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Admissions Director Q&A: Judi Byers of Cornell University’s S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management

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CA: I wonder if you might also elaborate a little on Johnson’s rounds. Especially in light of some schools deciding to eliminate some rounds, others adding. There seems to be a lot of volatility in terms of rounds. And they have different functions at different schools. Could you talk a little bit about Johnson’s rounds?

JB: Johnson has, and has maintained, four rounds of admissions, throughout the cycle. In large part, and specifically to our two year program, this is sync with a series of evaluative scholarship events that we have throughout the admissions season. These events are called, Johnson Leadership Exploration and Assessment Day, or LEAD events. They are offered on four different occasions throughout the admissions season. One in the fall semester at the close of November, or beginning of December. Two are held during the month of February. The final event takes place in March. These are opportunities for us to engage with some of our most high achieving candidates that have applied for admission.

In addition to evaluating candidates for admission to the program, we are also considering them for a number of merit scholarship opportunities, including our Park Fellowship. Our candidates who wish to be considered for the Park Fellowship, which is a two year, full tuition, leadership focused fellowship opportunity within the school, must attend and complete a LEAD event.

We have designed our rounds of admission to align for the evaluation period and review that we need to effectively assess candidates to be considered for the attendance at our LEAD events throughout the season. That is why we have the four rounds of admission, which are relative to these four LEAD events throughout the season. For students who are applying from around the globe or elsewhere, and are not able to join us for a LEAD event, we still assess them for merit scholarship consideration as part of their review and their application to the program.

CA: How does your team approach the essays? What are you looking for as you read the essays? What are common mistakes that applicants should try to avoid? What is one key thing they should keep in mind as they sit down to write them? We should note that you changed one of your essays, this year. Please elaborate on the “back of your resume” essay prompt, if you don’t mind.

JB: It has been interesting to watch some of the commentary around the change in the essay prompt, which we had for many years. It was sort of a bit of a love-hate relationship with the old essay (table of contents essay), at times. We had candidates that really, really loved it. Our committee, really loved it because it gave us a chance to get to know our candidates on a much more personal level beyond their academic talents and professional accomplishments, which is in large part what we are hoping to glean from the essays.

Judi has much more to say about the essays–visit the next page!

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.