Tweets, Plays Well with Others: A Perfect MBA Candidate

Get to the point and make it interesting.

Oh, that the business world were more like that.

Now, some graduate schools are aiming for just such a goal" at least in the applications process for their M.B.A. programs.

Columbia Business School this year is asking applicants to respond in no more than 200 characters to the following question: "What is your post-M.B.A. professional goal?" (The answer would be shorter than the length of this paragraph.)

Admissions officers review their application processes regularly, but have picked up the pace in recent years as they seek more creative responses via essays, PowerPoint presentations, Twitter and even in-person.

The hope is that these new components to the application process will help steer prospective students away from trying to anticipate what they think business schools want to hear, and will force those students out of their comfort zone.

Admissions officers say they are looking for more authenticity and honesty, since essays can be carefully crafted, often with help from a professional M.B.A. admissions consultant.

Beginning this winter, the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School will invite a random sampling of M.B.A. applicants to participate in a staff-moderated on-campus group discussion with fellow applicants. They will be encouraged to discuss and debate current topics in business, as chosen by the school.

The method isn't much different from a preschool screening, when a group of children are observed on the playground to see who plays nicely.

Ankur Kumar, director of M.B.A. admissions and financial aid at Wharton, said the purpose is to give applicants "a chance to demonstrate, not just talk about" their critical thinking skills and intellectual curiosity.

Though this year's discussions won't count toward the admission decision, if the pilot goes well, the exercise could show up as a regular component of future Wharton applications, alongside transcript, test scores and recommendations.

For the class entering in the fall of 2012, the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business began asking prospective students what gives them the greatest joy, a change from its prior "What are you most passionate about?" query. The school is hoping to tap into issues that excite applicants"the pleasure of a certain hobby, for example"rather than a self-impressed treatise on solving world hunger...


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