candidate will enhance the overall Merage experience.  UCI Merage has a very collaborative and supportive culture.  Our approach is personalized to each student, so we want to make sure we are admitting candidates that will add value and succeed in our unique environment. 

What is a common mistake you see applicants make?

A common mistake we see applicants make is not doing enough homework on the Merage School and, therefore, not showing us that they are genuinely interested in the program and what it offers. If an applicant submits a standardized essay to every school to which they are applying - without any customization or explanation into ‘Why Merage?’  - it will stick out. Being able to do your research and due diligence before submitting cover letters and résumés will be a necessity as an MBA student.  We view your application to the school and subsequent interview as a first impression of how you will prepare for networking events and job interviews with employers, should you be admitted.

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

We want to try and get to know the person behind the résumé.  Sometimes applicants focus solely on the ‘what’ - i.e. what they want to accomplish - and not the ‘why’ – i.e. why it is something they are pursuing.  It is important for applicants to communicate their professional goals, but we also want applicants to explain the passion and motivation behind their career goals. 

What does the Merage School of Business application process look like?

Applications are processed on a rolling admissions basis, meaning they are evaluated as and when they are received. Each application is reviewed in its entirety by multiple members of the admissions team. If invited for an interview, we will have you come visit us on campus. For those applicants unable to travel to UC Irvine, Skype interviews are acceptable. Once the interview has been conducted, final notes will be added to the application file. The application will then be brought to the admissions committee, who make a final decision.  All international and US applicants are automatically considered for merit-based fellowships and are informed of any award upon notification of the admissions decision.

How can a candidate overcome a lower GMAT score?

Applications are reviewed by our admissions committee holistically, which means we look at the overall competitiveness of your application, not just one component. There are many factors that go into our decisions, including the GMAT, TOEFL (if applicable), work experience, undergraduate performance, recommendation letters, essays/goals, how well we feel you fit with the program, etc. All of these components are carefully reviewed once your application has been submitted and all its supporting materials have been received. We would recommend trying to make each element of your application as competitive as possible in order to make yourself a strong candidate.

MBA admissions tips

Essay(s): Be open and transparent about who you are and what you are looking to accomplish. We want to get to know you. Specifically address the question of ‘Why Merage’ and not just ‘Why MBA’.

Interview: Treat it as a formal interview. Review your application and come prepared. There are no trick questions, we are just trying to get to know you and learn more about your professional and personal experiences.

Letter of recommendation: Think thoroughly about the people you most want representing you and which recommenders know you best.  Talk with them beforehand and explain why you are pursuing an MBA, so that they are suitably equipped to recommend you.

CV/résumé: This is your chance to show off your professional experience and accomplishments in a clean and concise format.

School visit: There is no better way to experience all the Merage School has to offer than to see it for yourself. We offer a number of opportunities to get to know current students, as well as members of staff from the MBA recruitment and admissions team. We encourage you to contact one of our student ambassadors to set up a class visit and campus tour. We also offer personal consultations - our recruitment and admissions professionals will be glad to meet with you to discuss your education and career goals. Consultations can be held either in-person, on-campus, or via Skype.

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

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