Thursday, April 30, 2009

UCLA Anderson Reflects on Its First Year With Audio Questions

Last year, UCLA Anderson became the first MBA program to ask students to submit an audio response to an essay question. Now that the 2008-2009 admissions season is over, Anderson told the Financial Times that 70% of its applicants elected to submit an audio answer (whether to submit an audio or written response was optional).

Mae Jennifer Shores, UCLA Anderson's director of admissions, says that the the submissions were "ethnic, gender and country neutral," with international applicants just as eager to submit audio clips as domestic applicants. Not surprisingly, Shores says that Anderson may choose to make the audio clips mandatory next year, and is also considering using video clips in next years' application.

We do take issue with the article's suggestion that Anderson's use of an audio question is a desperate attempt to thwart admissions consulting and essay editing services. As we wrote earlier this week, the reality is that the standard essay questions are simply not as useful for admissions officers as they used to be, in terms of helping them distinguish one applicant from the next. As a result, schools such as UCLA Anderson and Chicago Booth are -- to their credit -- inventing more creative questions that to give them another way to separate out the great candidates from the rest of the pack.

The savvy applicant won't run from this opportunity, but instead will embrace it as one more way to make one's application more memorable and to show how that applicant fits with the program. These are the application strategy principles that we lay out in our book, Your MBA Game Plan, and they apply to any essay, whether it is a written, audio, or visual response.