CSOMtoughens its admissions criteria

by Kane Loukas

It appears that administrators at the Carlson School of Management have proven the saying that “if you build it, they will come.”
Both undergraduate and MBA programs at the Carlson school enjoyed a surge in applications for the upcoming 1999-2000 academic year. This is the University’s surest sign that the $30 million spent on the Carlson school’s new building and the huge investments in top-shelf faculty are finally paying off — in a big way.
“Having a place that is called the Carlson school, an actual physical place, has made it very visible,” said Gerald Rinehart, director of undergraduate programs at the school. “It’s always had more demand than we’ve had capacity, since the 1970s. What I think has happened in our decision to make it a four-year school (in 1996, rather than a two-year school that students had to transfer into), is that we became visible to high school seniors directly.”
As a result, the Carlson School’s undergraduate program was unusually popular this year. While the main University admissions office didn’t keep exact numbers on how many students applied directly to the business school, it reported that for the first time the school’s freshman class of 300 students was filled entirely with early decision candidates who applied by Dec. 15.
Interest was so strong that the Carlson school admitted an extra 72 students on its later deadlines, bringing this fall’s total freshman class to about 372, its largest ever.
Normally, the school aims for a graduating class of 400, which allows for 300 freshman admissions and an additional 100 transfer students. This fall’s class will only leave room for 28 transfers.
For the Carlson school’s MBA program, its 26th-ranked, two-year graduate school degree, applications jumped 45 percent. The increase was greater than that of any other U.S. business school. The number of total applicants to the MBA program, 980, is the highest the business school’s program has ever received.
The only other MBA program with a comparable jump in applicants was that at the University of Chicago school with a 28 percent increase.
The biggest interest in the MBA program came from overseas, notably India, China, North and South Korea, and Japan. Overall, international applications rose an unprecedented 60 percent against 15 percent domestically.
Building the perfect student body

The flood of applications into the school allows administrators in both the MBA program and the four-year undergraduate program to be more selective about who is accepted.
By toughening up admissions criteria — which undergraduate and MBA programs have decided to do for next year’s applicants — the Carlson school will be able to regulate class sizes and, most importantly say admissions directors at the MBA program, to build a more academically competitive student body.
“You can become more selective in the class and make your admissions statistics go up,” said Gary Lindblad, director of MBA admissions.
The two most important statistics for the MBA program are the average incoming grade point average of MBA students and the average Graduate Management Admission Test score. The GMAT is the exam used by admissions staff in evaluating students.
The MBA program’s average GMAT today is 643, an all-time high. It’s up from 620 last year and 600 in the 1996-97 academic year. An average of 643 out of a possible 800 puts the Carlson school in elite territory among its business school peers. The average gpa rose from 3.25 to 3.3. Future applicants to the MBA program will have to meet or come close to these higher criteria.
The four-year undergraduate program will also bump up its admissions criteria to an index of 140, from 135 this year. The admissions index is basically a composite of a student’s class rank and ACT score. The new 140 index will be used for those applying for fall 2000 admission.
More growth expected in undergraduate, but not MBA, program

Despite the Carlson school’s upswing in notoriety, the MBA admissions director is planning for a modest 11 percent increase in MBA applications for the 2000-2001 academic year.
Lindblad cites that applications to most competing schools are not rising and the number of students taking the GMAT has been unchanged in recent years, indicating that the pool of students eligible for full-time MBA programs is not growing and that high growth in applicants won’t be sustained.
Admissions office staff who accept undergraduate applications anticipate a steady increase in applications to the Carlson school, at least in the short term.
Admissions officials noted that high schools are churning out record numbers of students, many with plans to attend business schools.
About 25 percent of high school graduates nationwide reportedly show interest in studying business. This is up from 17 percent in the early 1990s.